Because there are so many types of yoga to choose from and new ones popping up all the time, it’s not surprising you get fed up trying to find the right one for yourself. Yoga is a mixture of meditative, physical and breathing practices. Some styles lean to one aspect over the others. We have used our expertise to bring you the main styles and the lesser known ones. We explain what there main attributes are and who they will suit the most. Easy to read and made simple.
Classic and Modern Types of Yoga
There are six classical yoga types and over 24 “modern” styles and counting! The six classic styles are Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Tantra Yoga. They form the basis for other styles.
We have listed the yoga styles in order from the classic styles, to well known popular styles and then lesser known styles.
We have also included yoga styles we think are best for beginners. people with mobility issues, as well meditative and purely spiritual styles.
Ok, lets have a look…
Hatha means force. This type of yoga moves the vital force using breathing and postures. Hatha yoga is good for beginners because you do the breathing and postures in a slow and deliberate way. It also has many of the postures the other more dynamic styles use.
Bhakti yoga uses chanting, prayer, and other forms of worship to connect with the divine.
Raja yoga is meditative style of yoga. During practice it encourages you to move away from the external world of senses and focus on the internal world of feelings, thoughts and senses.
Tantra means to “weave” in Sanskrit.
It balances the body by getting you in touch with energy (prana). It uses Poses, containment and skillful use of energy (kumbhaka) and gestures like Nasagra Mudra to express the prana and to meditate.
Jnana in Sanskrit means knowledge. Often called the yoga of meditation it involves listening to a guru, reading scriptures, contemplating thoughts and meditation.
You practice Karma Yoga by dedicating yourself to selfless action and service. This reduces your ego and encourages you to have humility.
Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding practice which has fixed sequence of poses. The movements are flowing and linked to the breath. Ashtanga will suit people who already have a good level of fitness and athleticism.
This is a dynamic from of yoga. Vinyasa classes will raise your heart rate, increase strength and improve flexibility. It’s focus is the flow of physical postures using breathing to guide them. It was born out out of the Ashtanga yoga tradition.
The focus of Iyengar yoga is alignment of the body. This style will suit you if you have injuries or physical limitations. With Iyengar yoga, you focus on being precise with each pose. You are given props, such as blocks, to help you get into the pose.
Hot yoga is regular yoga,usually Vinyasa, but done in a heated room. It is not the same as bikream yoga. You practice both Hot and Bikram yoga are in a heated room, however, Bikram has 26 specific fixed postures.
Bikram yoga classes take place in a heated room and use 26 fixed postures which you flow through.
Kundalini uses yoga energy centres of the chakra systems to balance the body and mind. It’s goal is to activate your spiritual energy known as kundalini energy.
It uses poses, breathing exercises, chanting and mantras as well as poses to release this energy. Often called yoga of awareness, it is a meditative style of yoga.
Restorative yoga is a great style if you want to reduce stress and anxiety and increase overall well-being. It uses props such as blankets and blocks to support the body in passive poses that activate relaxation and stress relief.
Yin yoga is a meditative style that is done slowly. It focuses on breathing and relaxation and practiced by holding poses to stretch the connective tissues rather than muscle.
Jivamukti yoga combines physical postures with spiritual teachings, music, and chanting. The emphasis is to hold the postures and therefore is not a dynamic practice. Ideal for those who are more spirituality inclined as there is also spiritual discourse as you practice.
Power yoga is a demanding practice that focuses on increasing muscle strength and cardio fitness. It was born out of vinyasa yoga which came from ashtanga yoga, therefore it’s focus is on moving from one pose to another in a dynamic and flowing way. Unlike the less physically demanding styles which focus on getting the pose properly aligned.
Chair yoga is for people without full mobility or who have physical disabilities, it involves practicing yoga poses seated in a chair. It’s fantastic for those who want to improve flexibility and mobility without putting stress on their joints. Chair yoga is also used by people who work in an an office as a way to keep themselves limber and energized. You can find more on chair yoga for the office here: Desk Yoga Poses For Day Long Vitality.
