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A Comprehensive Guide to the Different Types of Yoga

Telling someone that you practice yoga can mean many different things to many different people. With 10 major styles of yoga being taught today and dozens of smaller offshoots and variations on these major styles you may be left wondering what they mean? Or perhaps you’re looking at a yoga schedule and you don’t recognize the style of class that is being offered, or you’re a yoga teacher and you’re looking at studying a new lineage, or take some continued ed training. No matter how you came across this guide, below is a comprehensive guide to the different types of yoga including what they are, where they came from, what to expect in that class, and which styles are best for certain goals or outcomes from the practice. Note, there are many variations on the different styles and lineages of yoga, but this guide includes those styles you are most likely to see practiced today.

Let’s dive into the different types of yoga

Different Types of Yoga 

Hatha Yoga

Hatha is a general category of yoga  that includes most yoga styles, and nearly all that are in this guide. It is an old system that includes the practice of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises), and is what we see in most modern yoga classes today. Although Hatha yoga is a general category of types of yoga, it is also a specific style of yoga too. 

What is Hatha Yoga?

In Sanskrit Hatha comes from the two words ha meaning sun and the meaning moon. This style embraces the masculine and feminine energies within all of us. Hatha is a type of yoga that includes physical postures, pranayama, and mindfulness practices usually without putting the yoga postures together into a “flow.” Hatha yoga postures (asanas) are typically practiced more slowly and with longer, static holds, and will include the major categories of poses which include backbends, forward folds, twists, inversions, arm balances, foot balances, laterals, hip openers, and savasana.

What to Expect in Class

A Hatha yoga class will typically begin with pranayama, mindfulness, or other practices to set the scene and connect with the body, mind and breath. After a warm up of smaller, simpler poses, static holds of the poses  will make up the majority of the class, and they will not be linked together in a flow but instead you will do one, then the teacher will instruct you to change to another and eventually the class will end in savasana.

Hatha yoga, shown in this image, is a restorative yoga  and one of the main types of yoga.

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • A student who likes variety in their classes and sequencing
  • Students who want to practice an ancient form of yoga that includes movement, breath, and mindfulness
  • Students who want a slower paced class, or want to avoid a flow
  • Can be good for beginners

Intensity Level

Hatha yoga can vary in intensity based on the instructor, but is usually a moderate level of intensity.

Lineage

Hatha yoga grows from the yogi traditions of Patanjali (2nd century BCE-5th century CE) but the exact date is unknown. 

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you are craving an asana based practice that is rooted in the ancient tradition you will enjoy a hatha yoga class. This class is suitable to beginners to advanced students alike, and will potentially incorporate more pranayama and mindfulness than other styles. 

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Vinyasa Yoga

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What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa is a relatively modern style of yoga that  is derived from Hatha Yoga in which you use pranayama, mindfulness exercises and asanas in your practice. In Vinyasa physical postures (asanas) are put together in a “flow” where you move with fluidity from more posture to another and will include all major categories of yoga poses that are designed to move the body in all directions.

What to Expect in Class

A vinyasa class, will typically follow the basic hatha yoga structure of opening with mindfulness and/or pranayama, followed by fluid warm up movements like cat/cow flows, then will typically include some sun salutation or similar variation. You will then move through a flow or series of flows where poses are linked together, and will typically culminate in the practice of a “peak pose” or a more challenging pose that the flows were working towards. This class will most likely end in some longer seated holds/stretches and will conclude with savasana. 

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • A student who likes variety in their classes and sequencing
  • Weight loss and strength building
  • Improved circulation and heart health
  • All levels

Intensity Level

Vinyasa yoga can vary in intensity based on the instructor, but is usually at least a moderate level of intensity, but can often be higher intensity. 

*Slow flow is a variation on vinyasa, that is a lower intensity option and is the same as vinyasa, except it is done at a slower pace

Lineage

Vinyasa yoga was born out of the Ashtanga lineage and was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century.

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you like a faster paced, typically more vigorous class that includes flows, vinyasa is for you. Vinyasa classes can vary a lot depending on the teacher, and is a more modern form of yoga that varies greatly. 

