Yoga – Find The Style That’s Right for YOU!

Yoga comes in all shapes and sizes.  Choosing the style that’s right for your personality and physical ability can be daunting.  Here’s a guide to help you.

So you’ve decided you’ll try yoga.  You’ve put it off long enough and it’s beginning to affect your credibility.  No longer can you poo-poo it as being so, “L.A.,” or “too spiritual.”  If you haven’t tried it yet, your opinion doesn’t count!

But where to start?  It’s confusing and rather daunting, like reading the label of the newest health food products…there are so many ingredients, additives, types of sugar and GMO’s (what?!) that you need a chart to figure it all out.  With all the different styles of yoga available, I’ve created this little cheat sheet to make the choosing a little simpler – after all – if it’s about breathing, stretching and being present, it shouldn’t be so difficult, right?

[su_frame align=”right”][/su_frame]Ashtanga

This an ancient system of yoga introduced to the modern word by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) for cultivating physical, mental and spiritual health.  Ashtanga is comprised of a specific sequence of postures always performed in the same order and synchronized by the breath. This creates internal heat and cleansing sweat that detoxes and rejuvenates muscles and organs.  Be careful as many Astanga teachers encourage students to push through any pain, treating it as a form of spiritual growth.  This attitude goes against the grain of the true nature of yoga, which is to be kind to one self.  This is a very demanding style of yoga and is known for being hard on the wrists.

[su_frame align=”left”][/su_frame]Bikram

This school of yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury and is performed in a room that is approximately 105 degrees.  It is a repetition of the same 26 poses beginning with Prana Yama breathing and ending with Breath of Fire.  The first half of the class consists of the standing and balancing poses and the second half are floor postures.  Bikram classes promote deep stretching and cleansing made possible by the heat, and the holding and releasing of the postures, which produce an internal flushing of toxins.  Bikram classes are taught all over the world, and because it is always the same, is easy to follow in any language.  There can be a competitive nature in both Ashtanga, Bikram and Vinyasa so be careful to steer clear of comparison thinking.

Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is just the same 26 Bikram poses (and a couple more thrown in for good measure) without Bikram’s blessing.

[su_frame align=”right”][/su_frame]Hatha

A slow moving practice that integrates breathing while holding challenging, invigorating or gentle positions for long periods of time.  It is a general term for any style of yoga that incorporates physical postures.  There will be discussions of holding an intention for your body and your health and a focus on deep relaxation.  This is a good introductory style of yoga.


B.K.S. Iyengar developed this meticulous style of yoga with an emphasis on the proper alignment of each pose and instructors undergo a comprehensive training to ensure this.  Props such as yoga blocks, bumpers, blankets and straps are used to help facilitate a slow, deep stretch.  Iyengar can be very physically and mentally challenging and is the perfect style of yoga for anyone with a chronic condition or injury.

[su_frame align=”left”][/su_frame]Kundalini

This discipline is a sacred, scientific technology that allows you to access and realize your own creative energy through awakening the kundalini – or life force – energy that resides at the base of the spine.  Utilizing movement, sound, breath and meditation, poses are held for long periods of time and classes will have specific intentions of Releasing Inner Anger, Strengthening Your Aura, or Clarity Meditation.  Many people who practice Kundalini yoga are devout Sikhs and will be wearing white turbans and clothing.  This yoga is beneficial for everyone, beginner and expert and you need not be a Sikh to reap the benefits.


This yoga hits that sweet spot where relaxation meets rejuvenation.  It’s a delightfully simple practice designed to unravel and soothe tightly wound muscles and nerves and is best when performed at the end of the day.  Like Iyengar, classes make use of props: blankets, bolsters and blocks in order to extend the benefit of passive poses with very little effort.

[su_frame align=”right”][/su_frame]Vinyasa

Vinyasa is the Sanskrit word for “flow,” and this is a fluid, movement intense practice with each pose transitioning into the next without ceasing.  Many studios will play music to keep up the energy and momentum.  No class is the same, which is an attractive feature for those who enjoy testing their physical limits and don’t care for the same-old, same-old.  Vinyasa is best practiced according to their levels – in other words, if you are a beginner, stick with the beginner classes and move up at a realistic pace as the flow of these poses are invigorating and demanding.  Vinyasa is also known for being hard on the wrists.


The essence of this style of yoga is surrender.  The flip side of a Yang yoga practice like Ashtanga or Vinyasa that produce heat, strength and circulation is Yin.  Yin postures are performed slowly and held for 5 minutes or longer on each side in order to lengthen the muscles and increase elasticity of the connective tissues surrounding the hips, pelvis and lower back.  Forward bending postures restore energy and calm the nervous system.  This is an excellent class for women who have given birth and anyone who has issues with or tightness in the lower back and hips.

[su_frame align=”left”][/su_frame]Styles and schools of yoga can have a competitive nature between them, each aspiring and claiming to be the best style.  Don’t give that any power.  Yoga is popular, but for a good reason – it has the power to heal.  It’s more important that you find the type of yoga that makes your body feel good as opposed to the “trendiest” practice.

Don’t be intimidated by the apparent cults in yoga – it’s not about venerating anything outside of yourself, but rather the divine in YOU!  Yoga is about practicing presence, putting your body in some weird postures and breathing.  Remember if it hurts, it’s probably not good for you and you might want to stop.  Let your instructor know about any injuries you have, most will adjust the postures for your individual needs.  “Go where the love is,” applies to yoga too.  Above all, to thine own self be true when deciding which yoga suits your body best.

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