14 Styles of Yoga to Help You Find Your Zen

Have you ever thought about trying yoga but felt overwhelmed by how many different styles there are to choose from? While yoga in any form can lead to so many positive effects on your body like lowered stress levels, better health and even better sex, finding your perfect style is the key to actually enjoying your practice. To help you decide, we've compiled a quick round-up of the different styles of to make it easier for you to get your zen on!

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Anusara YogaAnusara means “Flowing with Grace.”It focuses heavily on alignment, and is rooted in positive thinking and spirituality.  There is a great deal of attention paid to both the physical experience as well as the spiritual one. Expect your teachers to intertwine storytelling and mind/body thinking and often have a theme expressed throughout the class. Who’s it for? Anusara is great for newbies and for people who enjoy not only understanding the precise way to set up a pose, but who also want to gain something meaningful out of their class. Expect lots of Lululemon-wearing, Starbucks-sipping students enjoying motivational tidbits and attention to alignment in their every asana. 

Ashtanga YogaAshtanga yoga is considered to be very athletic and challenging. The Ashtanga technique links breath and movement – also known as vinyasa.  Think of traditional Ashtanga as the Zen form of yoga.  It moves rapidly, flowing from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. Who’s it for? Since Ashtanga is known to be more challenging, try it if you’re athletic and interested in developing a more intense practice.  Expect a no-time-for-breath-catching cardio workout, plus strength gains without lifting a single weight.  This style will get definitely get you ripped through repetition of the athletic poses.

Bikram Yoga: Bikram is a practice that is held in a sauna-like room where the heat is cranked up to nearly 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. If it's called "Bikram" (for inventor Bikram Choudhury), it will be a series of 26 basic yoga postures, each performed twice during the 90 minute class (45 minutes of standing poses and 45 minutes of floor poses). There isn’t a great deal of variety from one class to the next, but you will definitely sweat!  The idea is to bring a fit body and a fit mind into union. Who’s it for? For anyone who’s ever said yoga was “too easy!"  Bikram is for those who are looking to go deeper into the kind of focus you find through repetition with each practice. It can become a meditation of its own kind. Tip: Be prepared to leave your modesty at home, along with most of your clothes! To keep your core temperature down, wear as little as possible. A sports bra and boy shorts will do, and don't forget to bring water! To learn how bikram yoga can help you to detox your body, click here.

Hatha YogaHatha yoga includes nearly all types of modern yoga. In other words, Hatha is the ice cream, and styles like Ashtanga and Bikram are the flavors.  Classes described as "Hatha" on studio schedules are typically a basic and classical approach to yogic breathing exercises and postures. Who’s it for?  Everyone! Try it if you want a basic class that will challenge you without being overwhelming.

 Iyengar Yoga: Iyengar is a practice that only works through several poses in a class, but strives to teach them properly. Focused very much on the proper alignment of the bones and muscles, you will work deeply through each posture.  Nicknamed “furniture yoga”, Iyengar uses props like blocks, straps, harnesses, and incline boards to help you achieve proper alignment in each pose. Who’s it for? People who love to understand the body, enjoy the details, don’t mind moving slowly and who aren’t afraid to work deeply.  This style certainly brings greater strength, flexibility and understanding of the nuts and bolts of the yoga poses.

Jivamukti Yoga: Jivamukti yoga is a physical, edge-pushing practice that integrates yoga's traditional spiritual elements into a modern, intellectual style.  Expect an incense-filled studio, and prepare for a fast-moving class set to a wide range of music from the Beatles to Moby.  Classes typically include Sanskrit chanting, meditation, breath work, and a spiritual theme. Who’s it for? Anyone looking to add more “Om” to your down-dogs!

Kripalu YogaA three-part practice that teaches you how to get to know your body. It starts with figuring out how your body works in different poses, then moves toward longer held postures and meditations, before tapping deep into your being to find spontaneous flow in asanas.  Kripalu yoga is about self-empowerment.  Knowing what your body can really do is a powerful tool that you can use in all realms of your life. Who’s it for?  Newbies or anyone looking for serious personal transformation.  You’ll learn the basics of yoga from mechanics and breathing to the spiritual side.

