You’ve likely heard that yoga can help you feel stronger, less stressed, and more connected. When you decide to give it a try, you look up “yoga classes near me” and inevitably discover dozens of options, all with ambiguous names. Where to start?
There are many, many types of yoga, and each studio is unique as well. It can take some time to find a practice and instructor who’s right for you.
Knowing your personal needs and identifying clear goals for your practice is a good first step.
What Do You Want to Gain From Yoga Classes?
Are you looking to increase flexibility? Reduce back pain? Get stronger? Learn to meditate? Bust stress? Some forms of yoga are geared toward physical skill, strength, and endurance, while others are more meditative and spiritual.
All forms generally focus on the breath and provide immense health benefits for stress relief and overall health.
In a moment, we’ll discuss how the different types of yoga classes lend themselves to these different needs.
What’s Your Learning Style?
Some yoga forms place a greater emphasis on technique and alignment, which can be a deterrent for beginners or those who struggle with physical learning. Other forms are more focused on the meditative experience, which can be frustrating for those who want a physical challenge.
Good instructors can adapt their instruction and the overall flow to accommodate people of varying levels, but you shouldn’t expect a power yoga class to be full of extended poses and slow-paced instruction, for example.
Let’s take a look at the different forms of yoga and which one might be best for you.
Forms of Yoga
Most stereotypical images of yoga classes depict Hatha yoga, a form that focuses on classic poses and a slow and steady pace. Class leaders typically give instructions for each pose and plenty of time to get in and out of the pose.
These classes emphasize gentle stretches and static poses, and are a great choice for beginners, those with disabilities, and older practitioners. If you want more of a workout, you might be bored by Hatha yoga.
In Iyengar yoga, proper technique and alignment are considered essential to the spiritual and health benefits of the practice, and so this form of yoga encourages strict poses held for an extended period of time.
Iyengar is good for Hatha practitioners who want more of a challenge, but might still bore those looking for a good workout or who just want some gentle stretching.
If you want to break out into a sweat during your yoga practice or are more interested in constant motion rather than slow stretching, vinyasa is perfect for you.
Like all forms of yoga, it uses the breath, but in vinyasa, the breath guides the movement in a choreographed dance of poses. Expect to move constantly during a vinyasa session and not have much time for meditation or rest.
If a deeply meditative, breath-oriented approach is what you’re after, yin yoga is ideal for you. You may only do three poses in the entire class, but you’ll be focusing on your breath and entering a state of deep contemplation the entire time.
Unlike most forms of yoga, Ashtanga is usually taught “Mysore- style — each student works on their own to master a pose.
There are often strict guidelines for each pose, as well as prerequisites for more advanced poses. If you’re the studious, goal-oriented type who doesn’t need a lot of hand-holding, Ashtanga is a great choice.
Like vinyasa yoga, power yoga involves moving quickly and deftly among poses. However, it’s a bit more oriented toward building strength and endurance, as you hold challenging poses for a brief period of time and use your body strength to switch positions.
Expect to burn a lot of calories in a power yoga session!
Whether you have back pain, struggle with flexibility, or are interested in learning aerial dance, aerial yoga is a newer form of yoga that uses aerial silks or hammocks to aid you in your poses.
It’s great for beginners or anyone who has poor balance, as well as yoga practitioners who want the additional stretch that the silks provide.
Best of all, you can invert, which helps lengthen your spine and resolve back pain.
If you enjoy working out with a partner or are a performer, acro yoga is the perfect yoga form for you. Using principles from acrobatics, you’ll use your partner’s body weight as a source of resistance and help each other stretch and achieve poses.
Acro yoga requires a lot of practice and coordination, but is worth the effort for its wonderful social benefits.
With this guide in hand, you should be able to identify the form or forms of yoga you’d like to start with and know what to look for in a studio. Happy breathing!