Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram… navigating between all the different types of yoga and choosing the one that’s right for you can be challenging. Mental and physical benefits will differ from one class to the next, and variations between teachers can be important as well. What yoga type will best fit your personality for maximal physical and spiritual wellness? Follow our guide.
Hatha yoga: best for beginners
‘Hatha’ is sometime translated as 'movement'. Technically any class teaching yoga postures could be described as Hatha. Generally, you’ll get an introduction to a set of different, and quite basic, postures. You will learn to align and hold them correctly for a certain amount of time. Hatha yoga tends to be relatively gentle and calming for the mind. Breathing techniques are also an important component.
These are ideal for people discovering yoga and needing feedback. “All yoga can significantly help with mental state, but if you are looking for something more static or calm, hatha, yin and restorative yoga classes are more towards that end of the spectrum,” London-based yoga instructor Adam Husler explains.
Hatha yoga can also be a good option if you are recovering from an injury or looking for something that will take into account your specific needs. “Hatha yoga can be good if you are in any kind of compromised position, in your mind and in your body. Classes can be more tailored to your needs and the teacher might spend more time working with you on your injury and the issues you may be encountering. It may even be a good idea to start with an individual Hatha class,” BWY Dip Yoga teacher Anna Semlyen says.
Vinyasa yoga: best for dynamic people
A popular yoga type which includes diverse physical postures, Vinyasa flow keeps people moving in a smooth manner, and breathing continuously. Great if you tend to get bored quickly and are looking for unique and original classes, as teachers usually show you different sequences of movements each time, so one class never resembles another.
“Vinyasa based yoga is, globally, a popular style of yoga, though each teacher, teaches it in a very different way, from alignment focused, strong, controlled, movements to dynamic classes, full of inversions and arm balances, with pop music playing,” says Husler. Vinyasa works well for dynamic people looking for a class that will leave them energized, and who want to improve their fitness level without pushing themselves too much, as each postures can be adapted to different levels of fitness.
Ashtanga yoga: best for fitness aficionados
Ashtanga is about memorising a sequence of postures that you practice with other students in the class. The sequence is usually challenging and done at a relatively high pace, with just 5 strong breaths per pose. This means that it usually better suits people with few health problems, and a quite high fitness level.
“The nature of these practices often attract more ‘yang’ personality types,” says Husler. In other words, people who tend to be more ambitious, extrovert and adventurous, and who are looking for dynamism and excitement in the class. To practice Ashtanga yoga, it’s probably better if you like a physical challenge. You may also be a little competitive.
“Because it’s about getting quite complicated postures right at a high paced rhythm, it might be more suited for people who do not mind pushing themselves, and who want to build on strength,” Semlyen says. The fact that Ashtanga is about repeating the same set sequence, wherever you go in the world or the teacher you have, may also be interesting for people who are looking for a physical routine with no surprise (albeit a challenging routine). “For some people, repetitiveness can actually calm their mind,” Semlyen adds.
Bikram yoga: best for the curious ones
Bikram yoga is similar to ashtanga yoga in the sense that it’s a physically challenging set sequence. But the main difference is the temperature of the room you are practicing in. A class usually lasts 90 minutes and is all done in a room heated at 35–42 °C with a humidity of about 40%. Obviously not for you if you cannot stand very hot temperatures.
People with similar personalities as those who enjoy Ashtanga Yoga will like this discipline, although the added difficulty of practising in the heat can be a bit overwhelming. “In Bikram, the heat, humidity and style of instruction adds significant physical and mental intensity,” says Husler. Bikram is perfect if you are looking for a physical workout, a really good stretch and a way to push your limits.
Those who like challenges and this exhilarating feeling of being high on endorphins will definitely be in for a treat. “Be aware though that with Bikram yoga there is a concern about overstretching in the heat. If you are not cautious, you can over do it,” Semlyen points out. If you don’t have any specific health problems and are curious to see all the different benefits you can get from yoga, there is nothing to prevent you from combining different styles.
Trying different classes and being open to different experiences may tell you what you like better than a thousand words about yoga types. “In the modern world, we are lucky enough to have access to lots of teachers in cities and online so I’d recommend all students do a mix of classes, so they are challenged and stimulated in a variety of ways, both mentally and physically” Husler concludes.
Writer: Léa Surugue