There are probably about as many ways to do yoga as there are poses. Well, not quite. But whether you’re a competitive athlete or someone who has never, ever done a downward dog, there’s definitely a style of yoga to suit your mind, body and spirit. Here’s an easy guide to six of the most popular yoga styles, so you can find the perfect fit for you.
Best for: athletic types who like structure and order — and aren’t afraid to sweat. A lot.
This exacting style is done in a heated room (sometimes to over 100 degrees), designed to mirror the steamy temperatures of founder Bikram Choudhury’s native city of Calcutta. Traditional classes are 90 minutes long, with breathing exercises and 26 postures performed in a specific order, but these days you’ll find Hot Yoga classes that change things up a lot more.
Best for: strong, energetic and flexible types who like a fast-paced class with lots of flowing movements.
This gym-schedule staple is loosely based on Ashtanga yoga, which follows classic postures done in a specific order. (The order is often a bit less strict in Vinyasa classes, whereas in Ashtanga it rarely varies.) You may also see it called “flow yoga,” and other modern variations include Power Yoga, Jivamukti, and Baptiste Yoga, which are all characterized by a fast-paced, flowing sequence that emphasizes the connection between postures and breath. You’ll definitely get your heart rate up in this class, so cardio addicts may find Vinyasa gives them what they need.
Best for: beginners, slow-paced types, or yogis who want a basic, well-rounded class.
Hatha practices were traditionally designed to align the body and calm the mind and nervous system to prepare for long periods of meditation. These days, when you see Hatha Yoga on a schedule, it usually means a gentler, slower-paced class with a strong focus on alignment and breathing, traditional postures and longer savasana (that delicious resting pose at the end of class).
Best for: detail-oriented people who crave precision, or those recovering from an injury.
This ancient form of yoga was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, a well-known yoga teacher and scholar who’s credited with popularizing yoga around the world. It’s characterized by strict attention to alignment, precision and detail in postures, with time spent in each pose (as opposed to an uninterrupted flow), and uses props like straps, blocks or cushions to enhance alignment.
Best for: contemplative yogis who crave depth and are drawn to the spiritual aspects of yoga.
Kundalini Yoga is based on thousands of kriyas — aka collections of postures, breath and sound (like chants or mantras) designed with a specific purpose in mind, such as boosting energy or eradicating the ego. Designed to enhance the nervous system, promote consciousness, and awaken energy centers in the body, Kundalini focuses on the practitioner’s internal experience, rather than fretting over the appearance of the postures.
Best for: yogis who crave relaxation, a deep physical experience, and internal stillness.
This practice is designed to improve the flow of Qi, or energy, in the body. Modern Yin Yoga is a slow-paced, passive practice with long pauses in various postures. In class, you’ll use props to support your joints, allowing you to sustain deep poses. You may hold postures for three to five minutes at times, to help open and lengthen connective tissue, and sooth the nervous system.