Need to Know
  1. We break down 8 popular yoga styles, from Bikram to yin
  2. Each style is different — test them out to find one you like

Dear Spright: I want to take my first official yoga class, but there are so many types of studios and classes to choose from. How do I know if I want hatha or vinyasa or yin? Are the styles very different?

Although many yoga classes pull from a similar pool of poses, it’s the way in which the poses are sequenced, how long each pose is held, and the temperature of the room that determines what style it is. It’s important to know the differences to help choose a class that seems like your style — and know that even if you don’t like the first one you try, there may be another that’s more your flow.

Hatha

This is an all-encompassing description for any type of yoga with movement between different poses. While it technically includes all types of yoga and covers any physical practice, if you see it used as a description of a class it usually means the flow will be slow-moving and gentle.

Vinyasa

This is a common class format that synchronizes movement with the breath. You are very likely to perform sun salutations throughout the class. In addition, you’ll flow through movements swiftly, with emphasis placed on transitions in and out of poses. All vinyasa instructors have different styles, so be sure to try a few before determining whether vinyasa is for you. In addition, many studios will call vinyasa or its close variations “flow” or “power flow.” Call the studio in advance to clarify if you are unsure.

Iyengar

This style of yoga focuses on strict alignment and pranayama, or breath. You will often use yoga props such as straps or blocks to help you achieve your best pose. This is a good class to try as a beginner, as it will really focus on those foundational movements.

Ashtanga

This flow of yoga was derived and interpreted by K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India. It is comprised of six different flows: a primary series, an intermediate series, and four advanced series. Each individual series stays the same, so you can ensure no changes regardless of what studio you go to. The primary series includes 75 poses and takes about 60 to 90 minutes to complete. Once you master the flow, you can actually go to self-led classes where the instructor does not give directions. Instead, he or she will just go around and assist you in poses.

Bikram

This class is held in an extremely hot room — 105 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. There are only 26 poses, each performed twice, and classes last 90 minutes. This style is for someone who likes to get toasty during class and prefers consistency in a yoga practice.

Hot Yoga (or Hot Power Yoga)

This style borrows the heat element of Bikram (but usually staying in double digit temperatures) and the flow of a vinyasa class. It’s a good choice for someone who wants to change up their practice but enjoys the immediate sweat factor from a heated room.

Yin

This style of yoga is slow-paced. Poses will be held for around five minutes or so, with instructors encouraging good alignment and strong breath. It is great for a first-timer who wants some time to really practice poses.

Restorative

This class is exactly what it sounds like. It’s for allowing your body to refresh and recover. You’ll experience as many as 4-5 yoga poses, held for about 20 minutes each. Many of the poses include lying down on your back or having your feet elevated in some way as to restore blood flow to the brain. Some classes also include hot stones that instructors will place in your hands or on your solar plexus.

Ready to hit your first class? Here’s a bit more about what to expect from each type of studio or session.