Ashtanga, Bikram, Baptiste, Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Yin….oh my! Chances are, if you are beginning a yoga practice, these words look like a foreign language to you. (Yes – I did say practice, because that is exactly what yoga is!) To truly enjoy any workout, it is important to find a class or style that suits your needs, and yoga is certainly no different.
Feel lost? Don’t fret! We’ve broken down the five of the most common styles of yoga and what to expect at your first class.
Recommended for more dedicated yogis, Ashtanga was introduced to the West by K. Pattabhi Jois. The word itself translates to “Eight-Limbed Path.” Similar to Vinyasa, Ashtanga yoga is made up of set poses, including sun salutations, a standing series, and a floor series.
As a beginner, you will be led through the series, while the more advanced classes are self-led. This practice can get pretty sweaty, so you’ll definitely want to bring your towel and water.
Iyengar yoga is rooted in proper alignment, so it is a great foundation for any yoga practice and makes a great option for beginners. Props such as bolsters, blocks, straps, and blankets are commonly used. While breath is important in all yoga, Iyengar classes are less about moving through poses and more about holding postures. This style can also be great for students recovering from injury or students wanting a more spiritual practice that focuses on the mind-body connection.
Looking for a class to help you wind down at the end of the day? Restorative yoga is the best option for you. Like Iyengar, Restorative yoga utilizes props to allow modifications to poses so they can be held longer. Restorative postures are all on the floor and encourage your body and mind to calm down, making it more of a way to relax and be with yourself than a traditional workout. If sitting alone with your thoughts scares you, or intrigues you, this might be where you want to start your practice.
One of the most common practices in the West is Vinyasa yoga, and it can be found at most studios. Looking to break a sweat and get a workout on your mat? This is the style for you. Think of it as a dance – mindfully constructed sequences synchronize your breath with your movement.
While it is a moving meditation, this practice is much more of a physical practice. You will find yourself in sun salutations and all levels of postures with less props than the other styles. Modifications are always welcome in yoga, but be mindful that Vinyasa classes tend to be fast-paced. Class times can range anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, so be sure to make a note of that when you book your class.
Often confused with Restorative yoga, Yin is a slow, spiritual practice that really gets you to feel your body. All poses are done on the floor, but they are held for longer periods of time to regulate energy. Originally referred to as Daoist Yoga, this practice targets the deeper connective tissue called fascia. These classes are more passive or meditative, and they are a wonderful counterpart to more Yang practices (like Vinyasa).
Pro tip: While yoga is for everybody, we want to set you up for success. Look for classes that have “beginner” or “slow-flow” in the title. This will allow you to really learn the poses and acquainted with your practice.
Note that these are only a few of the many options of class types and styles of yoga. It may seem overwhelming at first, but keep an open mind and know that you might not love every class or teacher you try. So next time your friend asks you to join them for yoga, don’t be afraid to say “I’m down, dog.”