Today I’m sharing a post all about the different types of yoga. You’ll see a lot of these types of classes at your local yoga studio.
It can be overwhelming to want to sign up for a yoga class but have no idea what the different class types are. Sometimes it feels like there are a ton of different types of yoga that it can be tough to know which one is right for you. When I first started taking yoga classes it was sometimes hard to figure out which class would be right for me. I’m hoping that this post will help to deal with any confusion. I’ve listed the classes in order of most active to less active. I’m usually sweating in ashtanga classes within a few minutes, while a yoga nidra class doesn’t require any movement at all – it’s actually a meditation.
If you’re interested in checking out more of my yoga posts, you can check them all out on my yoga page.
If you’re looking for a yoga class that’s more of what people would think of when it comes to working out, then ashtanga is probably what you’re looking for. Every class will look exactly the same because the poses are all done in the same order, whether you’re in India, Europe, or North America. The practice begins with a warm up of 5 sun salutation A’s followed by 5 sun salutation B’s. It then flows into some standing poses, sitting poses, twists, and finishing poses. It’s more of a “tough” practice that requires just as much strength as flexibility. It doesn’t take long for me to start sweating, and by the time I’m mid way through class I’m covered in sweat.
Keeping the movements connected to the breath, or pranayama is very important in ashtanga. I’ve had my teachers tell me that it’s more important to stay with the breath than it is to get into the pose. Just like with a vinyasa class, each breath is connected to a movement. As you breath you move. One of the first ashtanga classes I took the teacher said that ashtanga was a moving meditation. Because each class is exactly the same, you start to memorize the order of the poses. If you’re an ashtanga regular regular you begin to go through the poses without even having to think about it.
Similar to ashtanga, vinyasa or flow classes are also focused on breath and movement. Poses and moving into poses are connected with the breath. Vinyasa classes generally don’t follow the exact same poses in each pose like ashtanga classes do. Teachers can create their own sequences of poses. Because there’s no set sequence one vinyasa class can look quite different from the next one. Some of my favorite classes have been vinyasa ones because of how creatively teachers have linked poses together. These are usually sweaty classes that are what people think of when wanting to get in a workout during a yoga class.
If you’re wanting to focus more on flexibility then a yin yoga class is what you’ll want. Yin classes are slower paced. In a typical 60 or 75 minute class you’ll only do ten or so poses. You’ll hold each pose for several minutes. This allows the stretch to get into the ligaments, tendons, and fascia of the body. Since the poses are held for longer you typically don’t go as deep into them. You have to pace yourself as you set yourself up for the pose. If you were going to hold it for only a breath or two you could go deeper. But since you’ll be there for minutes at a time it makes sense to pull back so that you can be in the pose for the full amount of time.
Unlike ashtanga and vinyasa classes that don’t use a lot of props, yin yoga is all about the props. Some props that you could use in a yin class include blankets, blocks, thin blocks, straps, and bolsters. Once you get into a yin pose you try not to move too much. It’s important to use as many props as you need to get into a place where you can be comfortable for the duration of the pose.
In contrast to ashtanga and vinyasa, I don’t sweat in yin classes. Because the focus is more on stretching than movement, that makes sense. If you’re looking for a slower paced class while holding poses for longer, then yin is the type of yoga class that you’ll want to take.
While I’ve found that all types of yoga have been helpful for me in dealing with stress, restorative is at the top of the list for me. Similar to yin, restorative yoga poses are held for longer periods of time. You can stay in each pose for up to 10 minutes. As a result there’s usually only a handful of poses done in an entire class. The poses are all very supported (seated or reclined). In addition there are lots of props used just like in a yin yoga class. It’s so important to be able to get as comfortable as possible and let your mind and body relax. I have a teacher who always asks us in her restorative classes if we could be 5% more comfortable.
Needless to say I never sweat in restorative classes. I usually keep my socks on. I’ll even sometimes have a hoodie on as well because there’s so little movement. I tend to get cold otherwise. Restorative classes tend to run on the longer side, usually 75 to 90 minutes. I love that because the first pose or two is usually an adjustment for me. It can be tough to transition from feeling like I have to get all the things done throughout the day to giving myself permission to slow right down.
I would classify yoga nidra as more of a meditation than a traditional yoga class. Nidra uses lots of props to get you into the most comfortable version of savasana or resting pose as possible for you. That usually involves blankets under or on top of you, a thin block under the back of your head, and a bolster or two under your knees and ankles. Each time I take a yoga nidra class my prop set up is a bit different depending on how my body is feeling. You end up staying in savasana for the entire time. It’s important to make sure that you’re as comfortable as you can be.
The class is spent listening to the teacher take you through a meditation. I have to admit that the first few times I did a yoga nidra class was really tough for me. I was fidgety and it felt like the class would never end. It was so completely different from any yoga class that I had taken before. However it’s now one of my favorite classes. It’s such a treat for me to be able to take time out of my day to relax and spend some time solely focused on myself.
If you’re unsure about taking a yoga nidra class in a studio, try out a nidra recording at home. There are lots available on the Insight Timer app. While nidra classes in a studio are generally 75 minutes, you can find them on Insight Timer for much shorter (20 minutes).
What’s your favorite type of yoga? Share it in the comments below.