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Ultimate Guide to the 16 Styles of Yoga Classes

What type of class should I attend? This is a common question I hear newbies ask, and it’s totally valid. Yoga can seem intimidating at first, and you wouldn’t want to catch yourself in the middle of a strong practice on your first time.

But those who have been doing yoga for quite some time might find themselves asking the same question. Maybe you’re feeling curious to try a new style, but don’t know what else is out there—or which one to try first.

There are many types of yoga. Practicing varied styles of yoga is both beneficial and challenging. It’s a way for you to keep your yoga practice exciting by trying poses and class formats you haven’t done before. It’s nice to switch things up every once in a while!

To help you out, I’m going to break down 16 styles of yoga—13 of which I’ve personally tried. I also linked to yoga classes online whenever possible, so you can take a peek at the format or try it at home.

1. Traditional Hatha

Let’s start with a nerd tidbit: Hatha Yoga is the foundation of a lot of the yoga classes people know today. Postures in this style evolved from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an ancient Sanskrit text written by the yogic sage Swami Swatmarama in the 15th century. It’s the oldest surviving reference containing that information.

In Traditional Hatha, students practice a series of poses and hold it for five to ten breaths on each side. In this class, you won’t “flow” from one pose to another—instead, whatever you do on the left side, you immediately perform on the right side. All standing postures start and end in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), while all seated postures start and end in Staff Pose (Dandasana).

For example, you won’t transition from Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2) to an Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) right away. Instead, you’ll do Warrior 2 on the right, go back to Tadasana, and do it on the left side before you proceed with the Extended Side Angle Pose.

If the above sounded like gibberish to you, I invite you to check this Traditional Hatha class:

Make no mistake, this style packs a punch. Holding the poses for a long time and moving slowly will make your muscles jiggle and shake—and I say this from experience.

2. Hatha Flow

Hatha Flow takes elements from Traditional Hatha and borrows creativity from Vinyasa classes. This is a popular style of yoga in YouTube, which creates a flow out of a series of poses.

You also typically hold a posture for five to ten breaths in this class, and it can get pretty challenging depending on what the teacher has prepared. Don’t worry though, in most cases, variations and modifications will be cued.

Here’s a 45-min Hatha Yoga class by Leslie Fightmaster (a recommended YouTube yoga teacher) to give you an idea on what it looks like:

Hatha Yoga classes may or may not have a peak pose. A peak pose is typically THE pose you’re working towards in the class. Some examples are Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana), Headstand (Sirsasana), and Crow Pose (Kakasana).

3. Vinyasa

This style of yoga is named after the distinct transition done in between around three to five poses: the vinyasa. It’s the plank-chaturanga-upward dog-downward dog sequence that challenges even the strongest people out there.

This quick five-minute video shows what yoga teachers mean when we say, “Take a vinyasa.”

Vinyasa has a faster pace than a Traditional Hatha and Hatha Flow class. You execute the poses one breath per movement, meaning you don’t hold the poses as much, and your bodies get warmed up quicker. It’s a nice class to do if you have a lot of energy or you want to feel energized.

Here’s a Vinyasa class with Briohny Smyth, another beloved YouTube yoga teacher:

This class only runs for 30 minutes, but I guarantee that you’ll sweat buckets. This particular class borders on the intermediate level, but you can do it as a beginner as long as you don’t push yourself too hard. Relax, it’s just yoga. 🙂

4. Ashtanga

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (Ashtanga for short, to avoid confusion) is up there as one of, if not the most, physically demanding styles of yoga classes. Ever. It follows the same series of poses in a specific order, and its pace is very quick. This style was brought to life by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), known as the Father of Ashtanga Vinyasa. His students popularized it further in the west.

There are six Ashtanga asana series (class sequences). Traditionally, students have to display mastery of approaching the first series before moving to the second, and so on. Here’s a video of Pattabhi Jois himself teaching the primary series in 1993 to a group of advanced yogis. (Note: This isn’t meant to be practiced without supervision. Please read the disclaimer at the start of the video.)

This style isn’t typically recommended for beginners. You might want to work your way through some Vinyasa classes first before you hop into this practice. However, if you’re someone who loves to challenge yourself and is a fan of structured classes, you will enjoy this.

The headteacher of my YTT shared that he gained most of his strength and flexibility in Ashtanga. Since you practice the same sequence over and over again, you’ll be able to “perfect” a pose in the long run.

Ashtanga has developed a somewhat intimidating reputation for being too strict in executing the poses in a particular way. In any case, yoga is about mindfulness—so just be present during your practice and listen to your body. I know plenty of people who practice Ashtanga safely, and I’ve done it too. 🙂

Here’s a present-day Ashtanga class you can take—half the primary series to ease yourself into it. Remember: A student can stay several years in the primary series before trying poses from the intermediate series, so don’t be hard on yourself. It’s a journey!

