Comparing 4 Different Styles of Yoga–Find The One That’s Best For You.
Whether you’re just beginning your yoga practice or you’re looking to try a new style, the options can feel limitless.
The benefits of yoga are innumerable. They include improved physical health, more flexibility, lowered stress levels and actual changes in your brain. Regardless of your goal for practicing, you are bound to get something out of whichever style you choose.
Comparing different styles of yoga can help you choose a practice that aligns with your goals. There is something out there for everyone.
In my own yoga journey, I’ve dabbled in many different styles. I was eager to test out the benefits of each style and arrive at a routine that felt right for me. Exploring new styles is always a great way to tailor your yoga practice to meet your specific needs.
Sometimes I look for a powerful energetic shift during yoga, sometimes I want a rigorous workout, and other times I need a more loving and restorative practice. Use this list of popular yoga styles to get curious about your own needs and find a perfect fit for your unique yoga journey. You might just walk away with a new favorite style in your yoga tool belt!
Depending on the translation, the word Hatha can mean force or effort in Sanskrit, but it can also mean sun and moon. Sun and moon highlight the balance that Hatha yoga seeks to instill in the practitioner. Force and effort need to be balanced with ease.
A Hatha yoga practice usually involves a sequence of yoga poses that are held for periods of time–perhaps a round of five breaths, or a minute. Chances are if you’ve gone to a more general yoga class, you were practicing Hatha yoga. This style can be contrasted with more dynamic styles such as vinyasa yoga (explained below). It is not geared toward fitness but instead focuses on cultivating a balance of effort and ease in each pose.
This style involves the typical poses, or asanas, of yoga, and can be designed differently to meet the needs of each class. Some poses are challenging in nature, some are gentle–the practice seeks to combine the sun and moon for a well-rounded experience. You will focus on breathing exercises or pranayama and syncing the breath up with the poses of your practice. A session usually lasts from 40 to 90 minutes and will end with a brief meditation that can either be silent or guided.
Since the pace of this style is slower, it is great for beginners. Often, an instructor will include more challenging poses to help you grow your practice, but you can always modify a posture if needed. Because poses are held static for short periods of time, there is space to focus on alignment and purpose of the poses.
If you’re looking for a practice to help you unwind and check in with yourself, Hatha yoga is the way to go. Choose from one of the many varieties of this style and use it as a daily method for finding your center and releasing tension.
Hatha Yoga Is Great For:
- Those looking for a slower paced practice
- Those wanting to focus on alignment
- Those interested in breathing and meditation
Vinyasa Flow Yoga
Vinyasa yoga is characterized by sequences of poses that are linked with breath repeated several times throughout each session. The word vinyasa means to arrange in a special way. You link your breath with these poses–up to one breath per one movement–to create a sense of flow throughout each sequence. One of the most commonly known sequences in this style is the sun salutation.
Vinyasa flows are typically a bit faster than the Hatha style, working to achieve a continuous flow of breath and movement. However, vinyasa sequences can be conducted in Hatha’s slower, more gentle rhythm. The level of difficulty will depend on the class and the specific sequence involved. If you’re familiar with sun salutations, you’ll know that you can take a slower pace or modify the poses in the sequence to meet your needs.
The goal of this style is to work to achieve balance and flow. The connection of breath and continuous movement improves physical and mental wellness by strengthening the mind-body connection. Regardless of the flow you use, repeating postures builds strength, endurance, and focus.
Variations of vinyasa flow include Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Baptiste yoga, and Jivamukti among others. Each will vary in poses, duration, and level of difficulty, so you’re sure to find one that works best with your lifestyle.
Vinyasa Yoga is Great For:
- Those looking for a quicker paced class
- Those who want to build up a sweat
- Those looking for vigorous movement
Kundalini yoga is a style that was popularized in the 1970s. The practice is meant to cultivate awareness by activating your ‘kundalini energy.’ This energy is said to be coiled at the base of the spine and we can tap into it through certain techniques.
Kundalini practice involves awakening your energy through breathing techniques, yoga postures, chanting and meditating. The inclusion of chanting mantras adds a spiritual element to this practice that sets it apart from other styles. Awakening your kundalini energy is said to move it up through your spine through each chakra, which can help cleanse and clear any blockages.
Each session will involve different kriya, or poses, that are used to achieve a certain purpose. Since there is variability in the techniques involved, you can find a kundalini practice to work with your skill level.
If you’re looking for a yoga style to increase your energy while building your spiritual practice, kundalini is a great method to incorporate into your routine.
Kundalini Is Great For:
- Those looking for a spiritual dimension to their practice
- Those wanting to try something distinctly different from other styles of yoga
- Those looking for a body-mind-spirit experience
Restorative yoga is a great solution if you’re looking for a gentle practice between more active yoga sessions or during a recovery period from an injury. This style can be traced back to the style of B.K.S. Iyengar. The goal is to stretch in a gentle and loving way to release tension and relax.
This style involves prolonged, passive stretching in comfortable and unstrained positions. You can add props such as blankets, bolsters, blocks, or straps to add more support and comfort. The idea is to create a healing ritual for yourself, so adding elements like soft music, low lighting, or essential oils can also contribute to the loving sensation.
The slow pace of this style makes it accessible for all levels. Even if you’re a more advanced yogi, you can always benefit from slowing down and checking in with your physical and mental wellbeing.
Restorative Yoga Is Great For:
- Those recovering between workouts or from injuries
- Those looking for nervous system down-regulation
- Those looking for a slow practice
As you can see, there is a style of yoga to achieve any goal you may have for your practice. This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it gives you a good place to start for exploring new yoga styles to try. Whether you are hoping for a sweaty and active practice, or a more nurturing and relaxing session, never hesitate to compare different styles to find the best way of growing your practice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am a meditation instructor and expert in using brainwave entrainment and binaural beats technology to deepen the practice of meditation. I write and advocate for personal growth and spiritual development through my website, Unify Cosmos.
A friend and I developed a Free 12-Month, Progressive Binaural Beats Meditation Program, called Infinite Beats. We hope to help anyone access the benefits of brainwave entrainment.
I enjoy reading books and writings in the fields of psychology, spirituality, and awakening of consciousness. A few of my favorite writers are Alan Watts, Ram Daas, Mooji, Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilber, Charles Eisenstein, and David Singer