If you’ve never tried yoga for yourself, it can be a little intimidating. You don’t really know what’s going to be asked of you and, more importantly, of your body. But before you skip your local studio because you don’t want to be asked to mimic a pretzel, you should know that there are a bunch of different types of yoga. Finding the one that best aligns with what you want to get out of your yoga practice can eliminate a lot of that barrier to entry you’re feeling.
And even if you’ve been practicing for years, some types of yoga are less popular in the States. You could be missing out on your new favorite flow.
So how many types of yoga are there, really? It depends who you ask. And with new alternative yoga styles popping up all the time — like goat yoga and beer yoga — the number is growing. But here are the core types of yoga you should know:
Vinyasa: If you’ve ever joined a yoga class at a studio or a gym, this was most likely the type of yoga you practiced. During vinyasa, you link your breath to movement and move through the poses in a flowing sequence.
Ashtanga: During this type of yoga, you move with your breath just like during a vinyasa flow. The difference is that you always move through the same poses: Sun Salutation A, Sun Salutation B, a primary sequence of postures, and a closing sequence.
Hatha: In Sanskrit, the language you’ll hear your yoga teachers using to name poses, hatha encompasses all physical yoga. (The stuff you do on your mat is actually only part of yoga; it also includes mental and lifestyle practices, too.) When you see a class marked hatha, it generally means that class is gentle and beginner-friendly.
Bikram: Way on the other side of the spectrum is bikram, where you’ll definitely work up a sweat. Bikram is practiced in a hot (105°, to be exact) room during which you slowly move through a set sequence of postures. All Bikram classes are 90 minutes. Hot yoga is like Bikram, except that the sequence of poses can vary.
Yin: If you want to unwind with yoga, yin is the way to go. Also called restorative yoga, this practice uses bolsters and blankets to help you relax into poses that you hold for longer periods of time
Iyengar: Looking for a way to take your practice to the next level? Try this style of yoga, which focuses on ensuring you’re in the best alignment possible in each pose.
Kundalini: Kundalini blends the spiritual with the physical. As you move through postures, your practice incorporates chanting and meditation.
And this is just the start. If you want to do some more research on your own, sivananda, jivamukti, anusara, and kripalu yoga are all worth checking out. There’s a lot to explore. Find what works best for your body and you’ll reap greater benefits from your practice.