You’ve seen more than a few yogis wandering around - looking all calm and serene…
‘Yoga’ is a word that can be used to describe a whole lotta different practices, and this can be pretty confusing sometimes.
The Sanksrit word yoga comes from the word ‘yuj’, which means ‘union’. Every yoga practice is designed to ‘unite’ the individual self (that’s you!) with the universal self; and as it turns out, there are tons of ways to achieve this.
So as a newbie yogi, it can be pretty difficult to know which style would work for you.
You might be asking yourself:
- Why are there so many different styles?
- What do these names even mean?
- What will we actually do in the class?
If that’s the case, this guide’s gotchu covered.
Yoga – in every style – is for everybody and every body. It’s never just about the physical practice; it’s about the way it brings us back home to ourselves, and teaches us how to pay attention to our inner wisdom.
Incredible benefits of yoga
Yoga doesn’t just help us become super bendy; it’s actually a way of life.
Traditionally, our sadhana (practice) encompasses every action we take, so we apply what we learn on our mats to our everyday lives.
But let’s face it, most of us get into yoga for the physical benefits – and there’s a good reason for that.
Yoga is an amazing system to help us gain strength and flexibility, as well as learn how to stay calm, centred, and grounded.
A regular yoga practice:
- Improves flexibility
- Builds strength
- Perfects posture
- Protects the spine
- Reduces stress
- Boosts immunity
- Promotes happiness
- Relaxes the system
- Boosts focus
- Improves sleep
- Increases self-esteem
- Relieves pain
…And makes us an all-round better human being!
Different styles of yoga
Now you’re sold on the idea of yoga, here’s how to distinguish between the different types of yoga, and choose one that’s right for you.
It’s best to try as many styles as possible, and keep experimenting as your practice expands. Try out different studios, different teachers, and different class set-ups. You might hate Ashtanga with one teacher, for example, but love it with someone else.
And bear in mind that nowadays you don’t even have to limit yourself to your local yoga studios – there are tons of online yoga programs available on a variety of different platforms (including YouTube), so carve out a little time to check these out too.
1. Hatha yoga
Hatha covers almost every type of yoga practice. It’s a traditional system of yoga which includes practicing asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathwork) to bring peace to the mind and body.
A Hatha class will likely be slow-paced yet still vigorous on the ol’ muscles – expect to hold poses for a lengthy period of time, and learn how to really feel into your body.
It’s for you if: you’re new to yoga and want to take things slowly, whilst still building awesome strength and flexibility.
2. Ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga is a little more intense than Hatha; it consists of a series of poses which start and finish the same way every time. There are three levels (primary, intermediate, and advanced) – needless to say, start with a primary class if you’re a newbie.
An Ashtanga class will likely give you a serious aerobic workout, and will help you to build incredible strength.
It’s for you if: you want to get a good dynamic workout from your yoga practice, and you feel pretty strong in your body already.
3. Vinyasa flow yoga
Vinyasa yoga is basically a freestyle Ashtanga. The main difference is that the focus is more on flowing in and out of the poses, and syncing each movement with the breath.
A vinyasa flow class is truly like ‘meditation in motion’.
It’s for you if: you want to get stress relief from your yoga practice, and learn how to tune in to your breath as a tool for relaxation.
4. Power yoga
Power yoga is usually a fast-paced Ashtanga or Vinyasa class. It’s essentially ‘gym yoga’ – the primary goal is to build physical fitness.
A power yoga class will usually include way more cardio work than other types of yoga classes. This makes it a fabulous choice for yogis who want to shed a few pounds, or who feel like cardio if missing from their wellness routine.
It’s for you if: you want to lose weight, or you’d like to incorporate more ‘sweat factor’ into your yoga practice.
5. Hot yoga
Hot yoga (sometimes also called Bikram yoga) normally consists of Ashtanga or Vinyasa sequences, practiced in a warm studio.
A hot yoga class won’t be too hot that you can’t breathe, but you’ll definitely sweat! The heat will help your body to open up, heal cell tissue, and totally detoxify.
It’s for you if: you love a good sauna, and you want to use yoga practice to detoxify and flush out toxins.
6. Kundalini yoga
Kundalini yoga involves repeated movements called ‘kriyas’ – and the word kundalini refers to the dormant life force energy at the base of the spine. The aim of the practice is to draw this energy upward through the seven chakras (energy centres) through physical activity.
A kundalini class is often filled with mantra-chanting, and is beautifully energising as well as physically challenging.
It’s for you if: you feel stuck in life, and want to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone.
7. Iyengar yoga
Iyengar yoga involves a lot of precision and breath control, with much more extended holds.
An Iyengar class will involve a lot of yoga props (such as blocks, straps, and even chairs). It’s basically like a yogic form of physical therapy.
It’s for you if: you’re recovering from an injury, experience chronic pain, or want to perfect your alignment in your poses.
8. Yin yoga
Yin yoga involves holding stretches for 3-5 minutes to release the deep connective fascial tissue in our body.
A yin yoga class will involve a whole lotta mat work and super deep stretching. It’s often relaxing and challenging at the same time!
It’s for you if: you do a lot of physical activity (or sitting!) and really need to stretch out your body.
9. Restorative yoga
Restorative yoga is a gentle, relaxing, passive practice.
Similar to Yin and Iyengar, a restorative yoga class will use a lot of props to provide support so you can simply let everything go, and allow gravity to do the work.
It’s for you if: you crave a gentle style to help you relax and practice self-care.