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When I first started looking into practicing yoga, I thought I could just go to any yoga class and it’d all be the same- but after trying several different classes over the years I have realized that could not be farther from the truth!
In general, yoga is a great practice to implement into your life, but now I see that each type of yoga holds its own benefits and way of viewing things.
I’ve looked up multiple yoga classes in my time of going to studios and practicing at home, expecting something from the name of the class, to later find out it is COMPLETELY different than what I expected!
So I’ve created a master list of the different types of yoga in hopes it will educate you and help guide you to the class your mind and body wants and needs. I’ve added a video for each type to give you a sample of what each class is like. Feel free to try them out!
List of the different types of yoga:
- Anusara Yoga
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Bikram Yoga
- Chair Yoga
- Forrest Yoga
- Hatha Yoga
- Hot Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga
- Jivamukti Yoga
- Kripalu Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
- Power Yoga
- Prenatal Yoga
- Restorative Yoga
- Rocket Yoga
- Sivananda Yoga
- Vinyasa Yoga
- Yin Yoga
Acroyoga is a type of partner yoga that combines yoga, acrobatics, and thai massage. There are two different types of acroyoga called lunar, involving gentle twists and supportive poses, and solar, the more dynamic and playful acrobatic poses.
Not only does acroyoga help build muscle and strength, but it can help build trust and communication with your partner as well!
- Improves concentration
- Builds trust and communication skills
- Improves reflexes and quick decision making skills
Best for: Anyone looking for a fun way to bring their practice into the air, build a deeper connection with friends or their partner, or looking to meet new people! Acroyoga isa great way to make friends and break the ice rather quickly!
What to expect: A fun and relaxed atmosphere. You don’t need to be a yoga expert or be in amazing shape to practice acroyoga- it’s completely accessible to every body. Definitely expect to have a few giggles and awkward not-so-graceful fails with your partner as well!
Source: love yoga anatomy Acroyoga video
Related article: The 20 Minute Yoga Routine Every Beginner Needs + Free PDF
Anusara is a practice that focuses on “The 3 A’s“: Attitude, Alignment, and Action which stems from the Tantra philosophy. Tantra is simply Sanskrit for “system” or “text”. Although this practice is not religious, it does have strong roots in Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
The practice itself can be described as creative yet intellectual. Most classes are usually themed with some type of intention in mind, but anatomy plays a big role and will be referred to in poses often.
- Improved strength and flexibility
- Deep focus on alignment and relation to anatomy
- Promotes body awareness
Best for: People who enjoy a lot of instruction from their teachers and learning new things every time they practice. Not only will your teacher relate poses back to anatomical structure, but back to cultural Hindu culture as well. If you enjoy learning about other cultures and listening to stories while practicing, this is a no brainer!
What to expect: Don’t expect to just go to a class like this and focus completely on your physical postures. You will be very intellectually stimulated throughout the class and most likely learn something new!
Source: David Rothstein Anusara Yoga video
Ashtanga yoga was created by K. Pattabhi Jois and although the physical postures are just one part of it, it is a very physically demanding practice. It is also systematically set up so that you practice the same poses every single time, with there being different series.
For example, in level one of the Ashtanga practice, it includes Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B, repeat five times on both sides. After this, you then go onto one of six series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, Advanced C, or Advanced D. You are not to practice a more advanced series until you have mastered the series before it.
The amount of time each postures is held varies per practice, but it is without a doubt a practice that is not meant for the light hearted. You will most definitely break a sweat and use substantial amounts of effort is this practice!
- Improves strength and endurance
- Can aid in weight loss and control
- Promotes awareness and improves focus
Best for: People who like structure. This is a more “strict” practice compared to others, but will most definitely help you improve your physical and mental strength. If you like knowing what you’re getting yourself into before you walk in, you will definitely enjoy this practice.
I wouldn’t start out with this practice if you are brand new to yoga though, as you are kind of expected to memorize the postures in each sequence, which can be difficult if you aren’t familiar with them. I would try a more beginner friendly practice that focuses on the basic postures, such as Hatha, before getting into Ashtanga.
