9 Most Famous Yoga Styles and How to Choose the Right One for You

Did you know that yoga is the only system that has lived for over 15,000 years without any papacy or enforcement? That may be a sign to know a bit more about yoga!

Indeed, the development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old. There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The most well-known type is called Hatha Yoga.

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or “to yoke”. Yoga is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. If you practice yoga on a long period of time, it will lead you to a sense of peace and well-being with an empowering feeling of being at one with your environment.

First thing when you want to learn about yoga is vocabulary. Below is a list of the most used terms that you need to learn (don’t worry, it’s just 2 for the moment 🙂 ):

  • Yogis are the yoga practitioners
  • Asanas are the different poses during a yoga class

Why Has Yoga Became So Popular These Past Years?

That’s not a secret: we live in a crazy world! In the modern world, everyone is stressed and has a fast paced life. As you may know, yoga philosophy and practice is all about bringing peace and a safe place to meditate and focus on what’s really important in life.

That’s not all! Yoga has so many benefits on your health. For instance, it will increase your energy, flexibility, and focus. Yoga’s practice is also beneficial if you’re suffering from insomnia, back problems, digestive problems, asthma, anxiety and weight loss.

If you’re a new yogi, you’ll quickly see that when you practice yoga, it’s not about winning or losing. You go at your own rate, with no competitive feelings.

Now that you know more about yoga in the modern world, let’s focus on the different yoga types.

The 4 Types of Yogas

There are 4 yogas types that are practiced. It’s important to note that the physical practice of yoga, which is usually called “yoga”, is only one of the 4 primary types of yoga.

  1. Karma Yoga is the path of service. If you serve others without waiting for a return, you’re a Karma Yoga practitioner. For example, Mother Teresa was a huge Karma Yoga practitioner.
  2. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion. When you pray, sing, and express your love for the Divine, you’re practicing Bhakti Yoga.
  3. Jnana Yoga is the path to wisdom and intellect. It corresponds to reading sacred texts and engaging in philosophical contemplation.
  4. Raja Yoga is the “royal path”. It includes Hatha Yoga, which is about moving the body with awareness of breath.

To be more accurate, when you’re practicing the physical practice of yoga, you’re actually talking about Hatha Yoga.

Most Popular Hatha Yoga Styles

#1- Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is not only the name of the physical practice, it’s also a style of generic yoga. It is considered as the “grandmother of yoga” and is referred as “General Yoga”.

Hatha Yoga has a gentle technique and is a perfect place to start. It’s slower paced, unlike Bikram, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga Yogas. This yoga style offers an easy-to-follow introduction to all basic poses and movements. It’s really good for beginners as you can choose the pace of your session depending on your own flexibility and abilities. The famous basic moves such as downward dog, mountain, and chaturanga were originally created of Hatha Yoga’s practice.

Best For: Great place for beginners to be introduced to yoga

#2- Vinyasa Yoga

The full name of Vinyasa Yoga is Prana Vinyasa Flow Yoga. It has been created by a renowned yoga master: Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888-1989). In Sanskrit, Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement” due to its smooth and flowing movements. Vinyasa Yoga is derived from Hatha Yoga.

Vinyasa Yoga’s practice is active and dynamic, all about the connection between your breathing and the different poses. It’s one of the most popular practice around the world as it’s like a dynamic dance where you move quickly with no breaks. That’s for sure a good workout session which is quite satisfying for yogis looking for a bit of sweat. Note that the sessions of Vinyasa Yoga are all different and instructors can focus on specific parts of the body on each class.

Best For: Both beginners and experienced yogis

#3- Ashtanga & Power Yoga

This yoga style has been introduced by a yoga master called Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). Ashtanga, which means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, mainly focus on 8 important points of the body. It’s a dynamic form of Hatha Yoga where you’ll need to be disciplined, dedicated and devoted. As Ashtanga Yoga is quite physically demanding, it also exists a style which is a combination of Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yogas, called Power Yoga.

The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is based on ancient yoga teachings. It’s a sequence of 6 separate series of 6 asanas, going from the easiest to the more challenging ones, that you will practice each class. Yogis has to master each of the poses individually before moving to the next one. Note that in Ashtanga Yoga, you will have a lot of transitions between the asanas with no breaks in between. This style is quite vigorous, which make it good for athletes to build strength and grace. There is a specific breathing technique performed during Ashtanga Yoga: the ujjayi, which translates by “victorious breath”. It consists of puraka (inhalation) and rechaka (exhalation).

Power Yoga is way more accessible and simple than Ashtanga Yoga. It’s a very active style of yoga with some push-ups, squats, and sweat!

Best For:

  • Ashtanga Yoga is suitable for experienced yogis as it requires a deep daily yoga practice
  • Power Yoga is suitable for beginners and experienced yogis who are looking for a big calorie burn

#4- Iyengar Yoga

This yoga style originates from one of the world’s most influential yogis: BKS Iyengar. After a fall from his scooter in India, BKS Iyengar started incorporating props (like blocks, straps, and blankets) in his practice in order to help him continue yoga while healing. What makes Iyengar Yoga differs from other styles is the very high degree of attention to the body’s alignment.

