Six Different Styles of Yoga

Individuals participate in an outdoor yoga class

By YMCA Yoga Instructor, Sevetlana Bird  

Are you already practicing yoga as exercise or even as a lifestyle? Or you are considering taking your first yoga class? Wherever you are in your journey, welcome, we are so glad you are here! 

If you are already a yoga practitioner, do you remember your very first class? 

I remember mine vividly. I wish I could say it was wonderful and I walked away feeling peaceful, energized and renewed. But my first experience with yoga wasn’t friendly at all and I would have never said back then, 20 some years ago, that we would eventually become friends. 

What happened was that the style of that first class wasn’t right for me; it was Bikram Yoga, in a very hot room, full of strength, endurance and balance poses. Lesson learned - have some information before you go into a new situation. 

The funniest thing was that I thought Bikram Yoga was yoga! So, I continued to practice it for a while. There wasn’t a lot of information available to me back then and I was a busy mom with a full-time job. 

There are so many different styles of yoga - a wonderful, vibrant, sparkly buffet of movement, breath and rhythm, and there is a delicious, nourishing dish in this buffet for everyone. 

Over the years, many schools and styles of yoga evolved. Let me mention just a few styles, because chances are you’ll find elements of several of these styles in the yoga classes offered at the YMCA.  

  • Hatha Yoga
    You probably heard the words Hatha Yoga before. At the beginning, some people say 5000 years ago and some—10,000 years ago, all yoga was Hatha Yoga. Today, Hatha simply means the physical practice of yoga as exercise. Every time you practice yoga at the Y, you practice classical Hatha Yoga. 
  • Ashtanga Yoga
    K. Pattabhi Jois established Ashtanga Yoga, sometimes called Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, a very rigorous sequence of challenging poses, interspersed with vinyasas or sets of flowing movements, after each pose. 
  • Svaroopa Yoga
    Rama Berch developed Svaroopa Yoga, which focuses on spine opening via a series of gentle exercises using blankets and blocks. 
  • Iyengar Yoga
    B.K.S. Iyengar advanced Iyengar Yoga, known for its precise attention to detail and alignment in postures, and also the usage of straps and blocks. 
  • Yin Yoga
    Pauli Zink is the founder of Yin Yoga. In Yin yogis hold poses longer to let connective tissues stretch and to bring circulation to the joints. 
  • Restorative Yoga 
    Judith Hanson Lasater is the name behind Restorative Yoga. Restorative Yoga uses blankets, bolsters and other props, to help bring complete relaxation to the body, so the yogis can enter a state of the deepest relaxation, rest and healing. 

Most YMCA yoga instructors incorporate elements from several different yoga styles into their classes, as well as their own experiences, knowledge and heart. 

Some instructors will offer a breathing practice before the class and a savasana, a pose of complete relaxation, after the class. Savasana can help yogis enter a meditative state. 

New to Yoga? 

If you have never tried yoga before and are looking for a beginner yoga class, start with the gentlest kind, such as Chair Yoga or Gentle Yoga. 

During the class, stay attentive and notice how you feel and how your body responds. If your body responds with joy and you feel safe to move and express yourself, that’s a sign that it’s a good class for you and a good place to start.  

Little by little, over time, you will find your favorite movements, poses, rhythms and styles. Just keep following what already naturally appeals to you.