Practicing yoga can seem overwhelming because there are many physical postures, proper breathing techniques, and breathing exercises you need to know when learning different types of yoga.
Beginners need to know that although there are many styles of yoga, regardless of your flexibility or workout stamina, there’s always a place for newcomers. There’s yoga for individuals that want to break a sweat, schools to learn the background of the yoga sutras that outline the eight limbs of yoga, and practices that foster relationships with partners and the yoga community.
No matter what practice you choose, though, always remember that your practice should promote a better relationship within yourself and unite your mind and body.
The Most Popular Types of Yoga
There are many popular types of yoga, but when choosing a practice, pick one that addresses your needs. Although it can feel overwhelming, take time to educate yourself on what each method can help you with, and always remember that there are many to choose from if you don’t like one style of yoga.
Ashtanga yoga, also known as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and T. Krishnamacharya in the 20th century. This type of yoga connects the movement of the body with the breath. There are six series of Ashtanga yoga sequences, and the key principles are breath, Drishti (gaze points), vinyasa (breathing system), bandhas (body locks), and daily practice.
Hatha yoga can be traced back to the Sanskrit epics (Hinduism) and the Pali canon (Buddhism). This tradition has been practiced for thousands of years and emerged on the borders of India and Nepal. Hatha yoga involves sequences of asana (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques). Typically Hatha yoga is practiced more slowly and focuses on the external and internal experience to achieve inner peace.
Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga
Founded by Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga follows a series of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises. Known as hot yoga, students practice in a 40 percent humidity environment typically heated between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
B.K.S. Iyengar founded Iyengar yoga, and this type of Hatha yoga strives to emphasize the physical alignment of the body while executing postures.
Blocks and belts are often used to make sure students are safely and correctly executing the carefully planned and timed sequences. Iyengar yoga has more than 200 asanas and 14 types of pranayama, and students advance from basic to advanced postures. This type of yoga believes that once you balance the body, the mind will become balanced too.
Kundalini yoga was brought to the West by Yogi Bajan, the founder of 3HO (Happy, Healthy, Holy Organization), and kundalini means “coiled like a serpent.”
Kundalini energy refers to the coiled energy that lies at the base of our spine, and this type of yoga aims to awaken that energy so that it moves through the seven chakras of the spine. A typical class starts with a chant and then a warmup for the spine. The central part of the class focuses on the kriyas, though, which combines postures and breathing techniques.
Class typically ends with meditation and chanting.
Power yoga was created by American yoga instructors Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest during the 1980s.
This style of yoga moves quickly through poses, and each pose is held for three to five breaths. There aren’t a series of poses that students need to follow, but the emphasis is to build strength and endurance.
Prenatal yoga is a type of yoga that pregnant women can practice throughout their pregnancies.
A typical class will focus on deep breathing, gentle stretching, and safe postures. Sometimes props like blankets are used to ease expectant mothers into their pose.
John Friend founded Anusara yoga, and it’s a modern school of Hatha yoga. The primary aspects of Anusara yoga are universal principles of alignment, the three A’s (attitude, alignment, and action), focal points, and energy loops.
The universal principles of alignment connect all asanas to the practice of Anusara. The goal is to enhance the goodness that exists in the student. For the three A’s, attitude is supposed to reawaken the spirit of the Divine in the student. Alignment focuses on the student being aware of how the body is connected and the action focuses on the flow of energy in the body.
Focal points and energy loops refer to the three focal points (the pelvic focal point, heart focal point, and upper palate focal point) and the seven energy loops of Anusara (ankle loop, shin loop, thigh loop, pelvic loop, kidney loop, shoulder loop, and skull loop).
Restorative yoga became popular in the 1970s due to a yoga teacher named Judith Lasater. This practice has roots in the yoga of B.K.S. Iyengar and Lasater was actually a student of Iyengar. Restorative yoga is known to be relaxing, calming, and has a healing effect on students.
Typically, students go through a sequence of five or six postures that are held for long periods while gentle music plays. Props like bolsters and straps are used to ease the body into poses, and the practice can include a guided meditation.
Vinyasa yoga links movement and the breath to achieve balance in both the mind and the body. Power yoga, Baptiste yoga, ashtanga, Jivamukti, and prana flow all fall under the category of vinyasa yoga.
Yin yoga has roots in China, and it was founded on the Taoist theory of yin and yang. This type of yoga is slower-paced and meditative. The poses are held for three to five minutes or longer and target connective tissues rather than the muscles.
Sivananda yoga is based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda. This type of yoga has roots in Hatha Yoga and focuses on its students’ health and physical well-being. The five basic principles of Sivananda yoga are exercise (asana), breathing (pranayama), relaxation (savasana), vegetarian diet (sattvic diet), and a positive mindset combined with meditation (Vedanta and dhyana). Typical sessions last 90 minutes, and there are periods of relaxation and yogic breathing techniques.
