Throughout history, the expressive nature of yoga has evolved as people have developed different methods of practice. Although some crossover may occur, each style is focused on specific benefits and intentions. Find out which styles of yoga speak to you.

Anusara

(ah-NOO-sah-rah)

What is it?

Ansura is a modern spin on Hatha Yoga that was introduced by yoga teacher John Friend in 1997. Anusara takes many of its ideals from traditional texts and puts an emphasis on the spiritual and philosophical nature of each pose. It focuses on the “three A’s”: attitude, alignment and action. Attitude is about finding the emotion and expression in the pose; alignment is about being aware of how our bodies and other parts of ourselves are interconnect; action is about finding the natural energy flows in the body, which can bring about calmness and happiness.

What is it good for?

Anusara yoga is very uplifting. Anusara instructors make a point of making sure you leave feeling better than you did when you got there, emotionally and physically. Also, your body is never pushed farther than it can handle.

Who is it for?

People who are out of shape will find Anusara is a great introduction to yoga and reintroduction to fitness. If you’ve never done yoga, Anusara is a fun, pressure-free way to start. This is also a more social and spiritual form of yoga, great for those that enjoy yoga but prefer more emphasis on emotional and spiritual interaction.

Anything I Might Not Like?

Class participation is key in Anusara. It’s not just listening to the instructors voice while you silently move into positions. You’ll have to pair up with people, often strangers, and applaud your classmate’s achievements. Also, spirituality is important and, if you don’t think you can embrace your “inner body bright” without rolling your eyes, this might not be for you.

Ashtanga

(ahsht-AANG-uh)

What is it?

Ashtanga yoga, or ashtanga vinyasa yoga, is also called Power Yoga due to its fast-paced and intense nature. Practicing Ashtanga involves moving through six traditional and difficult sequence of poses. You flow fluidly, without pausing, from one pose to another, taking deep breaths — a process called vinyasa. Ashtanga yoga requires strength, speed and endurance. “Vinyasa yoga” is often used as a generic term to describe ashtanga yoga and other more vigorous, fluid styles of yoga.

What is it good for?

This is a very athletic form so it’s great for weight loss. Ashtanga yoga is a great cardio workout and can greatly improve strength.

Who is it for?

Ashtanga is not for the faint of heart, but for those who want a challenging workout that will push their limits. Also, you shouldn’t try this unless you’re already familiar with the yoga poses that are used in any given sequence — lessons may be too fast-paced, and you will be unable to transition quickly and fluidly from pose to pose. Experienced yoginis and fast-learning athletes are the most likely people to benefit from and enjoy ashtanga yoga.

Anything I Might Not Like?

Ashtanga is tough work and can be a challenge, even for those who have been doing yoga for years. If you’re newer to yoga, it’s best not to jump into ashtanga right away. If you are definitely looking for a more vigorous workout, try attending “Mysore” classes, which go at a slower pace. Mysore instructors will adjust poses, give advice and be more accommodating to individual pace. While these lessons are not as fast-moving as ashtanga, the actual workout is still fairly strenuous.

Bikram

(bick-ruhm)

What is it?

Bikram is perhaps the sweatiest yoga style. Bikram yoga involves performing your workout in a room heated to around 105 degrees with high humidity. You move through two sets of a series of twenty six poses in the course of ninety minutes. It’s the most popular of the “hot yogas”.

What is it good for?

You’ll sweat away the pounds when you perform Bikram Yoga. Of the many styles of yoga, Bikram is one of the most effective for weight-loss. Strength and endurance are also greatly enhanced with regular practice.

Who is it for?

Athletes, both established and aspiring, are well-suited for Bikram yoga as it’s an incredibly invigorating and cleansing workout that greatly increases flexibility. Bikram yoga is unsafe for pregnant women, children and those over the age of 60 who are non-athletic. For those with medical conditions or ailments, such as hypertension, asthma or other issues that can make exercise unsafe, choose another form of yoga to practice unless approved by a healthcare professional.

Anything I Might Not Like?

Performing in heat makes the body more flexible; this is considered a pro of Bikram, but it can also be deceptive and lead people to over-stretch in areas that are not actually as flexible as they seem, leading to torn ligaments and joint injuries. Extra care and attention must be exercised when performing Bikram, so a deep understanding of personal limitations is necessary for this particular style especially. Also, you’ll want to wear as little as possible when you do Bikram, so if you’re not comfortable showing a little skin this might not be for you.