 

Iyengar Yoga

What is Iyengar Yoga?

A type of Hatha yoga that was founded by BKS Iyengar that is strongly rooted in specific alignment principals so one can gain strength, mobility and stability through asana and pranayama. Iyengar yoga has an emphasis on details, precision alignment and encourages the use of props and tools to help find specific Iyengar alignment in the body and will include all of the major categories of yoga poses.

What to Expect in Class

Iyengar yoga will begin with a seated, simple crossed leg position and will begin with the chanting of OM three times, or may include the invocation of Patanjali. Although the asanas will vary from class to class, Iyengar classes you will do a lot of standing poses, and the instructor will demonstrate poses and offer lots of hands on adjustments and props to help you find a specific alignment for each pose. These classes will always end in savasana. Iyengar studios may include rope walls and other unique props to help with alignment. It is also important to note that there is a very specific process a teacher must follow to be able to teach Iyengar yoga. 

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • A student who likes variety in their classes and sequencing
  • Students who are very focused on precision alignment
  • Weight loss and strength building
  • Improved circulation and heart health
A class tackles Iyengar yoga, a type of yoga practice.

Intensity Level

Iyengar yoga can vary in intensity based on the instructor, but typically in Iyengar a teacher will decide which level of class is most appropriate for you. Most Iyengar classes are of moderate intensity on the low end, and can get to a very high level of intensity as the classes get more advanced. 

Lineage

Iyengar yoga was developed in the 1960s by B.K.S Iyengar and is based on the teachings of Patanjali and is considered to be a hatha-style of yoga. 

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you are a student who wants to rely heavily on the guidance of a teacher, or are very interested in precision alignment and is open to the use of props during class, Iyengar may be for you. This style can be on the intense side, and is focused on gradual progress instead of quick results. 


Ashtanga Yoga

What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga yoga is a highly-structured vinyasa yoga style that is made up of five specific yoga series that make up the “primary series.” In this style poses are linked together and executed in swift succession with the breath to form a flow. The student must master all of the poses in the first series before going on to the next.

What to Expect in Class

Ashtanga yoga classes tend to be physically demanding where students follow a set sequence of postures each time and will gradually progress through the primary series. The class will consist of sun salutations followed by the primary series. 

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • A student who likes a set sequence of poses, and wants to build upon progress from the previous class
  • Students who are very focused on precision alignment
  • Weight loss and strength building
  • High intensity
  • All levels

Intensity Level

Ashtanga yoga tends to be high intensity.

Lineage

Ashtanga yoga was created by T. Krishnamacharya as an individualized practice for his student K. Pattabhi Jois (who later expanded on this practice) in the early 20th century.

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you are a student who is intrigued by a set sequence in which you will build upon it with each class and are looking for a more intense class, Ashtanga might be a good fit for you.


Yin Yoga 

What is Yin Yoga? 

Yin yoga is a  slow paced yoga style that focuses on the fascia or connective tissue in the body by holding poses for 2-8 minutes on cold muscles to stretch and engage the connective tissue instead of focusing on the muscle. A yin yoga class is typically made up of 4-7 poses and you use the weight of your body and gravity to open the connective tissue flowing over time with long holds. 

A student stretches into a pose during her yin yoga morning routine, yin yoga is a type of yoga.

What to Expect in Class

Traditionally a yin yoga class is 60-90 minutes and will be made up of less than 10 poses that are held from 3-10 minutes each. Most of the yin class will be done on the mat, and will be focused on the joints and fascia in the body in the long holds and will end with savasana. Common yin yoga poses include postures like half splits, sphynx, and other poses that could be held for several minutes.

What is This Style Good For?

  • -Increased mobility and flexibility
  • -Mind/body connection
  • -Joint mobility 
  • -Connective tissue health
  • -Relaxation and introspection 
  • -A student who wants to slow down and turn inward
  • -Students who want a slower paced class, or want to avoid a flow

Intensity Level

Yin yoga tends to be lower intensity, but the long holds can make this style feel more intense than restorative yoga or yoga nidra. 

Lineage

Yin yoga was founded in the late 1970s by martial artist and yoga teacher Paulie Zink.