5. Bikram

Bikram Yoga is another intense practice, founded by the controversial Bikram Choudhury in the 70s. Similar to Ashtanga, the class revolves around a set sequence—but just one. It’s made up of 26 postures performed twice on each side. The catch here is that Bikram is practiced in a heated room, typically at 40°C (104°F) with a humidity of 40%. This temperature is meant to replicate the Indian climate, which Choudhury intends for students to experience. As a result, you’ll be sweating like never before.

After a while, the inside of the room can feel like a sauna, and it can get stuffy especially since you’re in a room full of people who are sweating just as much as you. I’ve only tried this style once, and I thought I was going to pass out—even if I kept hydrating in between postures and resting in the middle of the class.

I find summers in the Philippines to match the temperatures in a heated Bikram studio, so I think that works. I can see why this would be popular in places where it’s colder, though! The class feels like a good detox, and I also felt I released a lot of toxins after.

6. Yin

Yin is a slow practice, and as its name suggests, a great counterbalance to all the “yang” or active classes mentioned in this post. It began in the late 70s through Paulie Zink and was popularized in the west by his students Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers.

The main goal of the practice is to stress and stretch the fascia, the thin coat of tissue covering our bones and muscles. It’s infused with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and incorporates the study of the meridians, points in our body where our life energy or “qi” flows.

In a Yin class, poses are typically held for three to five minutes. While the class is meant to release tension and give us a space to do deep stretching, it can get intense—especially if you don’t consider yourself to be flexible.

Just because it’s slow and you’ll be on the ground most of the time, doesn’t mean it’s easy! Yin also has three principles in the practice: a) challenge yourself an appropriate amount, b) be still in the pose, and c) hold it for a long time. Props like blocks and bolsters may be used to help you get into certain poses.

Yin is best practiced when you wake up, before taking a “yang” class, before going to bed, when you feel stressed, or during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The video above is a refreshing Yin practice you can try to ease into yoga and calm your mind during a hectic day. I chose a video with no props involved, but if it will make you feel better, you can fix up your environment however you please. Turn on the AC, wear a hoodie, grab a pillow, and get comfortable.

7. Restorative

Restorative yoga is commonly mistaken to be the same as Yin, but they’re not. In a Restorative class, you don’t specifically need to hit three to five minutes in a pose. Some poses can be held shorter or longer. You can also push back and not challenge yourself as much. Think of it as a time to allow your emotions to flow, and a safe space for some alone time. It’s usually practiced with props and has a freestyle format consisting of poses that are mostly on the ground.

In the many times that I’ve attended a Restorative class in Treehouse Yoga, we always have some form of meditation—sometimes even a Reiki-infused savasana. It can be as creative and nurturing as how the teacher will prepare it, and I’ve gotten some of the best night’s sleep after attending a session. The class taught by Adriene Mishler could also do the trick for you!

8. Iyengar

Are you looking to refine your asana alignment? Perhaps an Iyengar class will help. This style of yoga focuses heavily on perfecting the alignment of the postures, often using a lot of props to get you there. It’s not uncommon to see blocks, straps, chairs, blankets, bolsters, or wall ropes in a studio that offers Iyengar classes.

Iyengar Yoga - Ultimate Guide to the 16 Styles of Yoga Classes

The movements are very slow and deliberate, and like Traditional Hatha, it’s not much of a flow. However, it does build strength and awareness for each pose since you hold them for a long time—some even more than five minutes. It’s good for all skill levels—whether you’re completely new to yoga or you want to refine poses that you’ve been doing for a few months.

9. Jivamukti

The Jivamukti Yoga practice is centered on compassion for all living things. This class is a spiritual, ethical, and rigorous style of yoga that was brought to life in the 80s by David Life and Sharon Gannon. It has a similarly fast pace as Vinyasa and follows five unique principles in a class: ahimsa (non-violence to all living things), bhakti (devotion to God), dhyana (meditation), nada (active listening), and Shastra (the study of yogic teachings). This is known as the Jivamukti Method.

There is meditation, chanting, and sometimes even music incorporated in the class. There are six class types and one standardized warm-up sequence: Open Class, Fundamentals, Spiritual Warrior, Beginner Vinyasa, Meditation, In-Class Private, and The Magic Ten. If you wish to learn more about each class, you can read it up on their website.

10. Kundalini

Kundalini Yoga, dubbed as the yoga of awareness, is a highly spiritual practice that focuses on activating one’s consciousness. It involves physical postures, breathwork, chanting of mantras, and meditation to awaken the “kundalini energy” that’s believed to be located at the base of our spine. It was introduced in the west during the late 70s by Yogi Bhajan.

The format of a Kundalini class starts with an opening chant, spinal warm-up, asanas coupled with breathing exercises, and closing meditation or song.

Practitioners are known to wear white from head to toe (though it’s not a hard and fast rule), along with a turban to contain their energy within the body. The color white is said to ward off negativity and increase your auric field. This is suitable for those who are looking to deepen their spiritual practice, meditation, and breathwork.

11. Acroyoga

Acroyoga is a fun style of community yoga where you work in threes: as the base, flyer, and spotter. (The spotter usually steps out of the frame for pics, such as below.) It focuses on the playfulness of acrobatics, the therapeutic healing of touch, and the mindfulness of yoga. These classes are usually taught workshop-style.