Viniyoga is a style of Hatha yoga that encourages the personalization of yoga practices to each student. The yoga methods are adapted to individuals, but most students integrate asana, pranayama, use of bandhas, chanting, and meditation into their practice.
Jivamukti Yoga was founded by artist David Life and musician/dancer Sharon Gannon and is a modern hybrid style of yoga. The five basic principles of Jivamukti yoga are meditation (dhyana), music (nada), non-violence (ahimsa), devotion (bhakti), and scripture (shastra). This type of yoga is very physical but is based on the basic moves from traditional Hatha yoga. Each class is built around a theme and involves music, chanting, and scripture.
Trendy Types of Yoga
Although it’s essential to know the history and basics behind traditional types of yoga, it’s also fun to get involved in the trendy styles of yoga that are popping up.
These new practices not only encourage positive thinking when approaching your yoga practice but foster a light-hearted approach too.
Although it may seem gimmicky to engage in the trendy forms of yoga such as beer yoga or goat yoga, these styles still foster connecting with the body, mind, and spirit.
Aerial Yoga or AntiGravity Yoga
Aerial yoga was created by Christopher Harrison, a New York City dancer with a background in acrobatics.
This type of yoga uses a hammock or yoga swing that lets users perform postures that you wouldn’t typically be able to do on a yoga mat. The hammock is kept less than a meter from the ground, and the poses work on strengthening and stretching the body, improving circulation, and decompressing the spine.
This practice combines traditional yoga with poses that are inspired by Pilates, dance, and acrobatic moves.
Ana T. Forrest created Forrest yoga to help individuals deal with traumas that they’ve dealt with in their life.
This type of yoga focuses on abdominal exercises and breathing, and typically students will execute a series of standing postures and holding positions in an 85-degree Fahrenheit room. The four basic elements for Forrest yoga are breath, strength, integrity, and spirit.
Forrest yoga’s postures come from Sivananda yoga, Iyengar yoga, personalized postures, and Native American gestures.
Although this type of yoga uses traditional asanas (body postures) and yoga practices, many of the movements are based on modern elements and exercises so that students can connect with their feelings and resolve personal traumas.
Goat Yoga or Goga
Goat yoga, also known as Goga, was created by Lainey Morse, an Oregon farm owner.
This type of yoga combines animal therapy and traditional yoga practices by working with goats during yoga class. Goga can be practiced in conventional yoga studios with goats brought in or on location at a farm.
During Goga, goats are placed under the student’s legs while they execute standing poses. Goats can also be placed on students’ backs during plank pose or downward-facing dog pose.
Dog Yoga or Doga
Dog yoga, also known as Doga, was created by Suzi Teitelman, a Jacksonville yoga teacher. Although dogs can’t do most of the yoga poses that humans can do, dogs enjoy the stretching aspect, pet massage, and soothing energy that yoga is known to provide.
AcroYoga originated in the 1990s. It combines traditional Hatha or Vinyasa Flow yoga with acrobatics, and this type of yoga uses gravity to promote stretching and strengthening. There’s a warmup, partner work, flowing sequences, inversions, and Thai yoga massage during a class.
There are three key roles in AcroYoga: the base, flyer, and spotter. The base is the person who is in contact with the ground. They can lay on their back with their legs and arms reaching up to support their partner. The flyer is the person that is lifted off the ground by the base, and they move into different sequences of positions.
Spotters watch the base and the flyer to make sure that the flyer lands safely. They can also assist with helping the partners improve their positions.
Cannabis Yoga (Ganjasana)
Ganjasana is a ceremony that combines the practice of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness with cannabis plant medicine (AKA marijuana).
Partner yoga is a style of asana practice where two people support each other in poses. Supporting your partner helps enhance the postures while simultaneously building trust and opening communication between one another.
Naked yoga is also known as Sanskrit nagna yoga or vivastra yoga. This is the practice of yoga without clothes.
Beer yoga is a yoga hybrid that combines practicing yoga at breweries or taprooms and drinking beer during or after asana practice.
Face Yoga Method
The Face Yoga Method is a type of yoga created by Fumiko Takatsu in Japan. This type of yoga uses techniques to improve the face’s appearance by minimizing wrinkles and sagging skin. Stretching, muscle exercises, and visualization work to brighten the complexion and slow signs of aging.
Face Yoga Method targets several sub-layers of the epidermis (outer layer of skin) to increase oxygen to the skin, boost blood circulation, stimulate elastin and collagen and reduce tension in the facial fascia.