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you are looking for a yoga class that is different from what you are used to, yin yoga might be for you. This is a great class if you want to do more mat work, longer holds, no flows, and extended moments of mindfulness. 


Hot Yoga + Bikram

What is Hot Yoga?

Hot yoga can be any of the styles of yoga in this guide that are practiced in a heated room, but typically a hot yoga class will be a vinyasa or flow style class that is being practiced in a room between 85-100 degrees to help warm the body from the outside and to aid in muscle relaxation and flexibility. 

What is Bikram Yoga?

Bikram yoga is a specific kind of hot yoga that includes a series of 26 postures in a room that is heated to 104 degrees and was founded by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s.

What to Expect in Class

It may go without saying, but expect a hot yoga class to be…hot! Most classes will feel a lot like a typical vinyasa class with an opening of mindfulness and/or pranayama, followed by fluid warm up movements like cat/cow flows, then sun salutations. You will then move through a flow or series of flows where poses are linked together, and will typically culminate in the practice of a “peak pose” or a more challenging pose that the flows were working towards. This class will most likely end in some longer seated holds/stretches and will end in savasana.

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • A student who likes variety in their classes and sequencing
  • Weight loss and strength building
  • Improved circulation and heart health
  • Students who want a hot and sweaty practice
  • Practices in the colder months

Intensity Level

Moderate-high intensity. The heat will naturally increase the perceived intensity of a class, and the intensity of the poses can vary based on teacher, but it tends to be on a higher intensity level. 

Lineage

Although it is hard to pinpoint who is the first to begin practicing yoga in a heated room, Bikram Choudhury is the first to copyright and create a specific heated style. 

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you are a student who is looking for a sweaty class, or perhaps it is the colder months and you want to warm up with your vinyasa class this type of class might be for you. It is important to note that heated yoga is not recommended for pregnant women, or those with high blood pressure due to the high level of heat exposure. 

A yoga teacher stretches out on a bolster as part of her restorative yoga class

Restorative Yoga

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is a type of yoga used with a lot of props that helps someone get into a relaxing pose without discomfort that is then held for 5-2 minutes. This is a deep, relaxing and opening practice designed to help the body heal during times of distress and utilizes props and passive stretching to gently open the body and quiet the mind. 

What to Expect in Class

A class is typically made up of 4-8 poses and they are held for around 5-10 minutes each. It is not uncommon to need up to half a dozen props just for a single pose in this practice, and you will use gravity to open your body. In a restorative class you will have long holds, but they will feel restful and you will typically end with a long savasana and incorporate some breath and mindfulness during the practice. These classes will rarely include standing postures, and will be made up of mostly mat work. 

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • Muscle relaxation and recovery 
  • Connective tissue health
  • Relaxation and introspection 
  • A student who wants to slow down and turn inward
  • Students who want a slower paced class, or want to avoid a flow
  • A student recovering from illness, fatigue, or injury

Intensity Level

Low

Lineage

Restorative yoga was created by B.K.S Iyengar as a way to get your yoga practice in when you were sick or injured but was popularized by his student Judith Lasater, author of Living Your Yoga, and a founder of Yoga Journal in the 1980s.

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you want to unwind, slow down and turn inward, restorative yoga may be the style for you. It is a great practice for anyone, and can be a good compliment to other more intense styles of yoga and movement. It is also great for a student who is looking for more mindfulness in their practice and likes props. 

 

Yoga Nidra

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga nidra means “yogic sleep” or “conscious sleep” and is a way to get your body, mind, and emotional body to be at its deepest state of relaxation where you can plant a positive seed of intention, or sankulpa. It is a practice that will feel similar to a guided meditation where an instructor or guide leads you through the practice and incorporates imagery, relaxation techniques, breath, and intention to create a complete practice, which typically lasts between 30-60 minutes. 

What to Expect in Class

In a yoga nidra class you will be in savasana the entire time, supported by lots of props to get comfortable and the teacher will seamlessly lead you through a series of practices that bring your awareness to the physical body, breath, emotions, and will end with guided imagery and stating the intention three times. A full yoga nidra class is typically 45-75 minutes in length. 

