With so many kinds of yoga classes offered around town or at your gym, it can be hard to choose the right one for you, especially if you aren’t well versed in the yogi language. For example, while Hot and Power Yoga focus on blasting calories, Yin and Taoist are more meditative, and Therapeutic is great for anyone suffering from a physical injury or trauma. In this informative slideshow, LivingHealthy expert and founder of Yoga Bloom, Cora Wen, breaks down 12 of the most popular types of yoga, explaining everything from what they’re about and what to expect in a class to what celebrities and personality types can be found bending, posing and chanting their way through classes. Namaste!
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
WHAT IT IS: An intense physical practice with six established pose sequences; the primary series, second series, and third series are done sequentially as mastery of postures is made. Strenuous sequences with quick movement, flowing from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. “Mysore”-style class allows students to practice the series at their own pace in silence.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Weight loss, cardio, building strength without weights.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Chanting, mantra, devotion, spiritual connection, travel to India.
BEST FOR: Type-A personalities—driven, intense people who like a systematic approach.
CELEB FANS: Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Willem Dafoe, Gisele.
WHAT IT IS: Characterized by its attention to detailed and precise alignment, along with the use of yoga props including bolsters, benches, blocks and straps, which allow elderly, injured, and physically and mentally challenged populations the benefits of “supported” poses requiring less muscular effort. Props also create support for the body to experience a deeper focus and build stamina and strength needed in advanced postures.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Emphasis on precision and form, systematically working every part of your body, learning about the how and why in poses, gaining muscle definition, help with acute and chronic conditions.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Precise alignment with detailed verbal instructions, correction of misalignments and errors, readings from Light on Yoga (the 1966 bible of the discipline). Wear fitted clothes to show form of body.
BEST FOR: Detail-oriented people, doctors and health practitioners, engineers, philosophers, scholars, artists and politicians.
CELEB FANS: Andie MacDowell, Annette Bening.
WHAT IT IS: An active, invigorating practice intended to release the serpent energy at the base of the spine, and founded on Sikhism principles of living detached yet fully engaged in the world. The practice of kriyas (cleansings) and meditations in Kundalini yoga are said to raise awareness and prepare the body, nervous system and mind to handle this serpent energy.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Spiritual and mind/body awareness, an energetic yoga buzz.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Intense breathing exercises with rapid movement, invigorated energy in the postures, focus on the seven chakras, activity of the navel and spine, selective pressurization of body points and meridians.
BEST FOR: Hollywood actors, corporate executives.
CELEB FANS: Russell Brand, Demi Moore, Oprah, Miranda Kerr, Forest Whitaker, Cindy Crawford, Michelle Williams, Paula Abdul.
WHAT IT IS: A highly individualized practice where students learn to adapt poses and goals to their own needs and abilities. Viniyoga teachers work one-on-one with students and stress function over form, so sequences of different orientation, length and intensity suit the context of each practice.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Injury prevention, pain management, learning principles of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (warming up and contracting a muscle before stretching it to decrease chance of injury).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Repetition into and out of postures along with long holding of simple postures, emphasis on breath with movement, adapting patterns of breathing.
BEST FOR: Back-pain sufferers of all types, clinical researchers, pain management specialists.
WHAT IT IS: A physical, ethical and spiritual practice of vigorous Vinyasa-based style for those wanting an all-encompassing yoga lifestyle, founded in 1984 by musician Sharon Gannon and artist and cafe owner David Life. Any series of poses linked by breath is called a vinyasa.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Pursuing a state of enlightenment in and out of practice; learning traditions of yogic scripture, philosophy and chanting.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Active discussion of social, political or animal rights activism in class. Vegetarian and vegan requirements, along with scripture, devotion, chanting and meditation.
BEST FOR: Actors, musicians, artists, “It” girl fashion types.
CELEB FANS: Sting, Trudie Styler, Christy Turlington, Russell Simmons.
Babtiste, Power Yoga, Power/Vinyasa Flow, Rocket, Core Power Yoga
WHAT IT IS: Active, athletic style of yoga adapted from the traditional Ashtanga system in the late ’80s for the fitness needs of Westerners. Athletes need to start slowly and carefully, as their competitive nature can make them push and strain into injury.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Recruiting every muscle with cardio and isometric movements, burning calories, sparking metabolism. Has a high impact on joints.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Find out whether the classroom will be hot (as in Bikram) or not, as “power” means “hot” in some studios and gyms.
BEST FOR: Athletic types who love to sweat while gaining flexibility and strength, power yogis who want a challenge.
CELEB FANS: Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Bethenny Frankel.