Hatha

(HAH-tuh)

What is it?

Most modern forms of yoga performed in the western world is a variation of Hatha Yoga, one of the most well-known styles of yoga today. Hatha was originally a subset of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that focused on achieving spiritual enlightenment by maintaining and improving the health of the body. This is the most commonly practiced yoga style, so most people that have tried or dabbled in yoga were probably performing Hatha Yoga.

What is it good for?

Hatha Yoga is an excellent way to improve your strength and flexibility while soothing your mind. It is a calm yet disciplined practice that can have a tremendous amount of physical and mental benefits.

Who is it for?

Hatha Yoga can be enjoyed by pretty much everyone. There is no age or athletic requirement. People that enjoy movement and exercise but do not like making a routine of stressful, sweaty workouts often find it easy to make a habit of performing Hatha Yoga, making it a great way to ease back into exercise. Athletes will find these poses stretch their muscles in ways they never even considered, elongating the muscles to prevent a compact, bulging appearance.

Anything I Might Not Like?

If you’re interested in exploring the spiritual as well as physical side of yoga, you may need to shop around for the right studio. Many Hatha Yoga instructors incorporate the original Hindu teachings on meditation and spirituality, but its not a requirement; a majority of Hatha Yoga studios and classes are focused primarily on the body, with some emphasis on mental relaxation and tranquility. However, spirituality is not always a topic of exploration.

Iyengar

(eye-EHN-gahr)

What is it?

Iyengar Yoga is all about detail. This form of yoga focuses on the structural alignment of the body, and emphasis is placed on technique and precision. Every session goes through a set sequence of poses, and each pose has its own designated duration. Iyengar Yoga is perhaps the most structured of all yoga forms. Yoga equipment, such as blocks, straps and belts, are key to getting the body into the right position in Iyengar yoga — so much so that it’s sometimes referred to as Furniture Yoga.

What is it good for?

When practicing Iyengar Yoga, the correct and traditional methods of each pose are emphasised strongly; Iyengar instructors are nearly obsessive in their attention to detail, so there is little chance that one will be taught an incorrect version of an asana. Iyengar is an effective way to learn diligence and structure while developing muscles and building strength.

Who is it for?

Iyengar yoga is for perfectionist. Iyengar practitioners don’t just want to do yoga – they want to do it right. There are more and more yoga studios opening across the country, and not all of them commit to performing the poses correctly. Iyengar is for those who hate non-traditional fad studios that are not committed to performing yoga as it was meant to be and wish to practice with precision and accuracy.

Anything I Might Not Like?

If you prefer your yoga to be loose or free form, then Iyengar isn’t for you. Its instructors are very hands-on and will not hesitate to come over and correct you. Not only that, but they request you wear tighter fitting clothes so they can be sure you’re performing the pose exactly at all times. For those that find they need to adjust poses or perform variations due to body type, Iyengar may be a more stressful option in terms of yoga styles; instead, try looking into a yoga style that allows more freedom, such as Kripalu Yoga.

Jivamukti

(JEE-vuh-MUHK-tee)

What is it?

In Jivamukti, yoga gets back to its spiritual roots. Jivamukti has five main tenants: Shasta (scripture), Bhakti (devotion), Ahimsa (non-violence), Nāda (listening, chanting and music), and Dhyana (meditation). Jivamukti is not merely a physical practice; it’s also an educational experience. Each class has a theme that incorporates scripture and chanting into yoga. There are six different classes one can take that focus on different elements of their tenants and the spiritual needs of the class goers. The name Jivamukti is a variation of the Sanskrit word jivanmuktih, which literally translates to “living soul liberation”.

What is it good for?

Jivamukti brings back many of the spiritual elements that have been lost in yoga’s modernization. It also promotes equality and tolerance.

Who is it for?

Jivamukti is great for those who wish to incorporate yoga as a philosophical and spiritual lifestyle in addition to practicing it as a form of exercise. There is a strong sense of community in Jivamukti classes, but students also have the option of taking private sessions with instructors. Jivamukti yoga is not just a form of exercise; it’s a way of life.

Anything I Might Not Like?

If you’re doing yoga purely for the physical benefits, then Jivamukti isn’t for you. This particular style of yoga also strongly advocates vegetarianism as part of its emphasis on nonviolence, so meat-eaters might feel a bit excluded if practicing in group sessions.

