“The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety” ― William Somerset Maugham

It’s a question that I get asked all the time and a question that still comes up for me every now and again: what style of yoga should I practice? With new styles popping up all the time, it can feel like you’re diving into the deep end picking a class that’s right for you.

There are hundreds and thousands of classes and styles to choose from (thank you YouTube) and millions of articles describing styles and benefits (thank you Internet) but where do you begin?

I’ll answer that in just a little bit but before I do I thought it would be helpful to provide loose definitions of some of the major yoga styles available in the Western world. Some preliminary considerations...

  • A physical yoga practice involves a sequence of poses (asanas in sanskrit) with the body and a rhythm of breath.
  • Each style can have an associated “level” (Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced), “pace”, (Slow/Moderate/Fast), “temperature” (Heated/Non-Heated Room), or other qualifiers.
  • Teacher interpretation almost always comes into play, adding yet another layer of variety!

Full disclosure: I have tried almost every style out there and have my own opinions about certain styles but I will try my best to leave those aside. Please contact me if you want my opinion about what yoga style might suit you best.

With that said here is my Speed-Reader’s Guide to Yoga Styles ― in 140 characters or less:

Hatha: Hatha poses are the root of most yoga practices. Steady-pacing, emphasizing modifications and alignment refinements. Variety in sequencing and length of class.

Vinyasa: Moderately-paced, flowy, aerobic-like. Reaching high, lunging low and everything in between. Variety in pose sequencing and length of class.   

Bikram: A branded style of specific poses taught in a set sequence. 90-minute class in a heated room (40°C). Created by Bikram Choudhury.

Iyengar: A branded style using of props to support the body. Poses are held for longer periods of time, with a particular focus on body alignment. Created by B.K.S. Iyengar.

Ashtanga: A series of progressively more advanced set sequences, typically moving from one pose to the other on each inhale and exhale.

Restorative: Reclined poses using props to support the body. Poses are held for extended periods of time to put the body in a deeply relaxed state. Limited physical movement.

So what style of yoga should you practice? Whichever one makes your body feel good! In my next post I’ll share some tips for how to choose a practice that’s right for you.

What’s your favourite style of yoga and why? What styles would you add to the list (in 140 characters or less wink). Share in the comments below!


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Nicole is an adventurer, a dreamer, a sister, a daughter, a wife and a friend. She lives in Hamilton, has two cats named Cello and Edi, and is a registered yoga teacher.

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