Whether you’re a avid yogi or not, it’s not always easy to feel comfortable (or to not just get totally confused) with all of the different kinds of yoga that are out there in the fitness world. There are so many different ways to go about the practice, whether it’s doing your downward dogs in a heated room to sweat out your toxins or going through your flow faster than usual to sneak a bit of cardio into the mix. To help you differentiate between the different forms of yoga out there, we’ve highlighted a few of our personal favorites below. Practicing yoga is about staying calm, so take a deep breath and read on to figure out your new favorite way to relax while also working out.
If you’re relatively new to yoga and have started out by giving it a go at your gym or at a local studio, chances are that you’ve found yourself in a vinyasa class. With vinyasa yoga – also known as power yoga – the key is to go through the practice with basic but fluid movements that essentially connect your movements to your breath. The idea with this rapid-yet-relaxing yoga form is that you are consistently moving out of one pose and into another seamlessly, but that the exact order of those poses is generally different every time, keeping things a little interesting and unexpected with each class.
This is the yoga that everyone is talking about when they mention “hot yoga.” This form of yoga uses normal yoga poses that you would see in any normal routine – think down dogs, cobras, and warriors – but is done in a room that is heated up to feel like a sauna. The room is usually between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity is usually around 40 percent, so you can be sure that you’ll be breaking a sweat when you pop in for a Bikram class. The good news: that means that you can look forward to a little detox with your usual surya namaskar (or sun salutation).
This form of yoga is all about getting to know your body, and accepting it as much as learning from it. With this practice, one of the biggest components is trying to figure out what poses work for you and how your body handles doing some of the harder moves. The key here is to focus on “press points,” and to find ways to do a lot of common poses according to how they work for you body, as opposed to how they’re “meant” to be done. After determining what your body can or cannot do, you then perform these poses for extended periods of time to completely relax. The idea here is really to learn from your body and trust it enough to let it be your instructor.
A bit like vinyasa, ashtanga is another form of yoga that tends to be most common amongst classes and instructors. Again, the idea here is to go through the flow smoothly while paying attention to keeping your movements in tune with your breathing. The real difference that comes into play here, when compared to vinyasa, is that there doesn’t tend to be a lot of variation in the flow with ashtanga. For the most part, you’ll find yourself performing the same (pretty demanding) movements with each time you do the practice. But even without the variation, you’ll find the tough poses and flow to be worth coming back for more.
Known as restorative yoga, this form of the practice is the perfect way to unwind and relax when your body and your mind are feeling a little worn out. As opposed to other forms of yoga that place more emphasis on a flow of movement, this form of yoga focuses primarily on stillness. By incorporating props like blankets and blocks, restorative yoga calls for you to hold poses for long periods of time while expending minimal effort. The idea is that this form of yoga is almost like the adult version of naptime – we’re sold – in that it’s just about going very, very slow and giving your body what it needs to recover, be that from a long week, a previous workout, or anything else that may be weighing on it.