Kundalini YogaThe idea behind this practice is to release the Kundalini energy in your body.  Didn’t know you had any? According to this style of yoga, you do!  A Kundalini class consists of chanting, deep and intense breathing, constant motion, invigorating poses, meditations and more.  Expect to get a yoga “buzz”!  The breathing will skyrocket your energy, while the postures and meditation keep you grounded and focused. Who’s it for?  Anyone looking for a great workout, really!  It’s also for anyone seeking greater spiritual mind/body awareness.

Power YogaPower yoga was adapted from the traditional Ashtanga style to appeal to fitness-crazed Westerners.  It’s a more active, athletic style of yoga for people who would to prefer to have a yoga “instructor” such as Bryan Kest or Baron Baptiste, rather than a yoga “guru”.  Power yoga doesn’t stick to the same sequence of poses each time like Ashtanga does, so the style varies depending on the teacher. Who’s it for?  Athletic types who aren’t afraid of a challenge.  Expect to burn, baby, burn!  Isometric movements recruit every muscle in the body, which helps boost your metabolism and results in more calories burned.

Prenatal YogaPrenatal yoga is tailored to help women in all stages of pregnancy.  Postures are carefully adapted for expectant mothers.  Prenatal yoga can help ward off pregnancy aches, pains, and swelling.  Keeping the core strong can help maintain good posture counteracting the pull of the baby on the body. Who’s it for?  Expectant moms looking for a safe exercise during pregnancy.  Tip:  Be careful when doing balancing poses.  Your center of gravity is totally different with two of you!

Restorative YogaLess work, more relaxation.  Restorative yoga usually involves simple poses using props like blankets, bolsters, and soothing lavender eye pillows to help you sink into deep relaxation.  It’s basically like group nap time for grown-ups, except you don't actually fall asleep...and you feel like new when you "wake up"! Who’s it for?  Everyone!  Even if you’re devoted to your particular yoga practice, taking the time to do a restorative class will give your body an active relaxation session.  Restorative yoga is also used for stress and injury rehab.  You can direct blood flow to injured areas without straining them.

Sivananda YogaSivananda is a system based on a five-point philosophy that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking work together to form a healthy yogic lifestyle.  It typically involves the same 12 basic asanas book ended by sun salutations and corpse pose.  Each class opens and closes with chanting and meditation. Who’s it for?  Serious yogis looking for an intensive, spiritual boosting experience.  Tip: Meat lovers are probably better off avoiding Sivananda retreats for their vacation.  The system highly encourages a vegetarian lifestyle to promote better digestion and health.

Vinyasa Flow Vinyasa Flow is full of dynamic and creative movement and lots of breathing.  No class is ever the same.  Most involve a theme and a meditation, and usually close with a deep relaxation.  The style often pays a bit less attention to alignment but instead focuses on the link between how we move, breathe, and connect. Who’s it for? People who find focus and meditation through movement and who enjoy variety.  Vinyasa Flow is also great for those who love music.  Most Vinyasa teachers play inspiring and energizing music to accompany their sequencing.

Yin Yoga Yin is a quiet, meditative yoga practice.  Yin yoga focuses on lengthening connective tissues and is meant to compliment “yang” yoga practices, such as Anusara, Ashtanga, etc.  Yin poses are passive, meaning you’re supposed to relax your muscles and let gravity do the work. Who’s it for?  Anyone looking to prepare the body and mind for meditation.  Tip: Be prepared for long poses.  They can be held from 5 to 20 minutes at a time!  The long-held poses provide the opportunity to practice quieting the mind.  Yin yoga also enables you to release deep bundles of tension in key joints like your ankles, knees, hips, back, neck, and shoulders.

Sources: Women’s Health Magazine, Shape Magazine, Fit Bottomed Girls