There are many styles of yoga classes taught today. Some are very physically challenging and will leave you sweating; others are gentle and restorative. Some teachers play music in class; others don’t. Some classes include references to yoga philosophy and spirituality; others don’t.
Here are a few types of classes your yoga studio or gym may offer:
Hatha: Most yoga styles being taught in America today are a form of hatha yoga, which is a general term that refers to the physical part of yoga, rather than yoga philosophy or meditation. A Hatha yoga class is likely to be a combination of poses and breathing exercises, but it’s hard to know whether it will be challenging or gentle. Check with the school or the teacher to find more about the level of classes that are described only as Hatha yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga: This is a challenging style of yoga that is centered around a progressive series of yoga sequences that, traditionally, students practice on their own under the guidance of a teacher. If you think that yoga is not a workout, you haven’t tried an Ashtanga class. Classes include advanced poses such as arm balances and inversions including headstands and shoulder stands. Beginner students are strongly advised to study with an experienced teacher. Ashtanga classes will also often include teachings in yoga philosophy.
Power Yoga: As its name suggests, power yoga is a challenging style of yoga aimed at strength-building. These classes will include advanced poses and inversions like headstands and handstands that require a lot of strength.
Vinyasa or Flow: These classes usually consist of a fairly energetic flowing sequence of yoga poses that will include — depending on the level — advanced poses, such as arm balances, headstands, shoulder stands and handstands. Many vinyasa classes have musical accompaniment of the teacher’s choosing.
Iyengar: Love learning about how your muscles and joints work together? This is the yoga for you. Iyengar yoga focuses on the precision of your yoga poses. Iyengar classes are known for their use of props, including blankets, blocks, straps and bolsters, to help students do poses that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. Classes can also include ropes that are anchored to the walls to do inversions and other poses. They also tend to include breathing exercises and references to yoga philosophy.
Bikram or Hot Yoga: Like the heat? Bikram yoga is a set series of 26 poses performed in a room heated to 105 degrees, which is said to allow for deeper stretching and provide for a better cardiovascular workout. Unlike most yoga classes, Bikram classes are always done in rooms with mirrors. Hot yoga refers to any yoga class that is done in a heated room — generally from 80 to 100 degrees.
Restorative Yoga: If you are looking for a little more relaxation from your yoga class, restorative yoga is for you. This yoga style usually involves a few restful poses that are held for long periods of time. Restorative poses include light twists, seated forward folds and gentle back-bends, usually done with the assistance of many props, including blankets, blocks and bolsters.
Yin Yoga: Looking for a new kind of stretching experience? Yin yoga is aimed at stretching the connective tissue around the pelvis, sacrum, spine and knees to promote flexibility. Poses are held for a longer amount of time in yin yoga classes, generally from three to five minutes. It is a quiet style of yoga, and will quickly show you how good you are at sitting still.
Note: It’s a good idea to try several yoga classes. How much you enjoy any class will come down to how much you like the teacher, not how it’s labeled.