Which Style of Yoga is Best for You?
Are you wondering what the different types of yoga are and trying to decide which style of yoga is the best for you to begin with? It can feel overwhelming once you’ve taken the big decision to start, only to find your mind being boggled trying to understand what is Hot Yoga, or Hatha and is Vinyasa Flow better than Ashtanga!
Some types of yoga are more physically demanding than others or may have more focus on breathwork or meditation. However, every class that welcomes beginners will ensure that you are catered for; there are always options for levelling up or down the difficulty of a pose depending on your needs and experience.
Read on for a quick overview of 10 of the styles of yoga you’ll find most often, then pick which one will suit you best, or select a few and get along to a few different studios to try out some styles that interest you.
You could also try some streaming sites (such as Movement for Modern Life), which usually have a whole host of teachers practicing different yoga styles catered for beginners or advanced practitioners, so its easy for you to sample.
Whichever type of yoga you are doing you will tend to find the same class format - a slow introduction into the class with some sort of centring - usually breathwork and meditation and some gentle stretches. You will then warm up and build heat (usually through a sequence of standing poses) before slowly working your way back to seated and supine (lying down) postures, a final relaxation (savasana, or corpse pose) and ending again with a centring practice such as seated meditation and chanting.
This steady flow to the class brings you deeply into yourself and marks the yoga session as a special, sacred time. You will leave with a feeling of being grounded and calmed, usually with a fresh perspective.
Also known as ‘Flow Yoga’ or Vinyasa Flow, this style of yoga follows sequences of postures that move into each other. This is a very creative form of yoga which does not follow a set sequence. The teacher will usually build towards a ‘peak pose’, which the previous flows have helped you stretch and strengthen for.
Vinyasa Yoga has grown increasingly popular in the last few years due to the rhythmic, calming and creative movement style. Each movement you take is matched with an inhale or exhale and it can be incredibly calming yet energizing and strengthening.
Hatha yoga is really the root of all physical yoga practices and it also encompasses much more, such as breathwork, mantra and mudras. However when you see a Hatha Yoga class advertised it will usually refer to a more gentle class featuring a series of postures where each pose is held for a short period of time whilst focussing on the breath.
Hatha yoga is often considered a good style for beginners and you may find more instruction on each individual pose as well as more time for meditation and pranayama (breath work).
Established in the 1970s by one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, B.K.S. Iyengar, this style of yoga focuses on precision and alignment. You will take your time to really get into the details of each pose and there is a heavy use of props (such as blocks, straps and bolsters) to help achieve the optimum alignment.
Controlling your breath and making sure each pose is done correctly, this style of yoga is often perfect for beginners who are just starting to learn their asanas. The props also help you to feel the finished pose, for instance using a strap to reach your feet in a forward bend.
Middle-earth yoga mats have many designs that aid with alignment such as Tree of Gondor.
If you’ve tried other forms of yoga and then visited a Kundalini class you might be a bit surprised! It has quite a different feel as it follows a style of yoga called ‘kriya yoga’, which focuses on repetitive movement, usually performed quickly and alongside intense breathwork and chanting.
The focus of the practice is to move ‘Kundalini’ (a type of energy -‘shakti’) from the base of the spine upwards. If you want to experience something quite different, really shift your perspective and get a bit sweaty, then this could be the form of yoga for you.
Ashtanga yoga is a set vinyasa style flow i.e. it flows from one pose to the next but always in the same series of movements. It is one of the hardest styles of yoga and is ideal for practitioners who want to really build strength and flexibility. It was popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois who said it was learned through a series of gurus leading up to him and you will find a set chanting and other elements that encapsulate the form into a deeply spiritual body of practices.
The heat you build, along with the repetitive movement through the series, and the focus on your breath provides a deeply meditative and cleansing experience.
A subset of Ashtanga is Mysore Yoga, which follows the same sequences however practitioners need to memorize them, although a teacher is always present to guide you.
Hot yoga refers to a variety of styles of yoga that are practiced in a sauna-like environment - typically around 30-40 degrees with 40% humidity. Usually these are a set sequence or a vinyasa style flow, but slower or more static styles, such as yin, may also be practiced. The benefit of the hot room is that your heart rate increases as more work is required of the body when practicing in a hot space, in addition, there is a detoxification through excessive sweating and you are able to move more deeply into poses as the muscles relax more.
Middle-earth Yoga mats are ideal for practicing hot yoga, wicking away moisture and never loosing grip.
Yin YogaYin Yoga is a series of postures which are all held for several minutes. Usually these are seated or floor based postures, rather than standing so you can sink into them. The focus is on releasing the fascia and connective tissue in the body, so time is required. Props are often used to facilitate this.
Although often relaxing, it can also be very difficult to hold the poses and you are encouraged to find your ‘edge’ and breathe into it. The teacher will usually talk to you through the poses often with quotes and inspirational philosophies. The idea is that the whole class is a meditation.
Restorative Yoga is all about relaxing the nervous system on a deep level to access the parasympathetic nervous system. Poses are usually held for 3 to 10 minutes and there is a liberal use of props, especially the bolster. Many poses involve lying down with a gentle twist or forward fold or a chest opener. Nothing should be strenuous and you should feel only mild stretches in any pose. There is, as always, a focus on the breath and there may be internal chants to follow to encourage relaxation.
Popular among mums-to-be who haven’t ever tried yoga before as well as veteran yogis with a happy event on the way, Prenatal yoga is tailored to women in all trimesters. This style of practice not only works the body physically by looking to strengthen the pelvic floor and prepare the body for labour but also the deep spiritual connection between the mothers and their unborn baby.
There may be a lot of opening movements to help with birthing, as well as discussion about best birthing positions, which yoga can help prepare the woman for, e.g. by strengthening certain muscles. Prenatal yoga can also help with aches and pains that can be brought on by pregnancy e.g. lower back pain.
You can also carry your baby during your yoga practice after the birth to continue the deep connection in a relaxed, sacred space, a perfect opportunity to bond and begin to strengthen and tone muscles that may need work after pregnancy. Learn more in our Babywearing Yoga blog post.
If you are looking for a sling to carry your baby during your yoga practice, check out our sister company, Oscha Slings - all hand crafted in our Scottish workshop from natural and organic yarns and featuring a Middle-earth Collection.
At Middle-earth Yoga, we celebrate and appreciate all forms of yoga and as part of that celebration, have dedicated a lot of time and energy into making sure our mats are able to withstand and enhance any experience, visit our store to learn more.
Check out the history of yoga blog post if you'd like to delve more deeply into its roots.