Beyond the Mat: Yoga Styles and Their Benefits
There are more than 100 different types, or schools, of yoga, each with their own unique style and benefits. An ancient practice, yoga has become a global sensation and can be found in practically every city and state in the country. If you’re new to yoga, finding the right style can be tricky. There’s hot yoga, restorative yoga, prenatal yoga and even goat yoga! Luckily, most yoga styles share similar benefits that can do wonders for your overall health.
Here are just some of the physical and mental benefits of yoga!
- Helps you sleep better
- Increases your flexibility
- Helps manage stress
- Increases muscle strength and flexibility
- Relaxes the mind
Now that you know all the many benefits of yoga, you may be wondering what style is right for you. Here are some of the most popular yoga styles that can both your body and mind can benefit from.
For beginners: Hatha
Hatha yoga is the umbrella term for all types of yoga practiced in the West, so if you’re new to the practice, this is where to start. Most yoga studios offer beginner classes that teach the basics of Hatha, like the practice of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Hatha yoga classes, which usually last 45 to 90 minutes, focus on the alignment of the body and mind, as well as simple meditation.
Benefits: Relieves stress, relaxes the mind
For staying present: Vinyasa
If you’re worried that yoga might be too boring for you, Vinyasa yoga is the answer. Also known as flow yoga, Vinyasa focuses on seamlessly moving from one posture to another and matching your breath to each movement. No two classes are ever alike, so this style of yoga is perfect for those who find their mind wandering or nodding off on the mat.
Benefits: Increases flexibility, improves mental focus, burns calories
For those who want a challenge: Ashtanga
Similar to the intensity of Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga yoga replaces Vinyasa’s free flow with rigorous structure. All Ashtanga classes follow the same series of movements linking each movement to a breath. The ultimate goal of Ashtanga is the purification of the body and mind, which you will achieve in part by a lot of sweating! Beware, this physically demanding class is not recommended for beginners. An offshoot of Ashtanga yoga is known as power yoga.
Benefits: Improves circulation, tones muscles, relieves stress
For strengthening your core: Iyengar
Developed by B. K. S. Iyengar, considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, Iyengar Yoga focuses on strength, flexibility, and stability. In this style of yoga, poses are held for long periods and often modified with the use of props. With each yoga pose, Iyengar Yoga emphasizes correct alignment of all parts of the body.
Benefits: Strengthens muscles, improves posture
For those who want to sweat: Bikram
With room temperatures set at a sweltering 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Bikram yoga is not for the faint of heart. Developed by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s, this yoga style follows a sequence of 26 postures over 90 minutes. On the other hand, hot yoga refers to any style of yoga practiced in a heated room. Classes tend to be shorter and rooms are usually not heated as much as traditional Bikram, so if you’re looking for an introduction, start with hot yoga.
Benefits: Muscle relaxation, improves circulation, improves balance
For trendsetters: Goat yoga
Started on a farm in Albany, Oregon by Lainey Morse, goat yoga has grown into one of the hottest fitness trends in the U.S., with a 1,000-plus waitlist for the original class. As the name suggests, goat yoga combines baby goats with yoga for a class that’s as fun and unexpected as you would imagine. Luckily, you don’t have to travel to Oregon to experience this truly unique style of yoga – its popularity has spawned countless offshoots in cities across the country.
Benefits: Relieves stress, have fun