One of my goals this summer was to take a little more time out for myself and practise yoga a bit more than I had been doing!
When I started looking at the classes, I was very quickly quite overwhelmed by the different styles there were. I had been introduced to a few, starting from when I was at school, but I had no idea of the many there were.
So I decided to do a little research on them. Here is a breakdown of the top 8 most practised styles of yoga today!
Traditionally, the primary form of yoga was Hatha yoga. But over time Hatha yoga expanded and developed into many other forms of yoga that are now practised today.
Hatha yoga is the traditional style of yoga. Technically all styles of yoga practised today are some form of Hatha yoga. But in most modern yoga classes today, Hatha yoga is its own style entirely. Hatha yoga classes are typically slower and more focused on alignment and breath awareness, but the exact style of a Hatha yoga class can greatly vary depending on the teacher.
Ashtanga yoga is also a very traditional style of yoga. Ashtanga yoga was developed in the mid-20th century by Pattabhi Jois. This style of yoga is a rigid and advanced style that is very aerobic. It also heavily focused on the use of the breath linked with movement. Ashtanga yoga classes follow a very specific sequence of poses so you always know what to expect in a class. An Ashtanga yoga class is a very heavy workout and will certainly leave you sweaty but relaxed at the same time!
Iyengar yoga was developed by B. K. S. Iyengar also in the mid-20th century. Interestingly, Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga, and Iyengar both studied under the same master. However, Ashtanga yoga and Iyengar yoga are very different styles of yoga. Iyengar yoga classes are heavily focused on alignment and typically involve the use of props, such as blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets, and more. Iyengar yoga is commonly considered a more therapeutic form of yoga due to the many modifications and accommodations it provides through the use of props. The pace of an Iyengar yoga class tends to be slower and the postures are held for longer periods of time to allow for a deeper experience.
Vinyasa yoga is a branch of yoga that developed off of Ashtanga yoga. This style of yoga is similar to Ashtanga in the linkage of breath with the postures and the more aerobic style of yoga that will definitely leave you sweaty! However, a Vinyasa yoga class is more accessible to beginners than an Ashtanga yoga class. Vinyasa yoga classes are sometimes also called Power yoga, but there are also slower Vinyasa yoga classes as well. Vinyasa yoga, like Hatha yoga, can vary greatly depending on the teacher.
Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga)
Bikram yoga classes, like Ashtanga yoga classes, follow a strict sequence and are highly aerobic but Bikram yoga classes use their signature heated room. Bikram yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury’s guru but was popularised by him in the mid-20th century. Bikram yoga classes are performed in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity. The combination of the heat with the rigorous set of 26 postures makes this a great workout, but it is definitely not recommended for anyone with a sensitivity to heat or any physical health issues. It is very important to stay properly hydrated before and after the class and to not overdo the postures in the classes to avoid injury.
Jivamukti yoga was developed by David Life and Sharon Gannon towards the end of the 20th century. This yoga style is similar to Vinyasa yoga classes in its aerobic style of yoga, but also involves weekly themes, Sanskrit chanting, and meditation. The incorporation of physical postures, meditation, and philosophy makes these classes very well-rounded and great for beginners to get a deeper understanding of traditional yoga. Jivamukti yoga is both meditative while also providing a great physical workout.
Kundalini yoga has its roots in traditional yoga but the form that is practised today is actually a combination of Hindu Tantric yoga and Sikhism. The modern form of Kundalini yoga was developed by Yogi Bhajan in the mid-20th century as well. Kundalini yoga classes are focused on repetitive simple movements that are combined with breathing practices, chanting, and meditation. The main purpose of Kundalini yoga classes is to awaken the Kundalini energy that is believed to lie dormant at the root chakra. This style of yoga is minimally focused on exercise and is a much more meditative and spiritually enlivening practice.
Yin and Restorative yoga are both very slow styles of yoga that emphasize meditation and relaxation. Yin and Restorative yoga classes are often referred to as the same thing as the differences between them are minor. Both styles involve the use of props and focus on the lengthening of connective tissues and relaxation of the muscles into the poses. The poses in the classes are typically held for long periods of time and meditation or breath awareness is encouraged throughout the practice.
Overall, there are many different styles of yoga even beyond the above 8 styles! Depending on your body and mood, you can choose from a wide range of class styles that vary from relaxing to aerobic. Regardless of which class you take though, having organic, stretchy, and comfortable clothing is essential to deepening your relaxation and flexibility in a yoga class. So, make sure to check out our selection of yoga clothing before you try your next yoga class!