What to expect: Expect most of the people (if not all) to already know the postures of the sequence. I’ve even heard that sometimes the teacher doesn’t tell you which pose is next, as you just expected to know, especially is a more advanced class.
The use of props is not at all common in this practice, and you are expected to have good form and endurance. Like I said, definitely not for the light hearted!
Source: Fighmaster Yoga Ashtanga Yoga video
Bikram yoga, founded by yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, is a style of yoga re-systemized from Hatha Yoga into a 26 pose sequence practiced in a heated room of 105F for 90 minutes. It isn’t as intense as you think, I swear- well, maybe a little.
Bikram yoga is definitely not to be considered a gentle practice, as it was created with the intent to detoxify, stretch, and tone.
- Detoxifies the body
- Tones and aids in weight loss
- Improves mental strength (staying in a hot room for 90 minutes is TOUGH!)
Best for: People who like to have consistency just like in Ashtanga Yoga, and who are up to a HOT, sweaty, challenging yoga practice!
What to expect: Expect a hot, humid room, with LOTS of sweat. And don’t expect you instructor to really expect your instructor to help you. They are all trained to talk you through the moves, and have a set script. Seriously, no matter WHERE you practice in the entire world, if you go to a Bikram class it will 100% always be the same!
Source: Maggie Grove Bikram Yoga video
Chair yoga is exactly what it sounds like- yoga in a chair! Chair yoga is considered a gentle yoga practice in which physical yoga poses are practiced using a chair. Classes vary, as any type of yoga can be turned into chair yoga. Classes can have basic poses like seated cat-cow or can be made more dynamic with practice of backbends and headstands using the chair for support.
- Provides extra support in postures
- Improves flexibility and range of motion
- Decreases pain and stress
Best for: People with poor range of motion and mobility, such as the elderly or people with old injuries. This is also a great class for any beginner or anyone who finds a typical yoga class too challenging.
What to expect: Expect to get a lot of instruction and attention from your teacher to make sure you are getting the most out of each pose. You’ll get a good stretch in, and will feel a sense of calm and relaxation afterwards.
Source: Erin Sampson Chair Yoga video
Related article: Can You Do Yoga Every Day?
Forrest yoga is a more modern style of yoga founded by American yogi Ana Forrest. What sets this style apart from others is its strong focus on core work and breathing. Ana created this style of yoga mainly to help people overcome both emotional and physical trauma, and it focus on four main elements: breath, strength, integrity, and spirit.
It is said the poses practiced in Forrest yoga are a mix of Iyengar Sivananda style, along with the flowing style of Ashtanga yoga. Forrest yoga is also usually practiced in a heated room at 85 degrees, which is much milder compared to the 100+ degrees Hot and Ashtanga is practiced in!
- Helps heal emotional and physical trauma
- Strengthens and tones core muscles
- Relieves stress and detoxifies body
Best for: People struggling with past emotional or physical trauma, or anyone looking for a challenging core/ mental workout. This practice is modifiable to any level, and is very welcome to beginners!
What to expect: Expect to start off with a breathing technique called pranayama, and to do a lot of core exercises. You will be mindfully guided by your teacher and she will help you make any modifications to best benefit you, so this is great if you are a beginner!
Source: Alo Moves Forrest Yoga video
This is one of the most referred to terms in regards to yoga, and actually refers to any type of yoga that involves physical postures. The majority of classes taught in the western world fall under Hatha yoga, but when you see a class is a “Hatha Yoga Class” it usually means that it is a gentler, slower paced class as compared to other types.
- Teaches basic proper alignment
- Slower paced for beginners to yoga
- Encourages the mind-body connection
- Improves flexibility
Best for: Beginners or anyone looking for a a less intense class that will leave you feeling looser and more relaxed.
What to expect: Don’t expect to break a sweat in a Hatha yoga class, but do expect to learn the foundations of proper alignment in basic poses. Some poses may be held a bit longer than in other classes, which is why this wouldn’t be a good class to try if you’re looking to get in a good workout.
