Benefits of the Different Types of Yoga

Chances are you’ll find a number of yoga studios in your area. But how do you choose which one is right for you?

Utilizing a combination of body postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama), yoga’s roots date back several thousand years to its origins in India—and the practice has since become a popular way to enhance our health and wellness.1

Yoga has evolved over time and has taken many shapes and forms. Some types of yoga continue to reflect Indian philosophy; others are more Westernized. Similarly, some cater to practitioners of all fitness levels, while others are a bit more physically intense.

We’ll touch on these details shortly. This article outlines the benefits of several different types of yoga and offer the insights you need to guide your own practice.

Different types of yoga and the benefits of each

Yoga in general is known to yield a number of benefits. It can help to alleviate depression, lessen stress, and reduce one’s risk of contracting diabetes and heart disease.2 Researchers have also pointed out the link between yoga and mindful eating, weight control, and positive body image.3

While this may sound appealing, it’s important to keep in mind that each form of yoga features unique characteristics and benefits.

Ashtanga yoga is vigorous and involves a continuous series of five poses that culminate in a half-sun salutation—that is, a special flow of movements found in several types of yoga.4 Ashtanga yoga relies on a special breathing technique that calms the mind, improves focus, and strengthens the breath as it flows through the body.

Classes begin with chanting and include the same series of poses each time. If you like consistency and are looking to boost your cardiovascular health, consider this form of yoga.

Bikram yoga consists of a series of 26 postures performed in a very hot room (think 100 degrees Fahrenheit). If you’re looking to increase your flexibility and don’t mind getting a little sweaty, this type of yoga might be a good fit.5

Created by Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s, Bikram yoga was designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles while compressing and detoxifying the organs. It can be intense, so practitioners with diabetes, hypertension, or other medical conditions should consult a healthcare practitioner before attending class.

Hatha yoga focuses on the physical practice of yoga and doesn’t include much in the way of chanting or lengthy breathing exercises.6

It’s a good starting point for those who want to ease their way into the fitness aspect of yoga (and gain a deeper understanding of the actual poses), as practitioners get to set their own pace and decide how long to stay in each posture.

Iyengar yoga features a similar background to Ashtanga yoga—in fact, the yogis who created these styles trained under the same teacher.5 That said, while some of the postures are the same, Iyengar yoga centers on the correct alignment of each asana.

Note that props like belts and blocks are often used in Iyengar yoga. This gentle practice is ideal for those who are new to yoga, injured, or grappling with stiffness.

Kundalini yoga takes a spiritual approach to yoga. Created to stimulate energy in the spine, Kundalini generally features meditation, breathing exercises, and chanting, with some yoga postures thrown into the mix.5

In addition to reducing stress, this slower-paced form of yoga may be capable of boosting the immune system and expanding lung capacity.9 Beginners who wish to focus on their breathing are encouraged to give Kundalini a try.

Vinyasa yoga is also known as power yoga, and with good reason. It is challenging and fast-paced and helps to build upper-body strength while improving flexibility and balance.6

While power yoga is a surefire way to get in shape, yogis should consider taking a class or two in a gentler style before diving into a more rigorous practice. Vinyasa yoga requires quite a bit of athleticism, and there’s often less individual attention than one might find in other classes.    

Yin yoga features passive, seated poses held from 1 to 10 minutes—but don’t let its slower pace fool you. The postures focus on the connective tissues in the hips, spine, and pelvis, helping to boost flexibility and encourage feelings of release.5

In simple terms, anyone can reap the benefits of Yin yoga. A regular practice can help to quiet the mind and release tension in the joints, so even the athletically inclined will find it useful.

While there are other forms of yoga we haven’t yet discussed, these options should offer a good foundation for those who wish to begin or deepen their practice. A brief recap:

  • Those who are focused solely on getting in shape should consider Ashtanga, Bikram, or Vinyasa yoga.
  • Hatha is ideal for newer yogis who want to improve their fitness at a gentler pace.
  • The spiritually focused would do well in a Kundalini class.
  • Those with physical limitations might look into giving Iyengar or Yin a try.

Note that many yoga studios offer classes in more than one type of yoga, although this isn’t always the case. Yogis in good health should feel free to mix and match the classes they take.

References:

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Staff. Yoga: In-Depth. 2018. NCCIH. Accessed January 8, 2019.
  2. Taneja DK. Yoga and health. Indian journal of community medicine: official publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine. 2014;39(2):68-72.
  3. Harvard Medical School Staff. Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat. 2015. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed January 7, 2019.
  4. Pevzner H. Which Type of Yoga Is Best for You? Health.com. Accessed January 8, 2019.
  5. Beirne G. Yoga: a beginner’s guide to the different styles. 2014. The Guardian. Accessed January 7, 2019.
  6. Ratini M. Which Style of Yoga Is Best for You? 2018. WebMD. Accessed January 7, 2019.
  7. Beirne Geraldine. “Yoga: a beginner’s guide to the different styles” (2014). The Guardian.
  8. Beirne Geraldine. “Yoga: a beginner’s guide to the different styles” (2014). The Guardian.
  9. Kundalini – What You Need to Know. 2016. Chakras.info. Accessed January 8, 2019.
  10. Ratini Melinda, DO. “Which Style of Yoga Is Best for You?” (2018). WebMD.
  11. Beirne Geraldine. “Yoga: a beginner’s guide to the different styles” (2014). The Guardian.

Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team

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