Prenatal yoga is for pregnant women and focuses on poses and breathing techniques that help prepare them for childbirth. It also enhances relaxation and reduces stress during pregnancy. It’s a great way to stay active and healthy while pregnant.
There is not one particular style of yoga that is postnatal. Postnatal yoga is using styles and movements that help the new mum to recover from childbirth. It helps strengthen the abdomen and hips, strengthen the lower back and relieve any back pain as well strengthen the pelvic floor. It can also help in balancing hormones and boosting the immune system.
Acro yoga as the name suggests is a combination of acrobatics and yoga. It is a dynamic and fun style that involves practice with a partner. It involves balancing and lifting with your partner. Acro yoga is a wonderful way to build strength, trust, and connection with others, however it is physically challenging.
Aerial yoga practice involves being suspended in the air using a hammock or silk. It can be a great way to deepen the stretches, decompress the spine, relieve joint pressure and increase body awareness.
Sivananda yoga has it roots in Hatha yoga. It functions on five principles : Proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet and positive thoughts. Sivananda yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It is a good style for beginners.
Lesser Known Types of Yoga You Will Love
The following lesser known types of yoga have their own twist on the classic types already discussed:
Kripalu yoga is a meditative. As well as meditation it emphasises self-inquiry and physical and emotional awareness. It uses slow movements, breathing techniques like, and deep relaxation.
Shadow yoga is a energetic style that combines yoga, martial arts, and dance. It helps to improve strength, flexibility, and coordination. It uses circular movements, rhythmic breathing as well as meditation.
If these yoga styles speaks to you, have a look at this article, Benefits of Yoga for Martial Artists: Enhance Your Movement and Flow.
SUP yoga is a challenging style of yoga as it involves practicing yoga on a stand-up paddleboard in water. As you can imagine it requires balance, focus, and strength.
Anna Forrest devoloped Forrest yoga. It focuses on deep breathing, abdominal strengthening, and holding poses for a longer duration. It helps to release tension, enhance strength, and make you more flexible.
Sridaiva emphasises proper alignment and body mechanics. It uses movement, breathing, and mindfulness meditation. it is great if you want to improve your posture.
Tara Stiles created Strala yoga. It’s emphasis is on natural movement and flow. It uses fluid movements and deep breathing. It is good for reducing stress and tension.
Anusara yoga is modern style of yoga. It emphasises alignment and following your heart during to the practice to experience bliss. Anusara means flowing with grace.
Which is the Best Types of Yoga for Beginners?
The best style for you as a beginner will depend on your level of fitness. Overall you want to choose yoga styles that are less dynamic and focus on correct alignment of the poses as well linking those poses with the right breathing. Initially avoid styles that are more energetic and flow quickly from one pose to the next.
It is best to choose a style that has a good balance of the physical, breathing and meditative or spiritual elements. This way you can experience the full range of yoga and if you wish, after some experience, you can move to another style that has more of the element you want to focus on.
Try a style and see how you feel after the yoga class as well as during the practice. If you don’t feel quite right, try another class.
Good styles for beginners are:
This style is a good balance of the elements of yoga and with it’s focus on correct alignment and synchronised breathing makes it a great choice for beginners. It also covers many of the poses you will use in other styles.
Yin yoga does not do dynamic movements from pose to pose. It focuses on long stretches and relaxation. Holding them for three to ten minutes. This makes it a good style for Beginners.
A restorative yoga class uses props and long relaxing into stretches, making it another good option for beginners.
Iyengar yoga is another styles that focuses on proper alignment and relaxing into the poses, with this and it’s use of props in yoga class it is a good style for beginners.
With it’s focus on the five principles of Proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet and positive thoughts this yoga style would be a good choice if you are a beginner.