Source: BrettLarkinYoga Hatha Yoga video
When people refer to “Hot Yoga” it usually means a Hot Vinyasa style yoga class. “Hot” yoga is not at all like a traditional Bikram class. The postures and sequences vary just like any Vinyasa class (see Vinyasa Yoga), and the class lengths range anywhere from 1 hour to 90 minutes.
- Detoxifies body
- Builds muscle strength and endurance
- Aids in weight loss
Best for: People who love a great workout, or anyone that enjoys a flow style yoga class and wants to add a little heat to their practice (literally). But seriously, if you aren’t good with tolerating heat, don’t do it! The rooms can get as hot as 105F, especially if you’re in a crowded room, and the class is fast paced.
What to expect: A HOT room, with lots of flows and chaturangas! I practice Hot yoga often, and started about a year after I had been practicing yoga. It definitely is beginner friendly, but with how fast the pace is compared to other practices, I would suggest at least taking a few more basic classes before trying it out.
Also, be prepared to SWEAT, and bring a towel and water bottle! The classes start of f slow, then quickly build up into multiple flows just like any Vinyasa class, then wind back down to gentler stretches at the end.
Source: Gemma Ford Hot Yoga video
Created by yogi B.K.S Iyengar, this type of yoga focuses highly on precision and correct alignment during physical poses along with breath control, called pranayama. Props such as yoga blocks, straps, and blankets are heavily used to aid into proper alignment.
Iyengar yoga has over 200 yoga poses and 14 types of breathing exercises organized from beginner to advanced, for students to gradually progress into a more advanced practice.
- Focuses heavily on precise proper alignment
- Organized to progress into a more advanced practice
- Any pose is made accessible to any level with the use of props
- Accessible to the elderly, previously injured, and inflexible
Best for: People who are detail oriented and are interested in practicing a precise practice. You definitely need to have some level of patience to practice Iyengar, but if you don’t this will help improve it!
This is also great for people who have old injuries or for the elderly that are less flexible, as props are heavily used and the practice is much slower compared to others.
What to expect: Just like Hatha, don’t expect to get a cardio workout at an Iyengar class, but DO expect to focus HIGHLY on proper alignment and use a lot of props. Also, expect a lot of support and adjustments from your teacher if you are practicing in person! They are there to help you and want to make sure you have every single pose down pat before moving on.
Source: Roads to Bliss Iyengar Yoga video
Jivamukti yoga is much more than just a physical practice. The word in Sanskrit translates to “liberation while living” and is focused strongly on non-violence. Teachers of this practice advocate strongly for the vegan diet and way of living. The physical practice in general is an intense vinyasa style class that includes meditation, chanting, yoga scripture, and music.
Jivamukti yoga supplies you with all the well-known benefits of yoga but in addition you will:
- Learn spiritual and traditional aspects of the ancient practice
- Incorporate meditation and chanting into your practice which relieves stress and promotes awareness
Best for: People who are not only interested in the physical practice of yoga. This style has a strong emphasis on ethics and ancient scriptures. Also, if you do not agree with veganism, I think there will be some sort of awkward conflict, as I’ve heard people who practice this very strongly advocate for it.
What to expect: A challenging physical, flowing practice, accompanied by chanting, meditation, and music! Expect to learn a lot about ancient yogic traditions and to dive deep into self awareness and enlightenment.
Source: Casa del Movement Jivamukti Yoga video
Kripalu Yoga is all about compassion, acceptance, and adaptability. It falls under the category of gentle yoga, and strongly focuses on meditation and breathing exercises. Just like viniyoga, the philosophy of this practice is to do what feels right for your body, which may not always go by the book.
One thing you will notice in this class is that a strong emphasis is placed on just noticing the energy flow through your body, no matter what pose you’re in or how advanced your practice is. This style is more about self awareness and accepting where you are than anything else.
- Increases self awareness and acceptance
- Decreases anxiety and stress
- Increases emotional stability and mental clarity
Best for: People who are not just looking for a physical yoga practice, bu a spiritual, mental, and emotional one as well. This can also be beneficial for people who have body image issues and racing thoughts, as it teaches you to focus on the present moment and to accept yourself.
