Sarah Fretwell

Yoga, Movement, Mobility, Wellness

The different styles of yoga classes...from Vinyasa to Yin

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Today, there are so many different styles of yoga classes to choose from that it can be difficult to understand which is which. From fast-paced Vinyasa flow to the slower styles of Yin and Hatha, it is beneficial to try a variety of styles and see which works for you. Here's my guide to the different styles:


Anusara is often described as Iyengar (a purist form of yoga) with a sense of humor. Created by the a man named John Friend, Anusara is meant to be heartfelt andaccepting. Rather than a strict set of poses, students are guided to express themselves and their hearts through the poses to their fullest ability.


Six established and difficult pose sequences - the primary series, second series, third series, and so on - practiced sequentially as progress is made. Ashtanga is a fast-paced yoga style, flowing from one pose to the next with each long inhale and exhale. Each series of poses is linked by the breath , which is the focus point of this style. 


This is hot yoga, performed in a room where temperatures are cranked up to nearly 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity in official Bikram classes. The inventor is called Bikram Choudhury, and designed bikram as a series of 26 basic yoga poses, each performed twice. If you like structure and routine, this could be for you. Prepare to sweat. I have personally never practised Bikram and cannot say that I want to!


By definition, hatha is a physical yoga practice, which is pretty much all yoga you’ll find in this hemisphere. One of the six original branches of yoga, “hatha” encompasses nearly all types of modern yoga. Hatha classes are typically a basic and classical approach to yogic breathing exercises and postures. 


Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984 in New York City, jivamukti translates as "liberation while living." It is a physical, limit-pushing practice that uses yoga's traditional spiritual elements in a modern way for us Westerners. There are often themes for each class and Sanskrit chanting. 


Yoga postures carefully adapted for expectant mothers. Prenatal yoga is tailored to help women in all stages of pregnancy, even those getting back in shape post-birth. When you keep your pelvic and core muscles strong through your term, they will still have the strength and energy to spring back to normal.


This style is all about relaxation and is great for people with injuries or illnesses because there is less work involved. You’ll spend as many as 20 minutes each in just four or five simple poses (often they’re modifications of standard asanas) using strategically placed props like blankets, bolsters, and soothing lavender eye pillows to help you sink into deep relaxation. There’s also mental cleansing: as you find physical stillness, the mind starts to quieten and you create space for creativity, ideas and new perspectives. 


An active and athletic style of yoga adapted from the traditional ashtanga system in the late 1980s to appeal to aerobic-crazed Westerners. After having studied with Pattabhi Jois, Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest simultaneously pioneered this westernized ashtanga on the East and West coasts, respectively. Power yoga doesn’t stick to the same sequence of poses each time like ashtanga does, so the style varies depending on the teacher. Classes called “vinyasa” or “flow” in your gym or studio can be vastly different but in general stem from this movement and from ashtanga as well. This is my favourite style!


A quiet, meditative yoga practice, also called taoist yoga. Yin focuses on lengthening connective tissues and is meant to complement yang yoga—your muscle-forming Anusara, ashtanga, Iyengar, or what have you. Yin poses are passive, meaning you’re supposed to relax muscles and let gravity do the work. And they’re long — you’ll practice patience here too. Yogis who exercise a lot and generally stick to power vinyasa yoga usually greatly benefit from incorporating some yin classes into their routine, though it is sometimes a struggle to relax for minutes in a challenging pose. I personally love to practise yin once or twice a week to complement my more dynamic vinyasa practise. 

So my advice is to try a few different classes and see what styles you gravitate to, and remember that every teacher is different!