Portrait doing yoga on Floreana Island (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador)
Photo credit: Rachael Kinley
There are so many styles of yoga to try, so how do you decide which one is for you? In the three years I’ve been practicing I’ve tried some variety in my yoga life to find the perfect fit for me, but the truth is, that really depends on my mood and what my life is like at that moment. Many styles are similar, but they all have differences that make them unique experiences when practicing. So here’s a list of 5 styles I’ve tried and how they rank:
6. Hatha Yoga: When you say “hatha yoga,” you’re actually describing any practice of yoga. As the most classic style of yoga, and a style that is the basis for many other yoga forms (iyengar and astanga, for starters), hatha yoga nowadays is great for beginners. Many people go to hatha classes to get a feel for yoga, learn beginners’ poses, relaxation techniques and get comfortable with yoga in general. In most cases, hatha classes have a gentle, relaxing feel revolving around poses without flows between them. But you’re past beginning stages, yogi, so you need more challenge.
5. Bikram Yoga: Typically practiced in a room with a temperature around 105 degrees, bikram yoga centers around a 26-pose asana that yogis go through twice in a single 90-minute practice. But don’t get this confused with hot yoga, which will come later. In a nutshell, bikram yoga is hot, but hot yoga isn’t always bikram. If you’re into routine, bikram may be for you. But be warned, doing yoga in 105 degrees is something you have to get used to.
4. Vinyasa Yoga: One of the yogas derived from hatha yoga, vinyasa syncronizes postures and the breath as a flow-oriented style of practice. Vinyasa is one of the most popular styles of yoga and is a great practice. One of my favorite things about vinyasa is that it doesn’t have a set rulebook, so personalities can come out through each practice. I really like vinyasa yoga, especially when I’m at home. There are a variety of sequences that are “typical” in this style of yoga, including variations of sun salutations. I love flowing through sequences after practicing a pose, and vinyasa can be practiced at the individual’s pace.
3. Iyengar Yoga: There is a saying: “the pose begins when you want to leave it.” If you’re a perfectionist looking for something challenging, then iyengar yoga is for you. Iyengar is a deep study of postures and the breath. A big emphasis of iyengar is correct body alignment, students of iyengar often hold poses for minutes (yes, minutes) at a time, wherein lies the challenge. Iyengar yoga is about precision, discipline, correct body alignment and breath control. Iyengar utilizes the use of a lot of props (blocks, straps, blankets, etc) to help yogis with their poses. The great part of this style: it helps not only with aches and pains, but the style has been proven to help with medical conditions as well.
2. Ashtanga/Power Yoga: If you’re fit and athletic, ashtanga yoga could be for you. In my experience, ashtanga is very similar to vinyasa, but with more rigor (for lack of a better term). With Ashtanga, the pace is faster and more agility is used. It’s more physical, designed to maintain stamina and strength, and high-energy (unlike vinyasa flow). I put this as runner up in the list because I’m busy, as I know much of you are. Ashtanga yoga is a full-body workout that encompasses the calming, intellectual benefits of yoga as well as toning and strengthening the body. I leave exhausted physically and recharged mentally. It’s a beautiful feeling.
1. Hot yoga: I know I know, this isn’t a textbook, formal “style,” but let’s face it (and pardon my french), hot yoga is the shit. While Bikram yoga is set at about 105 degrees, hot yoga is set at 85-95. The benefits of the heat are incomparable once you get used to it. Heat loosens up your muscles quicker and warms up your body. It makes it easier to stretch out and the sweat just feels good. Hot yoga makes the body flow better, but it’s not too hot. Hot vinyasa flow yoga is my absolute favorite because it combines heat and vinyasa, and my body feels incredible both while I’m practicing and when I leave. If you’re looking for a better explanation about this, check out this article: Hot Yoga Changed My Life, Body, and Spirit Animal.
So there you have it: my 6 favorite styles. If you’ve got a favorite, feel free to share!
Namaste, all. And have a great week.