Which type of yoga is best for you? Not all yoga classes are the same and more so, it seems like new styles of yoga arise everyday. Just recently I heard about Rage Yoga which is all the rage (pun intended) in Vancouver where it originates from. For those with a sweet tooth, there is – get this – chocolate yoga.
In this post, I have demystified some of the most practiced styles of yoga and included some of the latest new trends joining the yoga world. I also included personalized tips on when is each yoga type best for you!
Hatha yoga is the most practiced form of yoga taught at local gyms and studios. This style is known as being the “original” yoga and in it lies the foundation of all classical styles of yoga and the new hybrids that are popping up today. You know all those asanas (postures) like Downward Dog, Mountain, and Chaturanga that are practiced repeatedly in other yoga styles? Well they originate from Hatha yoga. Poses are held longer and the class is slower paced to focus on quieting the mind and to prepare us for Dharana and Dhyana (meditation).
Great class for: beginners; stress management; for “active” rest days between workouts.
Bikram and Hot Yoga
Both styles take place in heated and humid rooms.
Controversial public figure Bikram Choudhury founded Bikram Yoga, a style that is practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.6°C) with a humidity level of 40% to simulate India’s climate. Choudhury’s original 90 minute class is based around a series of 26 postures and 2 pranayama (breathing) exercises both of which are repeated twice. This class is taught only by certified trained teachers so wherever you see a class that advertises itself as Bikram Yoga, you can expect the real deal.
While Hot Yoga is sometimes confused as being the same thing as Bikram Yoga, it actually deviates from Bikram’s series of postures and the classes are typically 1 hour long. Hot Yoga is the alternative class to take for those who want to practice yoga in a heated environment for a shorter period of time and/or need modifications in the poses.
Both styles of yoga promote muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular flexibility and weight loss. Just be sure that whichever class you pursue always have some coconut water on hand to replenish your lost electrolytes during this sweat session.
Due to higher temperature your muscles can extend further and therefore you’ll be able to stretch yourself in ways that are not normally possible for you in other types of yoga.
Great class for: weight loss and detoxing; those who like consistency (the Bikram class is taught exactly the same way everywhere) and want to master the asana.
Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Flow and Power Yoga
These 4 vigorous styles of yoga are all characterized with vinyasas which are sequences of asanas performed in a fluid flowing manner in sync with the breath. These are physically demanding classes as they are fast-paced with continuous movements so you end up building upper body and core strength AND you tone your body.
Vinyasa and Yoga Flow Yoga classes are based on a rapid flow of movements centered around sun salutations, no breaks and you will find that each class is different.
Ashtanga Yoga is focused on a set of 6 series of asanas always carried out in the same order whereas Power Yoga is a mix of Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga.
Great class for: those who want an intense AND challenging workout. For more advanced yogis.
Iyengar and Restorative Yoga
The emphasis of Iyengar and Restorative Yoga lies in healing the body and mind so the classes run at a very slow pace and as such, the poses are held for longer periods of time.
When you attend an Iyengar class, you’ll discover that the focus is on proper musculoskeletal alignment and doing the asanas properly with the goal of mastering them. Props such as blocks and straps are used to facilitate the poses and accommodate those with injuries, limited flexibility, and structural imbalances. This style is also known as “Furniture yoga” due to the occasional use of chairs.
Restorative Yoga is similar to Iyengar with the use of props and blankets but poses are sometimes held for up to a good 10-20 minutes so a whole class usually revolves around 4-5 simple poses. As the class is meditative in nature, you may start the class with savasana (deep relaxation/restoration pose done lying on your back).
Great class for for beginners; seniors; those who are meticulous and want to correct and master the asanas; heal injuries; suffer from chronic conditions; stress management.
Kundalini Yoga is the most spiritual form of yoga. The purpose is to awaken the energy located at the base of the spine so that the energy draws upwards and activates the 7 chakras in our body. This is achieved through Kundalini exercises, Kriya, which are repeated several times and coincided with the breath. During this practice you may reach Kundalini awakening which is described as an expanded state of consciousness. As a Kundalini awakening is an extremely powerful spiritual experience, safety is a concern and is it very important that you choose a teacher who has the proper training to give you guidance and assistance. If you are suffering mental health problems, you should consult your doctor or therapist before pursuing this. Chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises are also included, in addition to the poses.
Great class for: spiritual growth and enlightenment; extreme connection with your mind, body and spirit.
These new hybrids of yoga borrow traditional aspects of yoga and fuse it with other practices and activities. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list as there are new styles showing up all the time. Here are some that grabbed my attention.
Antigravity Yoga (also known as Aerial Yoga) is a mash-up of aerial acrobatics and yoga using a silk or hammock that is suspended from the ceiling. The hammock acts like a swing or a soft trapeze and supports the hips for forward bends and back bends. The hammock can hold up to 300 kilos (660 pounds) so there’s no need to worry about crashing down from the ceiling onto the floor. Antigravity yoga’s benefits include spine decompression, and a core workout. Plus it just looks totally cool to be almost flying.
For those who want to dive into something more athletic, check out Core Fusion Yoga which is a mix of Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, and Barre. If this is still not enough and you want to take it further with strong standing and balancing poses AND weights, then Yoga Sculpt is something to look into.
Do you have an affinity with horses and love yoga? Well, there’s a mix of the best of both worlds in Equestrian Yoga (also known as Horseback Yoga). Did you know that the awareness and presence you gain from yoga enables you to open yourself up so much that you can nurture a connection to horses? Equestrian yoga is wonderful for those who practice horseback riding and want to deepen their relationship with their horse. And for everybody else, since some variations don’t actually require riding a horse. Can you imagine how mixing yoga and horses could make you feel?
Want to elevate your mood and feel connected with others? Try Laughter Yoga. Although you definitely won’t be practicing poses in the traditional sense, some yoga poses may be borrowed to mimic silly moves to evoke laughter. Although initially you’re forcing yourself to fake laughter, infectious natural laughter happens after doing rounds of exercises and adopting childlike playful behaviour. The psychological and stress relieving benefits make this class is a laughing matter.
Some of you have been waiting for this one. Last of yoga hybrids that I want to share with you is… Naked Yoga. Need I say more? If you really want to go push your limits and perhaps achieve the ultimate goal in yoga experience, I can’t think of anything other to suggest but to try this class. Contrary to what you might think, there is nothing sexual in Naked Yoga and this isn’t a novel concept: nude yoga has been practiced as far back as the 8th century B.C. by a sect known as Naga Sadhus in India.
Yoga Hybrid classes are great for: those days when you want to experiment and get out of your comfort zone, try something new and grow.
Quo Vadis(*) Yoga?
(*) Latin for “Where are you going?”
With sooooo many yoga styles around and with new ones being invented so fast that we can’t keep up, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps we are straying away from the original purpose of yoga? What do you think of this phenomenon? Perhaps this good way to get some people initiated into yoga and develop their curiosity about other styles and getting back to the roots.
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What type of yoga are you going to try next?
Let me know by leaving a comment down below.
PS: I respond to all comments.