7 Yoga Styles Explained



Check out this cheat sheet for the lowdown on the most popular classes offered at the majority of yoga studios across the country.

So, you’re ready to dive into yoga, but you’re not entirely sure where to start. Your local studio lists as many as 16 different types of classes and now you’re left scratching your head. Do you actually need to start with a beginner’s class? What does Bikram mean?

What exactly happens during each class?

There’s a wide array of yoga styles out there, so it’s understandable that it’s a little daunting to get started. Check out this cheat sheet (ranked from easiest to most advanced) for the lowdown on the most popular classes offered at the majority of yoga studios across the country—and see which ones make the most sense for you and your body.

1. Restorative

Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Ideal for: Those new to yoga or dealing with injury

What it is: This class is essentially made up of only four or five simple poses per class, each held for as long as 10 minutes. Using strategically placed props (think: bolsters, blocks, blankets and eye pillows), Restorative is the passive release of the entire musculoskeletal system. It also teaches students the art of self-soothing and psychic cleansing—essential practices for those who battle anxiety. You’ll leave class feeling refreshed and relaxed. Note: Many yoga teachers recommend new students start with Restorative before trying the faster pace of a beginner’s class.

2. Yin

Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Ideal for: Those who want to increase their range of motion

What it is: This quiet, meditative class promotes the relaxation of muscles by holding poses for an extended period of time. On the surface it looks easy, but as the minutes tick by, the pose will bring about some discomfort—but that’s OK! By letting gravity do the work, each pose will lengthen the body’s connective tissues and increase your range of motion (so long as you already have healthy joints). In Yin, you will use between 20-30% of your muscle, predominately working the hips and spine.

3. Hatha

Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Ideal for: Those who still want to practice the basics

What it is: While Hatha classes can vary in terms of speed and intensity depending on the teacher, it’s generally a great introduction to poses (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayamas). The goal is to gain a better understanding of your body’s flexibility, balance and breath integration. And, if some of the poses are too much to handle, you can ask your teacher for a different variation to better suit your needs.

4. Vinyasa

Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Ideal for: Those who want to master the art of breathing in time with movement

What it is:
This style focuses on the coordination of movement with breath as you flow from one pose to the next. For example, with each inhalation, there’s a new pose to move into. Vinyasa often uses sequences and techniques found in Hatha and Ashtanga practices.

5. Bikram

Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Ideal for: Building flexibility and for those who enjoy hot yoga

What it is: Named after founder Bikram Choudhury, this type of hot yoga is meant to mimic the temperatures in northern India—which means studios are heated to a whopping 40+ degrees Celsius. Students move through a sequence of poses—around 26 per 90-minute session—that promotes the loosening of muscles. Don’t forget a towel and a big bottle of water!

6. Jivamukti

Level: Advanced
Ideal for: Longtime yoga practitioners

What it is: A highly physical amalgamation of Hatha and Vinyasa sequences, Jivamukti will push yogis to their limits. It also includes spiritual elements, including Sanskrit chanting.

7. Ashtanga

Level: Advanced
Ideal for: Longtime yoga practitioners

What it is: Considered one of the most physically demanding practices, Ashtanga consists of a series of strenuous, unvarying sequences that require the yogi to move rapidly in unison with their breath. Classes tend to include multiple sun salutations, backbends and inversions. On average, there are between 50 to 70 poses in a 90-minute session. It requires a significant amount of strength, endurance and flexibility.

-Laura Grande