Yoga Types if You Have Limited Mobility or Injury
One of the great things about yoga it can be practiced and modified to suit the practitioner. If you are not mobile as you would like to be or you are injured it should not stop you from attending a yoga class with a qualified yoga teacher. In fact it will help you recover faster, I used specific yoga shoulder poses to fix my long standing shoulder problems in a few days.
Here are some of the styles for you to consider. Remember, these styles are suitable for most people and are adaptable to different levels and abilities.
You practice the gentle style of Chair yoga by sitting on a chair or standing using the chair for support. It’s ideal if you have limited mobility. It’s also excellent for seniors.
Gentle yoga is a slower-paced and gentle version of traditional yoga. It uses simple poses, breathing techniques and focuses on relaxation. Ideal if you are recovering from injuries.
With it’s use of props such as yoga blocks and bolsters to support the body, Restorative yoga is a great style if you limited mobility or have injuries you are recovering from.
Meditative Types of Yoga Styles
If you are looking for a yoga style that takes you inwards and is more focused on the spiritual and mind aspects of your being there are a number of yoga styles for you. These styles can be useful if you have suffered trauma of some kind as they are less demanding and the environment is less competitive. If you feel uncomfortable thinking about trying yoga you will find this article helpful: Trauma Sensitive Yoga: A Gentle and Safe Way To Reconnect With Your Body.
All types of yoga have the spiritual and meditative aspect, these styles have more are focus on this aspect but also have a physical component:
Kundalini yoga also called the yoga of awareness, it has it’s goal to activate your spiritual energy known as kundalini energy. Although it uses poses it’s focus is on breathing exercises, chanting and mantras.
Kripalu yoga is a meditative. As well as meditation it emphasises self-inquiry and physical and emotional awareness. It uses slow movements, breathing techniques, and deep relaxation.
Jivamukti yoga combines physical postures with spiritual teachings, music, and chanting. This is Ideal if you who are more spirituality inclined because there is also spiritual discourse during the class.
Anusara yoga is a heart-centered style. It uses meditation, chanting as well as philosophy to encourage inner peace.
Non physical Types of Yoga Styles
Jnana Yoga Style
Jnana yoga is called “the yoga of meditation” it involves listening to a guru, reading texts and self inquiry to gain knowledge and wisdom about the true nature of the self.
Karma Yoga Style
Karma yoga is about selfless service, it involves performing actions without attachment to the outcome or personal gain. It is believed to lead you to an understanding of your true self beyond the ego.
Bhakti Yoga Style
Bhakti yoga is a devotional style that encourages devotion and surrender to the divine. It uses chanting, singing, and prayer to connect with the higher power.
Raja Yoga Style
Raja yoga, referred to as the “royal path” of yoga, is a style that practices concentration, meditation, and self-discipline to quiet the mind and achieve knowledge of self.
Types of Yoga Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Yoga is a spiritual mind body practice originating in India.
It uses physical practice, spiritual practice, breathing exercises and mindfulness to balance your being and lead you to self realisation.
It has many facets and styles and is adaptable to what you are looking for and your physical skill and capability.
The classic styles of yoga are more meditative and are focused on spiritual enlightenment. Some, like hatha yoga and tantra yoga, contain physical postures also.
The modern styles combine other physical aspects like acrobatics, surf boarding and martial arts to create a unique and demanding styles of yoga.
All the styles contain a spiritual practice and are focused on balancing the mind, body and spirit.
Beginners should look for a style that balances the above elements and is focused on proper alignment and holding poses for longer periods of time, rather than the more dynamic styles. However, even the dynamic styles like ashtanga yoga have a yoga class for beginners.
Many styles are connected and are born from other styles, for instance Vinyasa yoga and power yoga were born out of ashtanga yoga.
Although you can practice at home or online, a yoga class with a qualified yoga teacher can help you avoid common mistakes especially if you are a beginner. Even less physical types of yoga like Kundalini yoga have nuances that you won’t understand practicing alone.
Don’t over think it. Reread this article and pick a style that speaks to you, grab your yoga mat and begin. You can always change later.