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types of yoga
Fitness Health + Wellness

The Different Types of Yoga — Explained

Published July 24, 2018 by

Not sure of the difference between Hatha, Ashtanga, Ansura or Vinyasa? Follow this guide to find out which type of yoga is right for you.

By Amina Daniels

Hatha, Ashtanga, Anusara, Vinyasa … words that sound like a foreign language versus a form of exercise! The world of yoga can be confusing and even intimidating since there are so many different varieties. Most styles of yoga are based on the same basic yoga poses called asanas. However, the style and execution can be extremely different. It’s certainly worth diving into though, because yoga has so many benefits for the mind and body alike, including:

So how do you go about determining which form of yoga is suitable for you?

In an effort to clear things up a bit, below is a brief breakdown of some of the most popular forms of yoga. And remember, if you are a beginner, have fun with it. It’s an adventure to see what your body and mind can do, and which style or styles you find enjoyable. Try a few different kinds until you find one — or more — that suit you!

different types of yogaCourtesy Amina Daniels

Hatha

Hatha yoga consists of the practice of asanas (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). It originated in India in the 15th century, and is slow-paced, gentle and largely focused on meditation. In a Hatha yoga class, you’ll hold each pose for a few breaths, and slowly move between poses.

Benefits: Relieves stress, improves muscle tone, enhances breathing and focus.

Ideal for: Beginners and people desiring a slower, more relaxing form of exercise.

Vinyasa

Vinyasa is a variety of Hatha yoga that emphasizes a series of 12 poses where movement is synchronized with the breath, called the Sun Salutations. It is a more vigorous style based on a rapid flow. The faster pace and continuous movement draws HIIT lovers, endurance athletes, runners and more.

Benefits: Helps improve strength and flexibility, provides cardio exercise, enhances concentration, breathing and flow.

Ideal for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike.

Bikram

Also known as a form of hot yoga, a Bikram class is the same no matter where you go, consisting of the same 26 postures and two breathing techniques, practiced for 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees F, with a humidity level of 40 percent. Bikram class challenges you both physically and mentally. Founded by Bikram Choudhury, this form of hot yoga is meant to flush toxins, manage weight, improve focus and concentration.

Benefits: Enhances flexibility, improves concentration and mental focus, cleanses and detoxifies the body.

Ideal for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike who want to push themselves. Those who enjoy structure and endurance.

Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is a slow-paced style in which poses are held up to five minutes or longer. Even though it is passive, Yin yoga can be quite challenging due to the long holds, particularly if your body is not used to it.  This meditative practice is designed to target your deeper connective tissues and fascia, restoring length and elasticity and improving flexibility. You’ll use props so your body can release into the posture instead of actively flexing or engaging the muscles. It was founded and first taught in the U.S. in the late 1970s by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Yin-style is now taught across North America and in Europe.

Benefits: Improves flexibility and strength.

Ideal for: More advanced yogis or athletes.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga is a highly structured Vinyasa-style class. Ashtanga yoga came to the west through students of Sri Pattabhi Jois, who passed away in 2009 after establishing his yoga center in Mysore, India. If you attend an Ashtanga class at a studio, you will be led nonstop through one or more of the Ashtanga series, while being encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Each individual must master each pose before moving to the next. Each series is a set sequence of asanas, always in the same order. It is typically fast-paced, vigorous and physically challenging.

Benefits: Improves strength, flexibility, balance and declutters the mind.

Ideal for: Those working on endurance and strength. Those who like more structure.

Anusara Yoga

The Anusara style is a new system of Hatha that teaches a set of Universal Principles of Alignment that underlie all yoga postures, while encouraging flowing with grace and following your heart. Founded by John Friend, the practice of Anusara is broadly categorized into three parts, known as the Three A’s. They include attitude, alignment and action.

Benefits: Relieves stress, improves breathing and focus.

Ideal for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is used to describe a vigorous, Vinyasa-style yoga. It originally resembled Ashtanga and was an attempt to make Ashtanga more accessible to Western students. It differs, however, in that it is not a set series of poses, but rather allows instructors freedom to teach what they want. Two American yogis, Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest, both of whom studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, are most often credited with inventing power yoga. Power yoga’s popularity has spread around the world and is now taught in most studios. Because the style can vary, it is recommended that you consult with the studio or instructor before attending a class.

Benefits: Helps improve strength and flexibility, provides cardio exercise.

Ideal for: Beginners and people desiring a slower, more relaxing form of exercise.

Amina Daniels is a high energy fitness professional, who champions her studio, Live Cycle Delight, based in the West Village. Amina will also open Hot LCD this Spring, which will offer yoga and Pilates. She holds fitness certifications in RYS200 from Kripalu, Group Strength, Personal Training, TRX Camps, TRX Group Fitness, TRX Rip Trainer and Indoor Cycling by Schwinn Bikes and Real Ryder.

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