Bikram Yoga, Hot Yoga
WHAT IT IS: Yoga poses in a sauna-like heated room, with heat that can be turned up to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity in an official Bikram class. There are many variations on this style, so anything that is labeled “Hot Yoga” will be a heated room over 90 degrees with an athletic practice. The steamy hot air will increase flexibility, but can also create too much mobility, leaving the muscles too loose and not aware of their limits. Be careful not to overstretch and injure yourself in the heat.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Weight loss (burning up to 600 calories in a class), building stamina in extreme conditions, gaining flexibility, repetition of athletic poses.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Bring lots of water! To keep your core temperature down, wear good moisture-wicking clothing (a sports bra and shorts work well). Bring towels for yourself and your mat.
BEST FOR: Type-A personalities, athletes, jocks and others who want a strenuous, sweat-inducing workout.
CELEB FANS: Goldie Hawn, Beyoncé, Ashton Kutcher, David and Victoria Beckham, Prince Harry, Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Lady Gaga, Matthew McConaughey, Carmen Electra.
Hatha Align, Vinyasa Align, Alignment Flow, Hatha Flow
WHAT IT IS: A variation of Iyengar systematic posture breakdown, mixed with more movement. Only certified Iyengar teachers can call their classes Iyengar, so this hybrid is a combination of movement and message within each asana. Most Hatha Align or Vinyasa Align classes are geared toward more information in each pose and slower movement. Poses may seem outwardly static, while attention is drawn to the changing flow of energy through movement and breath.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Developing strength, mobility and stability as tools to relieve stress; promoting physical and spiritual well-being; learning fundamentals to build a foundation for other styles.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Body alignment and specific sequences for desired result; single poses more important than poses linked together; combination of certain poses and breathing to ensure expected effect; longer time spent in each pose or pranayama.
BEST FOR: Those who like structure and want to challenge themselves.
CELEB FANS: Jessica Biel, Reese Witherspoon, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Kate Beckinsale, Natalie Portman, Evander Holyfield, Adam Levine, LeBron James, Ricky Martin.
WHAT IT IS: Postures set up in passive and supported ways for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. Comfortable poses aided with props such as blankets, bolsters, blocks, soothing eye pillows. Poses can last up to 20 minutes. The mind-body-psyche rest acts as a cleansing that will refresh and revitalize.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Rest and recuperation from modern living; healing of muscles, joints and nervous system; stress relief.
WHAT TO EXPECT: You won’t be generating any body heat by resting in poses, so wear a sweater, sweatshirt, socks and anything that helps you stay warm and cozy.
BEST FOR: People who have a physical practice; anyone who feels the stress of daily life.
Yoga Therapy, Therapeutic Yoga
WHAT IT IS: Similar to Viniyoga in the personalized attention to each student. A class may be dedicated to a particular issue (low back pain, knee injury, breast cancer survivors, etc.). Poses are sequenced and set up for their healing benefits, which can include active or passive movement. A passive pose can direct blood flow to injured areas, without strain, and allows healthy neural pathways to connect the nervous system to the brain.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Acute and chronic conditions, joint injury and rehabilitation, addendum to psychotherapy, PTSD and trauma sensitivity.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Share your ailments with the teacher in private, before class, so he or she can help you with specific poses for your condition.
BEST FOR: Anyone who is undergoing stress, those in injury rehab, cancer survivors.
Yin Yoga, Taoist Yoga
WHAT IT IS: A slow-paced, quiet, meditative yoga practice focusing on connective tissues and staying still. Yin poses are passive, asking the body to relax muscles and use gravity naturally. Poses are held for a long time, so patience and understanding the limits of your body are necessary in this practice.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Preparing body and mind for meditation practice, quieting the mind, increasing flexibility, restoring range of motion.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Poses may be held from five to 20 minutes at a time. Yin yoga can help release tension in joints such as the ankles, knees, hips, the whole back, neck and shoulders.
BEST FOR: Anyone who is looking for a good complement to other muscle-forming yoga or other sports.
Acroyoga, Thai Yoga
WHAT IT IS: A physical, partner practice that combines yoga and acrobatics. Gymnastic techniques are used to build strength, flexibility, trust and teamwork between partners, along with balance arts from circus schools. Learning good technique takes time and is best learned with a skilled and experienced teacher. Much of the movement is like Thai massage techniques for moving muscular tension. There are two schools of Acroyoga.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Exercise, strength-building, flexibility, balance, improved concentration, stress relief.
WHAT TO EXPECT: You’ll balance one or more people on your legs and arms, or you may be spun into the air from a “base” supporting yogi while you “fly” into poses. Maximize the weight on bones rather than muscles to avoid injury for you and the flyer. Acroyoga is more vigorous than traditional yoga and may lead to more injuries.
BEST FOR: Booty-centric celebrities, dancers, pole-dance champions, circus art performers.
CELEB FANS: Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, Coco Austin