Kripalu

(krih-PAAH-leu)

What is it?

Kripalu yoga is perhaps the gentlest of all styles. Classes typically start with breathing exercises and light stretching. Students then move into poses of their choosing for the duration of the session, ending the class by relaxing and meditating. Kripalu puts a strong emphasis on figuring out how each students’ bodies react to and work with poses. Instructors often teach about the link between the mind and the body and how one always affects the other. Students are encouraged to find a natural flow to guide them from pose to pose.

What is it good for?

Kripalu is good for figuring out how your body works at your own pace. There is a lot less risk of injury in Kripalu than in other types of yoga. While the itself exercise is very mild and therefore not the best option for weight-loss or training, this particular style is very relaxing for both the body and mind.

Who is it for?

Kripalu is perfect for beginners and those with injuries that are using yoga as a form of rehabilitation. It’s also great for those looking for a calming and often spiritual experience.

Anything I Might Not Like?

Kripalu can be very emotional as there is a strong focus inward. If you’re interested in yoga purely for its psychical benefits, Kripalu probably isn’t for you. Also, if you’re uncomfortable with choice and personalization in a class setting you may want to avoid it; other forms of yoga, such as Iyengar, emphasize precision and are much better for those that rely on or prefer structure.

Kundalini

(kuhn-dah-lihn-nee)

What is it?

Kundalini if often referred to as the “yoga of awareness”. Kundalini translates to “coiled” in Sanskrit and that makes sense because Kundalini seeks to release the coiled serpent-like energy found at the base of the spine. Classes start with a short chanting session, then some stretching with a focus on the spine, then a sequence of poses and breathing exercises, and then finally ends with meditation. But don’t let the emphasis on meditation fool you — this is a very active form of yoga that will get your blood pumping.

What is it good for?

Kundalini is a rejuvenating experience. The focus on breathing and meditation will leave you energized and the sequence of poses are invigorating. It balances the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga expertly.

Who is it for?

Kundalini is for those who want spirituality to play a big role in their yoga but also want a great workout.

Anything I Might Not Like?

At some Kundalini studios you’re required to wear white robes and head wraps. Spirituality is very important in Kundalini so if you’re looking for a purely physical exercise it isn’t for you. Also you need to very familiar with the seven chakras.

Power

What is it?

Power yoga is Ashtanga yoga Americanized. It was developed in the late 1980s and it’s focus is fitness. But, unlike Ashtanga, power yoga doesn’t have a set sequence of poses every time. It often incorporates aspects from other types of yoga — for example some power yoga classes turn up the heat to 105 degrees, like in Bikram yoga. Many credit power yoga with widely popularizing hatha yoga in America.

What is it good for?

Power yoga is great for weight loss and getting into better shape. You’ll work up a sweat in a power yoga class.

Who is it for?

Power yoga is great for those looking for a real isometric exercise experience. But, its better for those who are already in some kind of shape.

Anything I Might Not Like?

You shouldn’t jump into power yoga if you haven’t exercised in a while. Even athletes can find it difficult at times, simply because they may not be used to the way yoga stretches their muscles. Regardless, power yoga is a sweaty business, so be prepared for that.

Prenatal

What is it?

Prenatal yoga is carefully designed for pregnant women. Many of the poses are modified so that they are safe and beneficial for expectant mothers. Posture sequences are designed in such a way as to relieve pregnancy symptoms and prepare the body for birth. There are also classes to help new mothers get back into shape.

What is it good for?

Prenatal yoga can ease back aches while simultaneously strengthening muscles to make it easier to carry a baby. Additionally, certain stretches can prepare the body for giving birth and even decrease the pain and length of labor. Also, its just a good way to keep exercising while pregnant.

Who is it for?

Prenatal yoga is for every type of pregnant woman — those take regular yoga classes and don’t want to give it up just because they’re pregnant and those who’ve never taken yoga and are looking for a way to stay in shape while pregnant. It’s often recommended for women who plan on delivering sans drugs because it strengthens the pelvic floor muscles — which makes for easier and faster deliveries.

Anything I Might Not Like?

Prenatal yoga can make giving birth easier but it certainly doesn’t make it easy — nothing can do that. Also your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy, so balancing in some of those poses can be tough. Your whole body changes when you’re pregnant, so don’t expect to be able to do all the stretches you normally can.