What is This Style Good For?

  • Mind/body connection
  • Muscle relaxation and recovery 
  • Relaxation and introspection 
  • A student who wants to slow down and turn inward
  • Students who want a slower paced class
  • A student recovering from illness, fatigue, or injury
  • Students who want to work with intention and manifestation

Intensity Level

Low

Lineage

Yoga nidra was created by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in the early 1960s.

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you are looking for a yoga class that doesn’t include movement, and feels more like a guided meditation, this might be a good practice for you. You will be in savasana the entire time, and you will be doing visualizations and practices for your body, mind, breath, emotions, in the hopes of connecting with your true self and planting a positive seed of intention. This practice is very widely accessible for nearly all students. 

 

Kundalini Yoga

What is Kundalini yoga?

Kundalini yoga is a fusion of asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting and concentration that is aimed at awakening the dormant kundalini energy residing at the base of the spine so practitioners can achieve their highest state of being and consciousness. Kundalini is derived from the Sanskrit word kundal which translates to “coiled energy.”

What to Expect in Class

A typical kundalini yoga class is broken into three parts. You will start class with an opening chant to help you tune in, then a warm up and kriya (a sequence of postures combined with breathing exercises) and then it will close with a meditation, chant, or song. This is a highly spiritual class, and incorporates more breath work than most styles of yoga. 

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • A student who likes variety in their classes and sequencing
  • Improved circulation and heart health
  • Students who wants to try something different
  • Those who enjoy chanting and breathwork or singing
  • Building strength

Intensity Level

Moderate-high intensity. 

Lineage

Kundalini yoga was first introduced to the western world in the late 70s by Yogi Bhajan. 

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you are looking for something different to try, or you are a fan of chanting, singing, or are interested in the idea of awakening the dormant energy and potential within you, then Kundalini might be a good fit for you. This is also a great practice for those looking for a deeply spiritual style of yoga. 

A class takes on their power yoga vinyasa, one of the types of yoga.

Power Yoga/ Yoga Sculpt

What is Yoga Sculpt?

Yoga sculpt, sometimes just referred to as power yoga, is an intense form of yoga that fuses traditional yoga flows with fitness elements like hand weights, squats, push-ups and anything else that you can imagine. These classes are typically a hybrid of vinyasa flow and strength training to create a high powered class. 

What to Expect in Class

Power yoga or yoga sculpt classes can vary greatly depending on the instructor, but commonly include a vinyasa yoga foundation, and then include strength training elements like a core series, bicep curls, push-ups and weight sequences. 

What is This Style Good For?

  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Mind/body connection
  • A student who likes variety in their classes and sequencing
  • Weight loss and strength building
  • Improved circulation and heart health
  • Higher intensity yoga experience
  • Those who want to add more fitness elements to their practice

Intensity Level

High

Lineage

It is unclear exactly where power yoga and yoga sculpt come from, but it appears to be a more recent style that came into fashion when yoga classes began to be taught in gyms and was touted as a weight loss solution in the early 2000s.

How to Know if This Style is For Me?

If you like a high intensity practice and also want to add some traditional strength elements, or you are from the fitness world and you want to begin dabbling in yoga this might be a good practice for you. 

A Few Notes on Choosing a Yoga Style for Yourself 

A few closing notes on choosing what style is right for you. It is important to remember that each teacher will do things a little differently and that two classes that are technically the same style may be very different depending on who is teaching them. If you are wanting to explore a new style of yoga, or are pursuing continued education make sure you try out different classes, and find a teacher that resonates with you. Trying a new style of yoga can be a fun way to challenge yourself and potentially take your practice to a new and deeper level. Always trust your gut, do what feels best for you and your body and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. 

Kelly Smith
Kelly Smith
Kelly is the founder of Yoga For You, and the host of the Mindful in Minutes podcast. She is an E-RYT 500, YACEP, and a location independent yoga and meditation teacher. She spends her days traveling globally offering trainings in restorative yoga, meditation, yoga nidra, writing blogs for beYogi, and recording meditations from her closet.