Half of the people start practicing a particular yoga style more by accident than by deliberately choosing one. One could also argue that there are no accidents, but we can at least say that these people did not carefully review the different kinds of yoga before diving into a particular method. Maybe the yoga school/teacher was a recommendation, or perhaps one chose the school that was the closest to his home or office. The other half of people – which I tend to call jumpers – do any kind of yoga, depending on how they feel today or what fits into their busy schedule. If one is a member of a yoga school that offers different yoga styles, the student can easily do this.
In all cases, someone would not stay or come back again if he did not get along well with the yoga teacher. In the end, the most crucial aspect of the practice is how one appreciates the personality and energy of the teacher. Hopefully, this article can help you make a selection of the yoga style that best fits your needs.
Hatha Yoga – The Mother of all (Physical) Yoga Styles
Hatha yoga is considered the umbrella term for all kinds of physical yoga that include body postures, breathwork, mudras, and mantras. Click here to discover the definition of yoga and if you would like to find out how Hatha yoga is defined and fits within ancient philosophy. For a more practical understanding, it is good to know that 95% of the yoga we practice in the West is actually Hatha yoga. A lot of different yoga styles have been created with a foundation taken from this traditional version, including all the ones described in this article.
Hatha yoga, in its basic form, is very slow-paced, gentle, and meditative. It is perfect for beginners and people who want to learn meditation and relaxation techniques. It will help you to relieve stress, do physical exercise and stretching to stay healthy, and to improve your breathing. If you would like to take a deeper look into the technique, please read on Hatha yoga here.
Vinyasa Yoga – Flowing in Grace
Vinyasa yoga is very much like Hatha yoga. All the basic poses are practiced, and it is also crucial to align the breath with the movements. You will do a lot of sun salutations, which is a flow of different poses over a deep lunge, downward-facing dog, plank, push-ups, and cobra pose before returning to the initial pose. This strengthens the entire body and will help you to build lean muscles throughout your body. It will improve your strength and flexibility and will especially further develop your abdominal muscles. It will also give a good workout for your heart, thus preventing heart diseases and high blood pressure, since it more energetic than traditional Hatha yoga. Vinyasa might not be best for you if you suffer from injuries or have pain in the shoulders. It is good for medium-advanced yogis that know their basic alignment already from Hatha yoga classes.
Ashtanga Yoga / Power Yoga
Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga are both strongly focused on asana, or body postures. While the sequence of the poses in Vinyasa will vary, there are six sequences also called series in Ashtanga yoga. They build upon each other and you have to complete the first one before being allowed to start the second one. Already the first series of Ashtanga yoga is quite challenging and it provides a full-body workout. Therefore, it is said to be the most challenging yoga style, and most people will never overcome the second series. The Ashtangis are very disciplined and dedicated, and you can see this in their firm bodies. It might seem boring to do the same poses over and over again, but it has the benefit of enabling you to focus more easily inward. I consider Ashtanga to be a practice that is suitable for really healthy and young people who are looking for physical challenges and who are ready to walk on the path to enlightenment with dedication and focus.
Bikram Yoga / Hot Yoga
Bikram yoga by Bikram Choudhury was the first kind of hot yoga. Hence, one can say THE original version of hot yoga. Each sweaty 90-minutes class of Bikram features the same series of postures while any style of yoga done in a hot room is known as hot yoga. The temperature, between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius, helps to stretch the muscles and to burn more calories than in a regular yoga class. Therefore, hot yoga can be good for losing weight. If you love hot weather and want to challenge yourself, hot yoga might be a good fit for you. Just be careful not to over-stretch your muscles and tendons, which you might not feel during class but only afterwards. It could be easy to injure yourself.
Yin Yoga – Gentle but Deep
Yin yoga merges together the yoga system with the Chinese medicine system with its meridians. It is a very relaxing practice in which you hold every posture between 3 and 10 minutes, thus much longer than in traditional yoga styles. While other styles emphasize the Yang components, the active and moving part, Yin yoga focuses instead on the not-doing part and is in general a gentler practice. Since the body is not moving, but mostly rests in a deep stretch, it is even more challenging to calm your mind. My recommendation is to choose Yin yoga as a counterpart to an active Yang yoga style or – what I do in my classes – add a couple of Yin poses at the end of an active Yang class.