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A complete guide to every kind of yoga

Maggie Giuffrida is a graduate of The University of Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism. She is a contributing writer for SheKnows, specializing in health and fitness. Maggie is a certified yoga instructor and health and well...

Which method is right for you?

Hatha, Bikram, vinyasa, power... so many yoga classes to choose from and only one hour!
Woman doing yoga
Photo credit: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

How do you decide which yoga class is best for you and your bod? With so many styles to choose from, it can be a little hard. The good news: There’s a style to suit just about every aspiring and accomplished yogi out there. The really good news: You don’t have to look any further to find out what they are!

Whether you’re wanting to work up a killer sweat, torch some major cals, tone those muscles, lengthen your legs or simply de-stress and relax, it can all be accomplished through the right yoga class.

Read on for the 411 on some of today’s most popular styles of yoga and learn how to choose which method is best for your mood.

If you want to...

Break a sweat and leave class with an endorphin rush

Pick: Bikram

Bikram yoga is the practice of 26 postures selected and developed by Bikram Choudhury and derived from hatha yoga. The classes take place in specific studios with temperatures set around 105 degrees F, with 40 percent humidity. The heat helps to promote sweating and warms up the body to increase flexibility with less risk of injury.

Pick: Hot yoga

Like Bikram yoga, hot yoga is also practiced in a heated room, usually maintained at a temperature of around 95 to 100 degrees F. However, unlike Bikram, hot yoga isn’t based on of the same 26-posture series. Instead, hot yoga tends to be a flowing vinyasa-style practice that’s almost like a dance, linking one pose to the next. It also varies by instructor and is a great option for those who want the heat but prefer more variety.

Beginners

Remember to pack a water bottle and bring your own mat and towel. It is also important not to overexert yourself during these classes. The warm temperatures and the practice of poses can make your body feel looser and more flexible than normal, making it easier to pull a muscle. Be careful not to overstretch or push yourself too much when first starting out. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and gradually let yourself experiment with poses as your body adjusts and becomes more used to the atmosphere and workout.

Drop a few pounds

Pick: Ashtanga

Ashtanga yoga is great for weight loss and muscle toning, as its main focus is on the repetition of athletic poses. In this practice, there are six strenuous pose sequences, referred to as the primary series, second series, third series and so on. Ashtanga yoga flows rapidly from one pose to the next, linking each pose through the breath. It has been passed down through generations of yogis, eventually branching off into other forms of vigorous yoga such as vinyasa flow classes.

Pick: Vinyasa flow

Speaking of vinyasa flow, this style of yoga is another great way to get slim and svelte. Vinyasa is a continually moving, fast-paced yoga class that will have you breaking a sweat, whether or not it’s taking place in a heated room. The pace, poses and sequences vary by class and instructor, which is great for keeping those muscles challenged and burning extra calories. Be prepared to get your chaturanga on as you flow from one pose to the next and don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little short of breath.

Improve your mood

Pick: Anusara

Founded by John Friend, anusara yoga is a method that unwinds your body while lifting your mood. Each class focuses on an inspirational idea, called a “heart theme,” and works to improve confidence and inner peace. Be warned — this method doesn’t allow much room for being shy. Chanting, om-ing and possible partner work are to be expected, but don’t let this intimidate you — you’d be surprised at how much deeper your practice can go with the help of others.

Pick: Sivananda

A spiritual workout based on a five-point philosophy that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise and positive thinking work together to form a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Each Sivananda class begins and ends with chanting and meditation. Typically such classes will include the same basic 12 asanas, followed by sun salutations and relaxation (savasana). A great way to improve your mood while building some muscle.

Boost your energy

Pick: Kundalini

Kundalini is known for giving you that "yoga buzz." The emphasis on breathing in combination with invigorating poses will help your energy skyrocket, while the meditation helps keep you centered and focused. This practice aims to tap into your body's "kundalini energy," which in turn will leave you feeling awakened and invigorated. A great way to start your day.

Increase your confidence

Pick: Kripalu

Based on the idea of self-empowerment, Kripalu classes focus on a three-part practice that teaches you to better connect with your body. Be prepared to start off slow, allowing your body to figure out how it works in different poses, and then dive in deeper through longer poses and meditation, followed by more free-flow asanas. In the Kripalu practice, you learn to let your body become your teacher.

Build strength

Pick: Power yoga

If you think power yoga is strictly reserved for the hard-core, head-standing yogis only, you’re wrong! This method was actually inspired by the inner strength it develops. Its purpose is to create confidence and self-empowerment. If you want to build strength on the inside and out, then this is the method for you! Power yoga is a fitness-based approach to the vinyasa method and focuses on building muscles and increasing flexibility.

Perfect your poses

Pick: Iyengar

Named after founder B.K.S. Iyengar, this style of yoga uses props like blocks, straps, harnesses and incline boards to help you perfect your positions and postures. The main focus of Iyengar yoga is on precise alignment and deliberate sequencing, which allows you to properly learn the fundamentals of yoga and build a strong foundation for other styles. It also just so happens to work every nook and cranny of your body, resulting in some major muscle definition!

Personalize your practice

Pick: Viniyoga

Want to make your practice a little more personalized? Viniyoga teachers typically work one-on-one with students, allowing you to create a series of asanas suited specifically for your body. "Vini" yoga, meaning differentiation, adaptation and appropriate application, will teach you to honor your body by adapting poses and goals to your own needs and abilities.

Soothe your belly and baby

Pick: Prenatal

If there's a baby in your belly, prenatal is the yoga for you. Noted as a safe exercise to practice during pregnancy, prenatal yoga is for women in all stages of pregnancy, helps speed up labor and ward off pregnancy aches, pains and swelling, and helps keep the core stable and strong.

De-stress and relax

Pick: Hatha

Hatha, by definition, is a physical yoga practice, and the root of most yoga classes you'll find today, as it is one of the six original branches of yoga. This basic and classical approach to yoga postures and breathing exercises will leave you feeling calm, de-stressed and peaceful. The perfect way to wind down from your day.

Pick: Yin yoga

Meant to complement more rigorous forms of yoga, yin yoga is a quiet, meditative practice, focusing mostly on lengthening the body and relaxing the muscles. Be prepared to practice your patience in yin classes, as you normally hold postures for longer periods.

Pick: Restorative

Restorative yoga classes are very relaxing and a great complement to a more rigorous exercise routine. Props are often used during class for additional support, opening your body through passive stretching and allowing it to hold poses for longer periods of time. Get ready to relax with dim lighting, calming music and nurturing poses. This method guarantees a good night’s sleep.

Now that you know the different types of yoga, learn the lingo that goes along with it! >>

More on yoga

Partner yoga poses for beginners
Bedtime yoga poses for a better night's sleep
5 Stretches to master the splits

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