Restorative

What is it?

Restorative yoga is soothing, slow paced version of the form. You take your time with the poses so that your body can slowly get used to them. Props like blocks, bolsters, straps and blankets play a large role in preventing you from straining your body as you learn poses. Before classes students will often meet one-on-one with instructors to tailor their experience to their own needs Relaxation is king in restorative yoga. Dimmed lights and scented candles are par for the course.

What is it good for?

Restorative yoga is especially good for physical rehabilitation. Instructors encourage those with injuries to approach them before class so they know what part of the body is injured and needs attention. Its also a great way to unwind and rejuvenate yourself after a long stressful day.

Who is it for?

Restorative yoga is particularly good for those with injuries but really anyone can enjoy and benefit from it. Sometimes practitioners who are devoted to another type of yoga will take a few restorative classes as a sort of break from their normal form. Anyone with stress in their lives (which is everyone) could use a restorative yoga class.

Anything I Might Not Like?

Because the pace is so slow and your heart rate tends to stay the same or even slow throughout the class its often quite cold during restorative classes. You’ll need some extra layers for this style of yoga. Luckily, instructors often have extra blankets on hand.

Sivananda

(shiv-AHN-an-dah)

What is it?

There are five main tenets to Sivananda yoga: Asanas (proper exercise), Pranayama (proper breathing), Savasana (proper relaxation), proper diet (vegetarian), and Vedanta (positive thinking) and Dhyana (meditation). Sivananda classes take their time and tend to start with sun salutations before they move on to twelve basic poses:  headstand, shoulder stand, plow, fish, seated forward bend, cobra, locust, bow, seated spinal twist, crow, standing forward bend, and triangle.

What is it good for?

Mastering the poses and getting in touch with your spiritual side. Its a gentle approach to learning and practicing yoga.

Who is it for?

Hardcore yogis enjoy Sivananda because it meshes spirituality, ritual, physicality and philosophy expertly. Also, those looking for a rejuvenating experience that isn’t quite as slow-paced as restoration yoga.

Anything I Might Not Like?

Vegetarianism plays a big role in Sivananda (lucky for us!) so your meat loving friends may not want to try it out with you. Also, some find the focus on the same twelve Asanas boring. It’s not for those looking for variety every time. Also, spirituality is very important so if that’s not for you then its best to stay away from Sivananda.

Viniyoga

(vee-nee-yoh-gah)

What is it?

Viniyoga is yoga for the individual. A seasoned instructor works one-on-one with students on their specific needs. The goal of Viniyoga is not to master a pose but to work on poses in a way that most benefits the students body. Often poses are done over and over, rather then held for long periods of time. Much of the focus of Viniyoga is on breath work, alignment and lengthening the spine but expect meditation and chanting as well. Viniyoga instructors tend to take their time, so it can be slow paced.

What is it good for?

Viniyoga is an excellent way to figure out what your body needs. There is little chance of learning a pose incorrectly or hurting yourself because the teachers have so much experience.

Who is it for?

Because of its focus on the spine, this is a great form for those with back problems. But really, anyone who feels lost in the crowd during classes will enjoy Viniyoga.

Anything I Might Not Like?

It can be difficult to find a Viniyoga teacher. Not every studio has them so you may need to look for those who offer private lessons — which can be expensive. Also, if you prefer anonymity, this isn’t the form for you.

Yin

(yihn)

What is it?

Yin yoga takes its time. You’ll find yourself holding a pose for five minute or more if you stick to this form. Connective tissues (tendons, fascia, ligaments) are paid special attention in order to improve circulation and flexibility. There is a focus on “passive” poses — relaxed typically seated asanas that work the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, and lower spine. There is also a heavy emphasis on meditation and accessing deep emotions.

What is it good for?

Yin yoga is great for easing and even eliminating joint pain. Also, it can be very relaxing and can serve as an excellent introduction to meditation.

Who is it for?

Many see Ashtanga and Power yoga as the yang to Yin yoga and often take classes in both at the same time. But you can easily take it on its own. Many experienced students take it to learn how to hold poses longer.

Anything I Might Not Like?

It can take a lot patience to hold poses for this long and meditation and plays a big role in Yin yoga. So if you can’t stand a slow paced form then this isn’t for you.