What to expect: Expect a welcoming, judgement free zone with a zen-like vibe. Classes usually start with “centering” and bringing awareness inward, followed by a warm up and a strong emphasis and maintaining a steady breath. You will feel very supported and encouraged to release any tension or resistance, both physically and mentally.
Source: KripaluVideo Kripalu Yoga video
Kundalini yoga focuses on awakening the kundalini energy up the spine through energy centers called chakras. You don’t need to be insanely spiritual or religious to practice and obtain the benefits of Kundalini yoga, but you do need to have an open mind to chanting, different styles of breathing, and saying a few om’s.
You might want to look into learning about the chakras before going to this style class, as it can be very beneficial to learn how unlocking these so-called energy centers can actually make you feel amazing.
I read Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith and found it to be highly informative. It definitely makes the class more worthwhile when you understand what the teacher is talking about when she talks about the “sleeping serpent”, and honestly sounds kinda weird if you haven’t heard of it, haha!
- Calms the mind
- Scientifically proven to increase seratonin levels, which increase happiness
- Improves overall energy levels
Best for: People looking for a dynamic yoga practice, and that’s not exactly meaning just physical. This is definitely a class where an open mind is needed, and some knowledge on the chakras would be beneficial, but is definitely not mandatory!
What to expect: Lots of chanting, mantras, meditation, and physical movements paired with intense breathing patterns. You’ll feel a weird sense of calm afterwards paired with a natural boost in energy and wellbeing!
Source: BrettLarkinYoga Kundalini Yoga video
This is modern style spin-off to Ashtanga yoga. Basically, if you this this type of yoga listed, be prepared for a super intense fitness-based class. This style became popular in the 1990’s when people began looking for a less rigorous and strict style of Ashtanga yoga. Baptiste Yoga is a genre of power yoga that has become very popular.
Classes very widely from teacher to teacher, but the main component that remains constant is a flow-type yoga with less emphasis on the spiritual practice of yoga, and more of a focus on the fitness and physical practice. This style is most commonly offered in gyms.
- Great cardio workout
- Weight loss and toning
- Each class is different
Best for: People who are looking to get into yoga for a great workout, but are not interested in it for the spiritual aspect. This style is very fast paced, so I would say you definitely need to be in decent shape and know a few basic poses before trying an intense class like this out.
What to expect: A really fast moving class focusing on building strength, flexibility, and toning. Don’t expect any Om’s or for your teacher to adjust you or take the time to assist you in a pose, but do expect to feel comfortable practicing modifications for poses if needed!
Source: YogiApproved Power Yoga video
Prenatal yoga usually falls under the category of gentle yoga, as it is gentler than other classes. Don’t expect any twists, high temperatures, or any intense poses that may put you or your baby at risk!
This style of yoga is all about relieving stress and providing comfort through each stage of your pregnancy.
- Relives stress an anxiety
- Provides comfort during the different stages of pregnancy
- Stabilizes mood
- Manages weight gain during pregnancy
Best for: Any mom to be! There are separate classes dedicated to prenatal and postnatal stages, so pay attention to what kind of class you are going to as the poses and severity of class will be very different. If you have never tried yoga before but want to try prenatal yoga, go ahead! All classes are beginner friendly.
What to expect: Expect your teacher to want to get to know you and how far along you are so she can help adjust each pose to your needs to provide comfort and safety. You’ll usually start with a simple warm up, then move into a standing vinyasa flow, then cool down in Savasana. Props are highly encouraged and used in this class to provide comfort and support.
Source: Fightmaster Yoga Prenatal Yoga video
Related article: The 5 Best Yoga Mats for Beginners that You Can Buy on Amazon
Restorative Yoga, also known as Gentle Yoga, is a style that is, well, restorative and gentle. Each class is consisted of very few poses, and each pose is held for much longer than a traditional class (about 5 minutes). Props are heavily used in this class to allow your body to completely rest into each pose so you can focus on relaxing and restoring.