The practice of Iyengar Yoga requires a serious technique as it focuses on the precise execution of some specific yoga poses, using props that will help you find your optimal positioning. Note that poses are held longer (1 minute of more) than what you might be used to if you practice Vinyasa Yoga for instance.

Best For: it’s a great place for new yogis to learn how to practice in a controlled and precise way

#5- Bikram & Hot Yoga

Bikram Yoga has been created by Bikram Choudhury and comes from Hatha Yoga techniques. It’s been popular since the 70’s and still continue nowadays to reunite more and more yogis enthusiasts around the globe.

Bikram Yoga is performed in a room heated to 105°F (40°C) with 40% of humidity. Goal is to simulate the environment of the yoga’s home country: India. In Bikram Yoga classes, you will repeat the same 26-pose routine every time, that includes 2 breathing exercises. It’s very active and intense as you can imagine 🙂

Hot Yoga refers to any type of yoga done in a heated room. The most popular Hot Yoga styles are Vinyasa Yoga and Bikram, where yogis follow a specific series of asanas. Rooms are heated at a high temperature in order to promote sweating and elevate your body’s temperature. With the heat, your muscles will be way more flexible and it supposed to detoxify your body.

Best For: Both are accessible for beginners and experienced yogis. However, due to the high temperature, it’s not recommended if you have injuries or physical limitations.

#6- Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga has been introduced by Yogi Bhajan in 1968. Its goal is to move along the central energy channel of the body. If you see yogis practicing with white outfits and turbans, they surely practice Kundalini.

Kundalini is not a typical yoga class you may know. Its practice includes to chant syllables or mantras, perform specific breathing techniques, and invigorating movements (for up to 108 repetitions at a time). This yoga style is known for its ability to very quickly change your emotional state and bring more balance into your life. It seeks to free energy in the lower body to move it upwards by directing energy flow towards different poses.

Best For: Both new yogis and experienced ones, who are seeking to deepen their spirituality – body, mind and soul – through yoga. Even if it’s a bit different, don’t let this intimidate you as the practice is very welcoming for new yogis.

#7- Yin Yoga

This practice has been created by a yoga teacher named Paul Grilley. He was looking for a way to better stretch the body’s connective tissue, particularly around the joints, rather than muscles and bones. It’s a very passive and meditative style that will teach you patience and total relaxation.

During Yin Yoga class, you will do a serie of asanas that you will have to hold for 3 to 5 minutes. This way, you can work with the deeper level of the tissues in your body. As it’s a slower and steady practice, you will have the opportunity to experience a deeper level of relaxation.

Best For: it’s a perfect addition to the more dynamic yoga practices (such as Bikram and Vinyasa) as it brings a real balance and meditation time.

#8- Restorative Yoga

The goal of Restorative Yoga is, as it names suggest it, to restore the balance of your mind, body, and soul. It’s a modern style which is very relaxing.

During Restorative Yoga classes, you’ll use props (such as pillows and blankets) almost for every asanas, in order to hold poses for a longer time. The slow pace and soothing movements makes you feel refreshed and relaxed. It allows you to open your body through passive stretch. What you need to do is to relax completely in order to focus on your breathing and relieving your stress.

Best For: Restorative Yoga is a great complimentary yoga style to the more active ones. If you have physical limitations, this might be the yoga style you’re looking for!

#9- AcroYoga

Acroyoga is a mix of three traditions: yoga, acrobatics, and thai massage. It was invented in the States not a long time ago, in 2003, by Jenny Sauer-Klein and Jason Nemer, a dancer and a yogi. Acroyoga mix the all playful, powerful and technical parts of yoga.

This yoga style is all about connecting to yourself and acrobatic techniques by learning to lift your partner and / or be lifted. You’ll be in group of 3: one person is the base (the lifter), one is the flyer, and last one is the spotter to check that everything is safe. There are 2 types of AcroYoga:

  • Lunar: it’s the softer and more therapeutic practice, including more of the thai massage and healing practices part.
  • Solar: this practice focus on the acrobatic part. It’s much more active and dynamic.

Best For: both beginners who might think traditional yoga as too serious, and experienced who look for a new challenge.

How to Choose the Correct Yoga Style?

Choosing a yoga class can be quite overwhelming as there are so many possibilities as you’ve seen above.

First, it’s really important that you find the yoga style that suits you the best by determining what you want:

  • Do you prefer a more active style? A relax one? A combination of both?
  • Are you more into yoga in the morning? The day? The evening?
  • Do you prefer a yoga class with a teacher? To start a home with online videos? Outside with some friends?

Once you’ve answered all of these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of which yoga style is right for you.

Also remember that the yoga teacher is really important. If after a first class you don’t have a good feeling, try the same yoga style with another teacher. It might change everything! And if the yoga style don’t fit you, that’s not a problem. Try another one until you’re decided.

Final advice is to not be afraid to try! Yoga is not as all regular sports, it requires a longer adaptation time if you’re a new yogi.

What Equipment You Need to Practice Yoga

Yoga doesn’t require a lot of equipment. In order to practice at your best:

  • Wear comfortable workout outfits
  • Choose a yoga mat
  • Bring some water
  • And most important: come with an open mind and have fun!

And voilà! You’re good to go 🙂 Namaste little yogis!