14 Different Types of Yoga and Their Benefits to Your Health
How Many Types of Yoga Are There?
Many different types of yoga exist and it can be difficult to figure out which particular style is right for you. Most styles of yoga are based on the same basic yoga poses (called asanas), however the experience of one style can be radically different than another. In this quick guide, we have outlined the most popular forms of yoga, along with their essential characteristics, to make it easier for you to know where to begin.
If you would like to learn more about yoga, check out our articles Yoga for Beginners – Everything You Need to Know Before You Start and Hatha Yoga: The History, Philosophy and How It’s Changed.
YOGA AND ITS BENEFITS
No matter what style of yoga you choose to do, you will likely see improvements in many areas of your health. By practicing regularly you can:
- increase your flexibility
- increase muscle tone and strength
- improve your circulatory and cardio health
- helps you sleep better
- increase your energy levels
- improve athletic performance
- reduce injuries
- detoxify your organs
- improve your posture
- improves anxiety and depression
- helps with chronic pain
- release endorphins that improve your mood
- and so much more…
Now that you know some of the benefits of doing yoga, we begin our list of yoga styles below with classical hatha yoga. As you move down the list it goes from vigorous, flow-style classes to the more relaxing passive classes, finishing with restorative yoga. You will also find a list some of our most popular yoga videos at the bottom of each style.
Hatha is a general category that includes most yoga styles. It is an old system that includes the practice of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises), which help bring peace to the mind and body, preparing the body for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation.
Like hatha, vinyasa yoga is a general term that describes many different styles of yoga. It essentially means movement synchronized with breath and is a vigorous style based on a rapid flow through sun salutations. You may also see a vinyasa class referred to as a flow class, which refers to the continuous flow from one yoga posture to the next.
Ashtanga is a system of yoga that was brought to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. If you attend an ashtanga class at a studio you will be led nonstop through one or more of the ashtanga series, while being encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Each series is a set sequence of asanas, always in the same order. It is typically fast-paced, vigorous and physically challenging.
Power yoga is used to describe a vigorous, vinyasa-style yoga. It originally closely resembled ashtanga and was an attempt to make ashtanga more accessible to Western students. It differs, however, in that it is not a set series of poses, but rather allows the instructor freedom to teach what they want.
David Life and Sharon Gannon created jivamukti yoga in 1984, and since then have studied with a number of teachers, including Swami Nirmalananda and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Their classes resemble ashtanga in the vinyasa-style flow through asanas. Each class begins with a standardized warm-up sequence unique to jivamukti and often teachers will incorporate weekly themes, chanting, meditation, readings and affirmations.
The trademark of iyengar is the intense focus on the subtleties of each posture. B.K.S. Iyengar teaches his classes from his home in Pune, India and has become one of the most influential gurus of our time. In a typical iyengar class, poses are held much longer than in other schools of yoga, in an effort to pay closer attention to the precise musculoskeletal alignment within each asana. Another trademark of iyengar is the use of props, such as blocks, belts, bolsters, chairs and blankets, which are used to accommodate injuries, tightness or structural imbalances, as well as teach the student how to move into a posture properly.
Sivananda is a form of hatha founded by Swami Sivananda and brought to the west by Swami Vishnu-devananda. A class typically begins with Savasana (relaxation pose), kapalabhati and anuloma viloma, followed by a few rounds of surya namaskara. The class then moves through Sivananda’s twelve asanas, which together are designed to increase strength and flexibility of the spine. Chanting and meditation can also be a part of a full-length class.
Viniyoga refers to an approach to yoga that adapts the various means and methods of practice to the unique condition, needs and interests of the individual. Created by T.K.V. Desikachar, the goal is to give the practitioner the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.
INTEGRATIVE YOGA THERAPY (IYT)
Integrative yoga therapy brings together asanas, pranayama, mudra, yoga nidra, mantra and meditation into a complete package where they can be utilized for therapy. Founded by Joseph Le Page in 1993, IYT was an attempt to create a training program with the focus on yoga as a healing art, and has designed programs specifically for medical and mainstream wellness settings, including hospital and rehabilitation centres.
Restorative is a gentle, relaxing, passive style that allows students to relax and release the body into a gentle stretch that is held for as long as 10 minutes. This style makes use of a wide range of props, including bolsters, blocks, straps and blankets. The intention is to provide support within each pose, making it easier to completely leg go.