Some people say this type of yoga is actually harder than a physically demanding practice like Ashtanga because of the difficulty people have with staying in the present moment. Some people may feel bored in this class, or even anxious the first time they practice because of the lack of stimulus! You will most definitely test your patience and mental agility in a restorative yoga class.
- Promotes mental awareness
- Relieves anxiety (for some people)
- Improves digestion
- Improves range of motion
Best for: People who are drawn to slow paced classes or who need a place to wind down. People often compare the feeling after a restorative yoga class to that of getting a message. It is a great treat for those that thrive in a quiet, low stimulus environment.
What to expect: A calm, relaxing vibe with lots of prop use- especially bolsters! Bolsters, a long body pillow, are a prominent tool used in restorative yoga to support the body in various postures. Do not expect to get any type of workout, accept if you’re talking about your mind!
Source: Michelle Goldstein Restorative Yoga video
Rocket yoga was created by Larry Shultz as a modern modification to the traditional Ashtanga practice to make it more accessible to people in the western population. So think of Ashtanga yoga but much less strict.
For example, if you get stuck on a pose, it is deemed completely okay to skip it or do a variation that is accessible to you, which is very different than the rigid Ashtanga practice.
There are three categories in Rocket Yoga: Rocket I, Rocket II, and Rocket III. Rocket I and Rocket II are said to be similar to the Primary and Intermediate series in Ashtanga, and Rocket III a mix of the two.
It gets its name “Rocket” simply from the speed at which it is practiced and that it can help you advance your physical yoga practice at a faster pace.
- Provides a lot of modifications for even advanced poses
- Tones the body and aids in weight loss
- Can help develop and improve balance quicker than other practices
Best for: People who want to develop the strength and flexibility needed in an Ashtanga practice, but do not want a structured, strict plan. I definitely think you should know the basic yoga poses before getting into a fast paced class like this.
Wha to expect: A sweaty, fast paced class with challenging poses that can be easily modified. Expect a free-flowing, open class that encourages adaptation and freedom to do what feels good for your body. Just like Ashtanga yoga, you will start off with sun salutations to warm up, then move on to breathing exercises before you go into the basic poses.
Source: Method Yoga Rocket Yoga video
Sivananda yoga was founded in 1936 by doctor Swami Sivananda. Like many other yoga practices, it has it’s own set of principles it follows:Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Relaxation, Proper Diet, and Positive Thinking and Meditation.
The physical practice itself focuses on 12 poses that are practiced in a specific order to improve strength and flexibility and open the chakras.
- Systematic approach to improve strength and flexibility
- Provides mental and physical release
- Reduces negative thinking
Best for: People who like following a system and will not get bored practicing the same poses every class. This is also a great class for people who have trouble controlling their thoughts, as an emphasis is placed on meditation and positive thinking.
What to expect: This is a more traditional practice, so you will start off by chanting 3 Om’s usually as well as a beginner prayer. You then move into different breathing exercises followed by sun salutations before getting into the 12 basic poses. There are then additional poses that will be practiced in a specific order, followed by Savasana.
Source: Yogadotin Sivanda Yoga video
Although Viniyoga practices the same postures as many other types of yoga, what makes it different is that it doesn’t believe there is one right way to do a pose and focuses on individualized needs of each unique person. It has four main points it follows: Function Over Form, Breath and Adaptation, Repetition and Stay, and Art of Science and Sequencing.
- Individualized approach to obtaining optimal range of motion
- Increased body awareness
- Improved flexibility, balance and strength
Best for: People who like and learn best from having one-on-one attention. Although you may practice with other people, your teacher will focus on each person’s individualized needs so everyone benefits from each pose. This is NOT a fast class, so don’t expect to get a workout in. You definitely need to thrive in a slow paced environment to enjoy this type of class.
What to expect: Expect your teacher to ask you questions about past injuries, and any issues or discomforts you are currently experiencing so she can best help you get the most out of the class. If you practice from a video, expect slow movements and lots of variations to poses. The “Repetition and Stay” point I mentioned earlier pertains to that you will practice a pose a few times in short intervals before going into the pose for a longer period, so expect some repetition.
