5 Popular Yoga Styles Explained by an Award-Winning Yogi
A yoga cheat sheet, so you can spend less time confused and more time on your mat
Yoga is more popular now than ever: it’s hardly surprising, given its many health benefits as a healing practice that focuses on the mind-body connection. From toning up to weight loss, finding your inner peace or simply relaxing, there’s a type of yoga out there for every person. Here are the top five most popular yoga styles broken down by award-winning yogi Kelsea Bangora.
Hatha is an umbrella term for all physical forms of yoga. This style of yoga is a great introduction to the basics, with its classical approach to the poses and breathing techniques: it lays the perfect foundation for your practice.
In Sanskrit, Ha means sun (masculine) and Tha means moon (feminine). So the purpose of Hatha yoga is to create a balance between the masculine and feminine energies that exist within us. We use yoga poses to strike the same balance between strength and flexibility.
Good for: People who are new to yoga and are seeking a well-rounded experience. Hatha is also good for people who like variety as you will most likely being doing a little bit of everything and moving at a moderate pace.
Quote: “You should always keep in mind that the body, the mind and the spirit are not three, they are one” -- Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Vinyasa is an athletic style of yoga that flows from pose to pose, linking breath to movement. Vinyasa is the go-to yoga for exercise because it’s fast-paced and challenging. Teachers often play music during class to keep the energy of the class up and, most importantly, to make it fun.
Good for: Fitness fanatics, athletes and people who just can’t sit still.
Quote: “No one is wise by birth, for wisdom results in one own’s effort” -- Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (aka. the father of modern yoga)
Bikram is the original hot yoga and consists of a set sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, completed during a 90-minute class. The first half of class is done standing and the second half is done on the floor. The room is heated to 40 degrees, with 40% humidity. People either love it or hate it.
Good for: People who love structure, people who love to sweat, and people looking for a great workout.
Quote: “You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again” -- Bikram Choudhury, Founder of Bikram Yoga
Iyengar focuses on holding static poses for long periods of time, placing importance on the precise alignment of each posture. Props, such as straps, blocks, bolsters, blankets, chairs and the wall, are used to help you stay in the pose with the proper technique and correct alignment. Classes tend to be small so you will receive a lot of attention and care. Iyengar is named after its founder, BKS Iyengar, who is the author of the popular book, Light on Yoga.
Good for: Purists who want to do the poses correctly and focus on the finer details whilst embracing their inner zen.
Quote: “Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees” -- B.K.S. Iyengar, Founder of Iyengar Yoga
Ashtanga is a vigorous style of yoga. The series of poses are performed at speed in a sequential order, starting with sun salutations. It’s usually taught in Sanskrit so it’s wise to have a consistent practice so that you can follow along. The popular Mysore Ashtanga yogis practice six mornings a week, as the sun rises.
Good for: People who like order, who love a challenge, and those who enjoy chaturanga (yoga push ups).
Quote: “Ashtanga yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory” - Sri K Pattabhi Jois, Founder of Ashtanga Yoga