Different Styles of Yoga: What’s the Right Style for You?

Hands in Yoga Namaste position

If you are thinking about taking a yoga class for the first time, you may be surprised to discover how many different types of yoga there are. Different forms of yoga can vary dramatically in their level of intensity. It is important to select a style of yoga that is most appropriate for your current level of health and physical fitness, and to consider any health conditions which may be contraindicated for a specific type of yoga. Below is a list describing the most common types of yoga.

Even within a type of yoga, there can be significant variation based on the teacher’s training and preferred style. It is a good practice to talk with the teacher before your first class to determine whether the class is the best one for you. Also, several different options may be appropriate for your health and physical fitness – and in this case, you may enjoy one style more than another. Try different classes and different teachers until you find the one that you like the most. Enjoying the class and feeling a connection to the teacher can be a great way to stay motivated to continue your workout.

You can find trained, Registered Yoga Teachers by reviewing the list of yoga teachers in your area at www.yogaalliance.org.

• Hatha yoga: a general term usually describing a traditional yoga practice with slow, relaxed
movement and a focus on breathing. Appropriate for most individuals, including older adults and individuals with physical limitations.

• Chair or seated yoga: an adapted yoga practice, based on Hatha yoga, in which participants sit on chairs rather than the floor and have the chair available for support during
standing practice. Appropriate for most individuals, and beneficial for older adults with
limited mobility or health conditions that prevent getting up and down from the floor. A totally seated chair yoga practice can support yoga training for individuals who use a walker and/or wheelchair. Chair yoga can also provide an appropriate format for yoga at your desk or in the office.

• Iyengar yoga: a precise form of yoga that focuses on specific body alignment, slow movement, and endurance. Appropriate for most individuals, including older adults and individuals with physical limitations.

• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: The MBSR approach combines gentle hatha yoga
and mindfulness meditation. MBSR is very appropriate for new yoga practitioners and
provides a comprehensive approach to mind-body wellness and stress management.
Appropriate for most individuals, including older adults and individuals with physical limitations.

• Restorative yoga: a yoga practice focused on soothing and supportive yoga postures. This
practice usually involves the use of yoga props (bolsters, straps, pillows, blankets, and small
foam blocks) to support the individual in holding a yoga posture for a longer period of
time (as much as 15 minutes) while relaxing and consciously breathing. Appropriate for most individuals, including older adults and individuals with physical limitations.

• Viniyoga: a gentle yoga practice in which the breath and the physical poses are synchronized. Viniyoga is personalized to the individual practitioner. Appropriate for most individuals, including older adults and individuals with physical limitations, particularly since the Viniyoga teacher will work to adapt and develop the practice based
on the needs of the individual.

• Kundalini yoga: a yoga practice that focuses on energy work, including breathing practices and flowing, repetitive movement. Some group Kundalini classes include jumping,
vigorous activity, and breath-holding poses. This may or may not be appropriate for older
adults or individuals with physical limitations, depending on the instructor’s teaching style and focus. Inquire with the instructor about specific health concerns before taking a class.

• Vinyasa, Power, and Ashtanga yoga: vigorous yoga practices based on fast movement,
high-intensity exercise, and building of strength and flexibility. Generally not appropriate
for older adults, unless the individual is in excellent physical condition with no joint or
mobility issues. Inquire with the instructor about specific health concerns before taking a class.

• Hot yoga: vigorous yoga practices following specific protocols with little room for modification or variation, practiced in a room heated to above 100° F. Generally not appropriate for older adults, unless the individual is in excellent physical condition with no joint or mobility issues and no issues that would be contraindicated for heat (such as heart or skin conditions). Inquire with the instructor about specific health concerns before taking a class.

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