Source: Be The Change Yoga Viniyoga video
This is my favorite style of yoga, and has become one of the most popular styles in the western world. This is also sometimes referred to as “Flow Yoga”. Vinyasa is all about flowing sequences and integrating movement with your breath. This practice is much more dynamic and fast-paced than the other types of yoga.
It branches off from Ashtanga Yoga, but kind of breaks the rules as you do not need to be able to do certain poses before moving on to another pose. I would call Vinyasa a more rebellious and free-flowing type of practice as it varies so much from teacher to teacher and really anything goes.
The most prominent characteristic of Vinyasa Yoga is that each pose can easily transition from one to the other, creating a flow. These are mainly the type of routines we provide in our Free Resource Library.
- Great cardio workout
- Can help you lose weight
- Builds lean muscle and strength
- Calms the mind and improves focus
Best for: People interested in practicing yoga to improve endurance and strength. This can also be beneficial for people with anxiety as it focuses on integrating the breath with movement, forming a mind-body connection and bringing you into the present moment. This is also great for people who get bored easily, as each class is always different!
Although this class can be beginner friendly, I think it is better to take a slower paced class that focuses on the basics, like Hatha or Iyengar, before practicing Vinyasa Yoga. It can be very overwhelming if you are not familiar with the poses.
What to expect: Expect to start off with a simple warm up, then go into several different “flows” (called vinyasas) throughout your practice. Poses aren’t held for too long, so definitely expect to get a great sweaty workout in, especially if you go to a Hot Vinyasa studio! Every single class you practice will be different but will usually have the same basic poses.
You are always given the option to make a certain pose more advanced or more basic. Although blocks, straps, and blankets aren’t HEAVILY used, they are definitely encouraged if needed!
Source: Lululemon Vinyasa Yoga video
Yin yoga is referred to as “the other half of yoga” by some, as it focuses on the yin practice, while the more vigorous and dynamic physical practices focus on the yang. This of course, refers back to the yin and yang, which embodies balance by incorporating opposite forces.
Yin yoga involves mainly passive stretches on the floor that are held for longer periods of time (45 seconds to 2 minutes). More advanced practitioners sometimes hold poses for as long as five minutes.
- Improves circulation and flexibility
- Releases fascia and connective tissue tightness
- Releases built up emotions
Best for: People who need a set time to slow down from fast paced living, or a time to destress. This is also a great supplemental practice to anyone who practices a more fast paced type of yoga.
What to expect: A slow paced class that is spent on the floor with lots of hip opening poses. Don’t expect this to be a completely relaxing class, it’s not meant to be relaxing. It’s meant to physically, mentally, and emotionally release and balance you from your yang practice.
Source: Yoga with Kasandra Yin Yoga video
There you have it! An ultimate list of the different types of yoga. I just want to close this with one last thing: It’s great that there are so many different types of practices that hold different perspectives and ways to practice so everyone can find something they like, but please don’t get caught up on it. Just get started practicing any type of yoga that interests you, and go from there.
I started with hatha yoga, then gentle yoga, tried kundalini yoga, then vinyasa yoga, power yoga, then found I really enjoyed hot vinyasa yoga. I still practice gentle yoga and other types of yoga at home too. There are SO many different types of yoga and hybrids of yoga today, there is something for everybody.
Don’t think you have to pick one and stick with it! The best thing you can do for yourself right now if you are struggling with getting started is to simply get on your mat.
Here are a few other articles to help you find inspiration and get started!:
- 100 Yoga Quotes for Inspiration and Motivation (with images)
- The Top 7 Yoga Videos for Inspiration and Motivation
- Yoga for Beginners: Tips for Getting Started
- Should You Warm Up Before Yoga?
- What is the First Yoga Pose You Should Learn?
Ally is the co-founder of GroundedPanda.com with her fiance Victor. She began practicing yoga at the beginning of her career as a Registered Nurse to cope with the physical and mental stress it put on her, and fell in love with it. Her goal is to help beginners develop a fulfilling practice without the intimidation. Besides managing this website, she loves hiking with her loving fiance and cuddling with her two silly cats.