The Top 13 Western Yoga Styles: A Beginner’s Guide…

The Top 13 Western Yoga Styles: A Beginner’s Guide

The Top 13 Western Yoga Styles

“The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind.” – Rodney Yee 


When starting out in the big exciting world of yoga it can often be confusing as to which yoga styles to try. Whether you are a beginner looking to find the perfect fit, or an advanced practitioner looking to try something new, this list will help you determine which styles may fit your needs.


1. Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga in its original form is usually slower and gentler then the mainstream offshoots.

A great style for relaxation, breathing, physical stretching, and mindfulness. Students usually say it improves overall health, and gives relief to soreness and high blood pressure. Generally a great style to start out with, especially if you are still recovering from an injury and want to improve flexibility.


2. Viniyoga

Viniyoga was created by Krishnamacharya (whose students included Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar) and continued by his son, T.K.V. Desikachar (although he later distanced himself from the term).

A viniyoga class typically includes postures, alignment, breath-work, chanting and meditation according to the students’ particular style and needs. This style is extremely accommodating and it’s teachers are typically experts in anatomy, which makes it an ideal choice for anyone with physical issues such as injury, sickness, or age.


3. Power Yoga

Power Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga are typically just terms used for any type of vigorous, fitness based yoga practice. Usually it is taken in parts from Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga and made more accessible for the average yogi.

The flow, or “sequence”, will vary depending on the knowledge level of the instructor, but it will almost always be an intense workout. It was developed mainly as Westernized physical approach to yoga.

It’s not recommended for those just starting out unless they are physically fit and flexible. May or may not be heated, depending on the studio.


4. Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is a type of yoga created by Bikram Choudhury with it’s roots in the Hatha Yoga style. All classes are held  in 105°F heat and 40% humidity, and on average run for about 90 minutes a class.

Unlike many other styles of yoga, Bikram Yoga classes consist of the same 26 posture flow, and are only taught by Bikram Yoga certified teachers.

It is incredibly good for detoxing the organs and skin, and also greatly improve flexibility and overall fitness. Some say that it is a good choice for beginners; however I wouldn’t recommend it due to the intense heat.

Definitely not a style to miss once you have tried a few other classes and are ready for the challenge!


5. Kripalu Yoga

Kripalu is a type of Hatha Yoga that promotes concentration, meditation, yoga postures, energetic pulsations, alignment, and breath-work.

They try to develop your inner harmony and help you to practice mindfulness and expand that out into your daily life. A great choice if you are looking for something to help you manage stress and conscious relaxation through yoga.


6. Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga is a slower paced style with poses held for longer periods of time.

Originating from Taoist tradition, it is a great style to learn the basics of yoga and meditation. A regular style used by injured athletes, a typical class will consist of seated postures to help improve flexibility and strength in joints. A great style for those with knee problems.


7. Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga was developed with expectant mothers in mind.

Recommended by the AMA as one of the best types of exercises for pregnant women, it focuses on overall flexibility and breath-work. It also includes different pose modifications according to your trimester. Lastly it is an amazing way to meet other moms-to-be and create friendships, and learn first hand experience of the miracle of childbirth.


8. Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga was created and named after one of the world’s most renowned yoga teachers, B. K. S. Iyengar.  

It is a type of Hatha Yoga that focuses on breath-work, positioning for perfect posture, increasing strength, flexibility, and balance.

Many classes include the use alignment tools such as straps, blocks, harnesses and cushions. Recommended highly for physical therapy.


9. Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga was designed to open your Root Chakra to awaken energy in the spine. A more spiritual type of yoga, classes typically including meditation, breath-work, chanting, postures, and mudras.

With a lot of focus going into core strengthening, the physical practice itself can be pretty intense. Great type of yoga for those looking for a physically, mentally, and spiritually challenging style.


10. Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois and is a more modern form of classic Indian yoga.

I would venture to say that Ashtanga Yoga is the most physically demanding of all the yoga styles and is often recommended for athletes or those looking to push their bodies to the limit.

One of the most popular styles, it typically inspires strong loyalty in its practitioners. Not recommended for those just starting out on the yoga journey.


11. Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga is the most popular type of yoga in the US and possibly the world. Vinyasa Yoga is highly influenced by Ashtanga Yoga, and typically includes a lot of movement, flowing between poses, and a lot of sun salutations.

The class will vary entirely according to the studio and teacher, which makes it great for keeping things fresh and unpredictable.

Keep in mind that if you don’t like one class, try a few others. You may have had an inexperienced instructor.

If you are newer to yoga, it’s good to try a gentle vinyasa class to start, since the normal vinyasa yoga class can be an intense workout.


12. Restorative Yoga 

Restorative Yoga is great for healing the body and mind through posture. Often poses are held for up to 20 minutes at a time increasing the depth of the stretch rather then the quickness of motion.

Excellent for relaxing after a long day at work, or before a meditation practice. Often during class, the lights will be dimmed. Great for beginners or those just looking to wind down.


13. Jivamukti Yoga

Created in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon in NYC, Jivamukti Yoga is a vinyasa style yoga with influences of kirtan, music, and spiritual readings.

A great combo of physical, spiritual, and social activism, they highly promote vegetarianism, animal rights, and environmentalism. Great if you are looking for a way of life and great community.


 What is your flavor of yoga? 


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Matt Caron

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Matt is the content manager of the Sivana blog, an enthusiastic Yoga teacher, and life voyager. He strives to inspire…

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