6 Popular Yoga Styles: Which Is Best For You?
Add yoga to your routine to improve balance, increase flexibility, and relieve stress.

6 Popular Yoga Styles: Which Is Best for You?

Whether you’re looking to relieve stress, get fit, or increase flexibility, yoga offers mental and physical health benefits for all. And many trainers recommend yoga as an addition to your fitness regimen to balance the demands of other sports. Here’s a rundown of some of the types of yoga most popular here in the U.S. to help you pick the right style for your needs.

1. Hatha Yoga

More a category than a particular approach, hatha describes all types of yoga that use specific asanas, or poses, and the yogic breathing techniques known as pranayama. Today the term is used fairly generally nowadays to describe a standard traditional class that’s neither too aerobic nor extremely gentle. Hatha classes are often good for beginners because the teachers tend to teach each pose slowly and thoroughly. But because hatha classes can vary a great deal, you may wish to call ahead and ask for more detail.

2. Vinyasa Yoga

Flow is the meaning of the sanskrit word vinyasa, and you will often see these classes listed as vinyasa flow. The emphasis is on fluid movement from one pose to the next and teachers design new sequences for each class, so you’re unlikely to do exactly the same thing from one class to the next. Some teachers also play music to enhance the feeling of fluidity.

3. Ashtanga Yoga

This fast-paced style of yoga emphasizing a set sequence of postures has become increasingly popular in recent years. Classes follow six series of asanas that increase in difficulty so you can gradually work your way to mastery, stopping when you need to rest.

4. Bikram Yoga

Also known as “hot” yoga, Bikram emphasizes the cleansing powers of sweat, with classes held in rooms heated to an artificially high temperature. Like Ashtanga, most Bikram classes follow a set routine of 26 poses, although it’s a different sequence designed to help the body rid itself of toxins. While founder Bikram Choudhury trademarked his method, there are many hot yoga classes today that don’t follow his exact prescription.

5. Iyengar Yoga

In an Iyengar class you will hold each pose longer than in other classes, taking the time to work on proper alignment. Iyengar classes are also known for their extensive use of props such as blocks, straps, and rolled and folded blankets to help you achieve the poses even when you’re not quite flexible enough to do it on your own. Iyengar classes may not be quite as exciting, but the benefits are enormous as you learn exactly how each pose should look and feel.

6. Restorative Yoga

In restorative yoga, the primary focus is on mindfulness and stress relief. You’ll do fewer of the more athletic poses and more of those that involve stretching, relaxing, and breathing deeply. Like Iyengar, restorative classes use plenty of props to help you get into each asana with a minimum of strain. Many gyms and health classes hold restorative yoga classes in the evenings to help you de-stress and get ready for a good night’s sleep.

If you’re new to yoga, try these tips for beginners to help get you started.

Melanie Haiken, Health and Fitness Expert

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.