Understanding Different Types of Yoga Practices 

Maybe you’ve noticed your body feels a little stiff when you get out of bed each morning. Going up several flights of stairs might bring a twinge in one of your knees. Or perhaps you’re just not as flexible as you used to be – something your back is painfully aware of when you reach down quickly to pick up something off the floor. These are all situations where a form of regular stretching and exercise like yoga can help restore some flexibility to your daily movements. Most people have heard about the benefits of yoga, but they might not understand the different types of yoga practices. 

If you’ve never unrolled a yoga mat before, don’t be intimidated. Yoga is a centuries-old practice of stretching and moving your body through a series of poses. It can be done slowly or as a fast, almost cardio-like exercise. It’s designed to make you very aware of your body, your breathing and even your thoughts. In that way, it’s a physical form of meditation. This mental exercise is a side benefit, allowing you to try to clear your mind and relax your body. 

The health benefits of yoga have been studied for decades. They include mental and physical perks, according to Harvard Medical School. Practicing yoga can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels – all of which help keep the heart healthier. Doing this exercise just a few times a week can improve muscle strength, balance and flexibility. It also puts you more in tune with your body, which can lead to more mindful eating.  

Because there are several different types of yoga, it’s important to find one or two that you enjoy and will look forward to making part of your exercise routine. 

Hatha Yoga. A classic style, Hatha is more of an umbrella term used for a yoga practice that puts the focus on the basics: proper physical postures, breathwork, and the mind-body-spirit connection. In a typical Hatha-type class, you will hold each pose for a few breaths as you move through a whole series of poses. The end game with this style is achieving flexibility, greater strength and a deeper feeling of relaxation. 

Hot Yoga. This one is all about the heat. Temperatures are often kept above 100 degrees in a hot yoga room, allowing participants to really work up a sweat as they move through specific poses. If you like heat and want your yoga to come with a higher calorie burn, this one might be for you. 

Vinyasa Yoga. Flowing movements, linked closely with breathwork, that allow participants to move fluidly from one pose into another are the hallmarks of this type of yoga. Vinyasa is considered a more active – even choreographed – form of the exercise.  

Iyengar Yoga. This type of yoga is not about the flow of movement. It’s about striking the proper pose and being able to hold it. It’s considered good for beginners as it puts an emphasis on good body positioning and technique. Some instructors will encourage participants to use pads, rolled blankets or straps in order to achieve better positions. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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