Yoga for mental wellness

10 different styles of yoga: Which one is right for you?

            Yoga is a practice that has become mainstream in the Western world, with classes, studios, and online videos readily available to anyone who wants to give it a try. It is often a go-to suggestion for self-care due to numerous associated physical and mental health benefits. The word “yoga” itself comes from Sanskrit and means “to unite” or “to join”, symbolizing just how important the union of the body and mind is to this form of exercise.

            If you already have an established yoga practice, you probably know what works for you. However, if you are interested in trying it but don’t know where to start, read on for information on 10 different styles and how to choose the one that is right for you.

10 Styles of Yoga

  1. Hatha: A gentle form of yoga that is often great for beginners. It uses static poses with breathing exercises to promote stress relief and relaxation.

How to practice: Focus on the basics of each pose and breathing technique.

  • Vinyasa: Each pose smoothly transitions to the next in fluid, dynamic movements. This style synchronizes breath with movement and focuses on improving body awareness, focus, and concentration.

How to practice: Focus on the flow of the movement and breath. Try to find a rhythm as you move between postures.

  • Bikram: Done in a hot room, this style uses a series of 26 poses. It focuses on detoxification and can be challenging given the temperature of the room. It focuses on building determination and mental resilience.

How to practice: Stay hydrated. Focus on each pose, your endurance, and how the heat feels for your muscles.

  • Kundalini: A more spiritual style aimed at unlocking the energy at the base of the spine. It usually involves meditation, chanting, and chosen poses to enhance inner peace and self-awareness.

How to practice: Give yourself permission to explore. Try the chanting and breathing exercises with an open mind.

  • Ashtanga: A rigorous practice following a specific sequence of poses aimed at reducing stress and improving focus.

How to practice: Learn the sequence and focus on transitioning smoothly with control of the breath.

  • Anusara: A more modern practice, this style is focused on alignment and is spiritually oriented. It aims to boost positivity and self-esteem.

How to practice: Focus on aligning the body and opening the heart.

  • Prenatal: Tailored for pregnant women, this practice focuses on poses that increase strength and flexibility. It may help reduce pregnancy-related anxiety and prepare for childbirth.

How to practice: Engage in gentle postures and breathing exercises. The instructor will help modify traditional poses so they are accessible and safe.

  • Iyengar: Alignment and precision are central to this practice. The use of props such as blocks, straps, and bolsters are used to maintain proper alignment of the body. This style can help with developing mindfulness and patience.

How to practice: Focus on alignment in each pose. Use your props when necessary.

  • Yin: Poses are held for extended periods of time to access the deep connective tissues of the body. Often used for relaxation purposes, this practice can also help foster patience and improve flexibility.

How to practice: Stay in each pose for several minutes or for as long as your instructor indicates. Focus on deep breathing and relaxation. Use props as necessary to ensure comfort while holding poses.

  1. Restorative: Pure relaxation is the goal of this practice. Poses are held for longer and may include the use of props. This practice aims to reduce anxiety and leave you deeply relaxed.

How to practice: Focus on letting go of your day and focus on the relaxation of your mind and body.

Now that you have an idea of some styles that are out there, how do you choose the one that suits you best? While you do not have to stick to a particular style, it can be helpful to reflect on which one may be your best option as a beginner. As you move along in your yoga journey, you may find it interesting to switch styles or experiment with different ones on a regular basis.

  • Reflect on your goals: Are you looking for relaxation and stress relief? Are you more focused on exercise and getting a good workout in? Determining your goals will help you to choose the yoga style which means your needs.
  • Consider limitations: Do you have an injury or other physical limitation? Which style would allow you to explore this practice while still enjoying it to the fullest?
  • Experiment with different styles: Perhaps both yin and restorative yoga pique your interest. Why not try both and see which one resonates more? Feel free to speak with instructors about their classes and ask for recommendations on what to try.
  • Listen to your body: If you feel great after a practice this is a good sign the style was right for you. Yoga should leave you feeling calm and refreshed. If you feel drained or uncomfortable it may be better to try a different style.

When starting a yoga practice, remember that it is not about how far you can stretch or contort your body. The focus is on the connection between your mind and body and taking time out of your day for your own care. If you are interested in developing a self-care plan, please reach out to any of our staff who would be more than happy to assist you with this.

Written by Cat Zydyk

References:

Calm. (2023). 10 different types of yoga (and their benefits). https://www.calm.com/blog/types-of-yoga