With so many styles of yoga on offer, it’s hard to know which to choose. The best way to find out might be to just try them all, but here’s a breakdown to help get you started. The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union’ or ‘oneness’ and is an ancient Indian practice involving physical, spiritual and mental practices. It can promote good health, wellbeing and help raise self-awareness and consciousness. Teachers often have vastly different approaches, even when teaching the same style. If one doesn’t work for you, then maybe try another until you find a class that suits.
This is the style of yoga you will likely come across the most often.
Hatha in Sanskrit means ‘all yoga,’ though now–with many more styles on offer–it’s more commonly seen as the classic style of yoga. The poses are in a sequence and often can be held for as short as a few breaths, and as long as a few minutes. It’s a great way to learn the correct alignment and become familiar with yoga terminology.
This traditional approach to breathing and yoga is best suited to beginners, as it can be relatively slow paced with a focus on the correct alignment in the poses.
Ashtanga is a physically demanding style of yoga that involves a faster flow of poses. Due to the speed flowing through the asanas (poses), it may not be suited to beginners. It involves repetition of sun salutations, often known as ‘Mysore style’. Mysore, in India, is seen as the home of Ashtanga yoga. Students in a class are usually expected to know the sequence. The movements are flow style, linking them to the breath, which is why it can be mixed up with Vinyasa yoga. However, unlike Vinyasa, Ashtanga involves exactly the same sequence of moves in the same order each time. It’s an energizing and invigorating practice, likely to make you sweat.
Adapted from Ashtanga in the 80s, the similarity is in the flowing movements, linking the breath to movements. Vinyasa varies a lot among teachers as it can be a fusion of different styles of yoga, sometimes holding some poses for longer at the start or end. It can be fast paced and energetic so beginners may prefer to start with Hatha classes and then move on to Vinyasa once they know they correct alignment of the basic poses.
It’s a high energy style of yoga that gives a good workout. Often teachers will use music to keep the energy high.
A more spiritual form of yoga, Kundalini can cultivate self-awareness and spiritual connection. The focus is on dynamic breathwork and can involve chanting, mantras and meditation. The intention is to work with the Kundalini energy in the spine. Kundalini yoga is good for those who are after more than just a stretch or a workout, as it focuses on the inner spiritual growth of the student. It can help students cultivate compassion, speak the truth, uphold values and raise consciousness. It can involve dynamic movements too and can be one of the most energizing–even enlightening–styles of yoga.
Founded by B.K.S Iyengar, this style of yoga focuses on holding postures for longer than in Hatha yoga. Small, detailed adjustments are made to the student’s alignment whilst focusing on the breath. It’s an ideal style of yoga for anyone with an injury due to this attention to alignment and slow, precise movements. The attention to detail is the primary focus, using lots of props. It may not involve much movement or sweating, but it can still be physically challenging holding a pose at length. There can be great benefit in the increased mental clarity, focus and concentration required for Iyengar yoga. Teachers are often highly knowledgeable so it’s ideal for students who want to deepen their understanding of asanas (poses) and anatomy.
Yin yoga is a slow-paced, deep practice that involves spending at least a few minutes in each pose. Often props are used to help. This style of yoga can be very calming for some. However, for some people, staying in a pose for so long can still be deceptively challenging. As Yin doesn’t involve the same concentration levels as faster styles of yoga, it can leave the mind open to distraction. Many people find Yin helps cultivate inner peace and can especially help before bedtime to aid a good night’s sleep.
Wonderland Healing Center offers yoga retreats for as long or as short as suits your schedule. We offer a full yoga and meditation calendar, featuring different styles of yoga. There are also treatments and evening events such as lectures and singing circles, all on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan in Thailand. Click here for more information or to book.