Acroyoga takes on a playful approach to your yoga practice and incorporates the elements of support, non-verbal cues, and safety. It gives true meaning to the popular catchphrase, “We rise by lifting others.”

Acroyoga - Ultimate Guide to the 16 Styles of Yoga Classes

I’ve done this a couple of times or so with friends and even during my teacher training. The result is always a lot of laughter, adrenaline, and overall a good time! Experiencing and sharing your yoga practice with someone else is guaranteed to give you good vibes.

12. Aerial

Aerial Yoga (aka Antigravity Yoga or Sky Yoga) is a hybrid yoga class developed in the 90s by Broadway choreographer and former gymnast Christopher Harrison. If you’ve ever seen yogis wrapped around in hammocks suspended in the air, that’s it! It combines yoga, Pilates, calisthenics, and dance, and it’s so much fun. I’ve done this a handful of times, and it’s allowed me to let go of my fear of inversions because of the support I get while upside down.

Bonus: Inversions decompress the spine, and supported ones like this relieve tension from the neck or shoulders, which are usually active in a traditional inversion with floor contact.

Aerial Yoga Antigravity Yoga Sky Yoga Ultimate Guide to the 16 Styles of Yoga Classes

Gravity does the work for you, and you get an extra stretch from the poses that you might not be able to do without the hammock. Classes range from intense core workouts to relaxing restorative sessions, so there are times when you sweat and others when you can just let go.

13. Rocket Yoga

Rocket Yoga is a series of postures patterned after the traditional Ashtanga primary and intermediate series. It was developed by Larry Schultz, a dedicated student of Pattabhi Jois, who wanted to make the practice more accessible. This style was named Rocket because “It gets you there faster.” (That’s their tagline!)

There are three Rocket Yoga routines: Rocket I (after the Ashtanga Primary Series), Rocket II (after the Ashtanga Intermediate Series), and Rocket III (a combination of Rocket I and II).

This class is suitable even for beginner Ashtanga practitioners or those who are fearless in trying inversions and arm balances, which is the heart of the practice. Rocket Yoga also advocates that you can swap in any pose that’s not yet available to you with anything that makes you feel good.

Overall, this is a strong and fast practice, great for intermediate level yogis who are eager to lift off the ground (yes, like a rocket)! Check out this 30-minute Rocket Yoga flow on YouTube, and get ready to fly.

14. Prenatal/Post-natal

Yoga is safe for pregnant women or those who have just given birth. If you’re a long-time practitioner or teacher who is very in tune with your body, you might opt to join regular classes and do adjustments on your own. However, it’s advised to attend a specialized prenatal or post-natal class so the teacher can fully attend to your needs. It’s also a nice support group for moms out there!

Pre-natal Yoga Post Natal Yoga - Ultimate Guide to the 16 Styles of Yoga Classes

Before you attend, make sure you are cleared by your doctor to engage in this physical activity. Inform your instructor of any complications, aches or pains, and how you’re doing each time you join a class. Prenatal yoga helps in bonding time with your baby, while postnatal yoga helps in the recovery phase after giving birth.

Prenatal and post-natal yoga is better done in a live setting. If you know a qualified instructor who can lead you via video call, that would be more advisable than practicing on your own.

15. Kids Yoga

Yes, there’s such a thing! I didn’t do yoga as a child, but I have accompanied my niece and nephew to a Kids Yoga class before. It was a mixture of learning, singing, and movement. It’s a great way to bond with the kiddos, instill creativity and mindfulness in them, and allow them to meet new friends in a different setting. My niece couldn’t stop asking me when we could go back to visit her teacher again. It was so sweet!

Kids Yoga - Ultimate Guide to the 16 Styles of Yoga Classes

Kids Yoga may be offered for kids 3-7 or 7-12, depending on the studio or instructor. Parents or guardians are encouraged to accompany their kids during the class for the first few sessions or all the way through. It’s also a good way to check their progress and celebrate milestones with them.

For younger kids, attending live classes are a must, so the teacher can easily grab their attention. Otherwise, 1:1 video sessions are possible too.

16. Hot Yoga

A Hot Yoga class is any of the abovementioned active yoga styles (like Hatha Flow or Vinyasa) done in a heated room. This is different from Bikram because you don’t have to practice the traditional 26 poses. A lot of sequences usually focus on developing flexibility in the body. We become much more limber when our muscles are warm, so there might be poses you can easily do in a heated room versus in room temperature.

I haven’t done any other type of yoga class in a heated room except for Bikram, but again, the weather in the Philippines can make for a substitute—just shut the windows and fans in your room. Try this flow for flexibility and see what it does for you.

Diversify Your Yoga Practice

There are many styles of yoga, and it’s exciting to explore! The only classes I haven’t done here are Kundalini, Prenatal/Post-natal (only because I’ve never been pregnant), and Rocket—but there’s still time to explore. If there are other styles I missed in this list, do let me know! I’ll gladly put it up here for others to check out.

Begin your yoga practice or take it to the next level with any of these styles, and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!

Love,
Foti

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