Some of the obstacles to getting started in yoga is not knowing what type of yoga is right for you. There are many different styles of yoga and sometimes the best way to find out if you like something or not is to try it for yourself.
But just to help you along, below are brief descriptions of the most popular yoga styles in the U.S.:
Ashtanga – In this style there are six established (and strenuous) pose sequences. Meaning there’s a series 1, series 2, etc. Yogis move rapidly from one pose to another, combined with deep, controlled breathing. Also referred to as power yoga.
Hatha – All yoga poses are considered hatha but more popularly when referring to a type of class it means it is slower-paced, gentle and focused on breathing and meditation.
Bikram – Created by Bikram Choudhury. This style is a series of 26 poses (each performed twice) in a nearly 105º room with 40% humidity.
Hot yoga – This style is similar to Bikram only in that the room is warmer than your average room but only from 85º to 95º. The lower temperature is more manageable while still benefitting from the warm room which helps with flexibility.
Iyengar – Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar. This form of yoga focuses on precise alignment and deliberate sequencing. Props are used in this class to helps students to get into the right position.
Anusara – Created by John Friend (who is awesome, by the way). This style of yoga also focuses on precise alignment like Iyengar but taps into the more spiritual (and fun) aspects of yoga. Expect a lot of “heart-opening” poses like backbends.
Jivamukti – Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life. A typical class includes a theme, some chanting and references to ancient scripture weaved into the physical practice. It is rooted heavily in yoga philosophy and traditions.
Kundalini – This practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy of the root chakra (area around your lower spine). Movements are intense and with a lot of work on core. There is also a lot of sitting. This one thoroughly kicked my butt.
Restorative – This style of yoga is heaven on earth. The poses for this class focus more towards relaxation. Props like blankets, bolsters and eye pillows help yogis to sink into their breath and let go. Stressed out? This is the yoga practice for you.
Vinyasa – My favorite style of yoga. Also commonly known as flow, like ashtanga, yogis rapidly flow from one pose to the next with attention to the breath. Most vinyasa classes are taught with music. (And I love that!)
Yin – This practice involve more passive stretches held for longer periods of time (read: not a cake walk). For those people (like me) who have a more fiery practice, this style of yoga is the perfect balance to cool down with.
Sometimes you’ll see a class labeled Yoga I/II. If the studio isn’t clearly affiliated with a style of yoga, it probably means that the teacher combines or blends several teaching styles in her classes. If you have never tried yoga, it’s best to start at Yoga I. As you improve, then you can move up to Yoga II then Yoga III.
I hope this helps get you on your yoga journey. If you have any questions, please let me know!
P.S. I teach a Yoga I/II class every Thursday at 7:00 PM in Silver Spring. I mix different styles of yoga and share a theme with my students. Questions and requests for clarification are always welcome. Come and join me next time!