Different Types of Yoga (And Choosing The Right One For You)

4 min
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From strength and flexibility to mental resilience, the benefits of yoga have long been established, making it one of the most popular activities on the planet.

Originally from India, the ancient practice has now shifted to include various types of yoga to cater to different needs and wants: Yoga is now for everyone, and every body. This certainly creates a more inclusive landscape, but the catch is that there are so many styles on offer that if you’re looking to try it and aren’t already familiar with the practice ー or maybe only know one or two types and are curious about the rest ー it can be downright confusing to figure out what to sign up for. 

Are you looking to get your sweat on, or do you prefer a slower-paced practice? Perhaps you want a little bit of everything? Before you roll out your yoga mat, this simple guide will help you sort through the various forms of yoga and what they offer, so you can make a more informed choice.

Ashtanga Yoga

Developed by the late K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century, this energetic form of yoga is not for the faint-hearted. Synchronizing breath with movement, Ashtanga Yoga classes can either be led by a teacher following a set sequence of poses (called the Primary, Intermediate and Four Advanced Series), or be taught in Mysore style. 

Named after an Indian city, in the Mysore style, the teacher gives each student a set of poses – think Sun Salutations and Warriors, to name a few – to work on, depending on their level. As the student progresses, more poses are added. The teacher is there to guide each student, sometimes offering hands-on assists. 

Previously, Ashtanga Yoga was a prop-free practice, but over the years, blocks, blankets, and other props were introduced to make it more accessible to a wider range of students. If you’re looking for a more structured, faster-paced class, give Ashtanga Yoga a try.

Iyengar Yoga

Named after and created by BKS Iyengar, this form of yoga is all about breath, body alignment, attention to detail, and precision. A typical class will focus on a set of poses, such as seated twists, backbends, standing poses, or inversions for example, where each pose is a building block for the next. Poses are held for several minutes and refined with specific cues from the teacher, who may also give hands-on guidance. 

The aim of staying in the pose for longer than in other styles like Vinyasa or Ashtanga is to give the student a chance to work the pose in more detail, while observing the mind and controlling the breath. It’s also a good stretch! Iyengar Yoga classes rely heavily on props, including straps, chairs, blankets, bolsters, blocks, and even ropes (called Yoga Kurunta), making it ideal for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.

Hatha Yoga

A great introduction to yoga, Hatha Yoga combines breath awareness with slow, mindful movement, where poses are held for several breaths. The benefits of Hatha Yoga are manifold, including strength, body awareness, flexibility, and relaxation. A 2015 study in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science that spanned 20 weeks concluded that Hatha Yoga led to more flexibility in the spine and hamstrings in adults aged 50-79.

A class will start with a general warm up that includes Sun Salutations, before progressing to a set of standing poses, or asana, that include a variety of poses, such as Warrior I and II, Triangle, and Bridge, for example. Inversions like Headstand or Shoulderstand are also often taught towards the end of class once the body is warm, before moving into twists and forward folds to cool down. The class closes with Savasana, the final resting pose, where the body remains still for several minutes, to seal the effects of the practice and allow body and mind to relax.

Vinyasa Yoga

You will find a Vinyasa Yoga class on just about every yoga studio’s schedule. Vinyasa Yoga is a sweatier form of yoga where breath and movement are combined in a flow usually accompanied by music. The poses are the same as in Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga, but they are linked together through transitions (Vinyasa), comprising Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Upward Facing Dog, and back to Downward Facing Dog. 

Vinyasa Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga are often mistaken for one another, and while they are similar, the biggest difference lies in that Ashtanga Yoga always follows the same order of poses, while in Vinyasa, the teacher is free to choose the sequence. Usually, classes will build in intensity to reach a peak, before a cool-down and Savasana. A Vinyasa Yoga class is great for those looking for a more cardio, endurance-based workout to let some energy out and bust stress.

Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga is an ancient practice steeped in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In addition to increased flexibility and nervous system downregulation (relaxation), Yin Yoga is said to also remove blockages to facilitate the flow of “chi” or “Qi”, or energy. The aim of a class is to stress myofascia (muscles and their associated connective tissues), joints, and bones, by placing them in stretches that are held for five minutes or longer. Props are used to ease into poses such as Frog, Butterfly, or Caterpillar, and while at first the stretch may not feel like much, after a few minutes of stillness and quiet it’s a different story. 

The practice of Yin, while simple, is anything but easy. Emotions, feelings, and sensations will begin to rise to the surface as the body becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Mindful breathing becomes the tool to observe what is occurring internally, while externally remaining calm and present. Students will then slowly come out of the pose, transitioning into a rebound, or neutral pose, before coming into the next long-held stretch.

Restorative Yoga

This form of yoga is known for its deeply relaxing benefits for both mind and body. Only a few poses are taught during a class, and the body is always supported with props so there is as little effort required to stay in the pose as possible一this one is really not about the stretch. Each pose is held for up to 10 minutes, focusing on using the breath to remain present. Some classes also offer hot stones that are placed on the back or the face to further promote downregulation. Not to be confused with Yin Yoga, which aims to stress the tissues and can be uncomfortable, Restorative Yoga is all about rest with no stress. A fantastic choice for those who need to improve their tolerance to doing less or just need to chill out, why not combine it with another yoga class for a truly balanced Yin-Yang experience?

Whichever form of it you choose, it’s important to remember that yoga isn’t just about the physical movement一the essence of it is also about the mindset: using the practice to curate a meditative state of mind that is not bound to any specific posture, timeframe, yoga, or style. Research has shown that yoga can help to improve one’s quality of life, and finding the one that you enjoy enough to make it a regular habit ー or for it to serve whatever need you have in that moment ー is the key to reaping its various benefits.


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Effects of hatha yoga exercises on spine flexibility in women over 50 years old; Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life; Yoga benefits beyond the mat; New Study Shows Surprising Benefits Of Yoga To Deal With Anxiety And Stress; Exploring How Different Types of Yoga Change Psychological Resources and Emotional Well-Being across a Single Session.

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