Practicing yoga, or trying out a new yoga studio for the first time, can feel intimidating. The class schedule lists a bunch of different yoga styles, but which one is right for you? Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram, Yin? What does it all mean?
Today, there are so many different styles of yoga available; those steeped in tradition from Ancient India, and those developed more recently by the West. Each style offers something unique, with a different set of health benefits. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular styles of yoga offered by studios, to help determine which ones are right for you.
Hatha Yoga is often described as gentle, basic yoga with no flow between poses. It’s slower-paced than some other yoga styles and its main purpose is to introduce beginners to basic asana (poses) and relaxation techniques, along with the correct alignment for a safe and sustainable yoga practice. While it’s great for beginners, Hatha Yoga should not be mistaken as easy yoga. It can still be challenging, both physically and mentally, for intermediate and advanced yogis too. Expect a well-rounded class focused on the entire body, with stretching, floor exercises, sun salutations, warrior sequences, backbends, relaxation/meditation, and modifications along the way to suit all levels of experience.
Think of Hatha Yoga as the trunk of a tree, from which all other branches of yoga stem from. Perhaps the closest branch to the trunk would be Vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa is a style of yoga that synchronizes movement with breath. Vinyasa may also be referred to as a Flow, for example “Vinyasa Flow,” “Hatha Flow,” or “Fluid Flow,” because of the smooth way the poses run together and become like a dance. The word “Vinyasa” can be translated as “arranging something in a special way,” such as yoga poses. Expect a fast-paced class where you move from one pose to the next with each inhale and exhale. Ashtanga, Baptiste Yoga, Power Yoga and Prana Flow can all be considered forms of Vinyasa Yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga literally translates into “eight-limbed yoga” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. It is an ancient style of yoga that includes many different groupings of asanas (poses), as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, mudras, bandhas, ujjayi breath and philosophy. Ashtanga Yoga, with its many vinyasas, is great for building core strength and toning the body. Classes typically begin with an invocation to Patanjali chanted in Sakskrit (usually by the teacher). From there, expect a dynamic and physically demanding class that synchronizes breath and movement to produce an internal heat designed to purify the body.
Bikram is a style of yoga that has swept the Western world by storm and is very popular. There are yoga studios completely dedicated to just teaching Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga is a type of Hatha Yoga characterized by a series of 26 postures and breathing exercises performed in a heated room (40oC / 104o F with a humidity of 40%). These 26 postures, practiced twice in a class, are designed to work every part of the body to give all the internal organs, veins, ligaments and muscles everything they need to maintain optimal health and function. Because of its set format, you’ll learn what to expect in each class after going a few times. Be prepared for a physically and mentally challenging class, and lots of sweating.
Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with poses (asanas) that are held for long periods of time – usually 3-5 minutes. Yin Yoga was founded by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher, Paulie Zink. Its teachings first came to the western world in the late 1970’s.
Yin Yoga focuses on applying moderate pressure to the connective tissue in the body – the tendons, fascia and ligaments – with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. It applies a more meditative approach to yoga, cultivating awareness of inner silence and a deeper connection to the body. Yin yoga is not intended as a complete yoga practice in itself but rather a compliment to more active forms of yoga and exercise. Expect a slower paced class comprising of about 5-10 yoga poses in a 1-hour class. Each pose is usually done down on your mat and held for a prolonged period of time, with a focus on connecting with the breath and allowing the muscles involved to slowly lengthen.
At times, Ying Yoga can feel physically and mentally challenging, and even emotional. Our bodies are not used to sitting in stillness and holding deep stretches. In this sense, Yin Yoga is an excellent training ground for mental endurance, which will serve you in other parts of your yoga practice.
So now you know a few of the different yoga styles on offer and what to expect from each class. We encourage you to try them out and find the ones that speak to you. Try something different this week at Yoga City:
Yoga City Mississauga
Hatha Yoga, Sunday (10:00am-11:00am)
Straight Up Vinyasa, Monday (9:30am-10:30am)
Vinyasa Flow, Monday (5:45pm-6:45pm)
Hatha Yoga, Wednesday (5:30pm-6:30pm)
Ashtanga Inspired Yoga, Thursday (7:00pm-8:00pm)
Stretch It Out, Thursday (8:15pm-9:15pm)
Hatha Yoga, Friday (5:45pm-6:45pm)
Yoga City Ancaster
Hatha Yoga, Sunday (9:30-10:30am) ~ HOT
Vinyasa Power Flow, Monday (8:30pm-9:30pm) ~ HOT
Straight Up Vinyasa, Tuesday (10:30am-11:30am) ~ HOT
Intro to Ashtanga, Tuesday (6:00pm-7:00pm)
Stretch It Out, Tuesday (8:30pm-9:30pm) ~ HOT
Gentle Hatha, Thursday (8:15pm-9:15pm)
Vinyasa Power Flow, Thursday (8:30pm-9:30pm) ~ HOT
Vinyasa Flow, Friday (9:30am-10:30am)
Debbie is a Yoga Instructor at Yoga City, Mississauga. She has been practicing yoga since 2008 and completed her 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training in 2016 with Yoga City. Debbie has a professional background in writing and digital marketing, with a passion for Health, Wellbeing and Personal Growth. She is thrilled to be able to combine both as the Editor of the Yoga City blog. You can follow Debbie on Instagram @yoga.bee