A beginners guide to yoga styles

I took the plunge and finally sent off my application form to begin my journey in training to become a yoga teacher.  I am sooo excited about this but very nervous as well.  It has brought up a tonne of self doubt in my own practise and whether the sound of my voice will make people run away in horror! I am putting this to the back of my mind though and embracing the positivity of just going for it.

This post is my first post in a series of yoga learning/teaching that will hopefully become a regular feature on this blog.  So let the good times roll.

I am delighted to say that very recently my housemates have become interested in exploring yoga and going to classes.  I think Classpass has been great for getting people involved in a larger variety of group classes and has allowed people to try things they may not have done before.  So for that reason I love it.

One of the questions I found myself answering was ‘what is Hatha’, ‘What does Vinyasa mean’ ‘is hot yoga and bikram the same’? So I decided to write this little post and try and explain the different forms of yoga!


Ashtanga offers a series of poses, each held for only five breaths and punctuated by a half sun salutation to keep up the pace. The connection and synchronizing of the breath in the series is very important and creates intense internal heat and sweating that detoxifies muscles and organs. It is an athletic and vigorous style of yoga.


Iyengar and ashtanga yoga come from the same lineage – the teachers who developed these styles (BKS Iyengar and the late Pattabhi Jois) were both taught by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Many of the asanas (postures) are the same, but the approach is different. Iyengar yoga is great for learning correct alignment. Props – belts, blocks and pillow-like bolsters – help beginners get into poses with correct alignment, even when they’re new to them, injured or simply stiff. The poses are also held longer than in other styles of yoga – helping you to truly understand the correct alignment and positioning of each asana.


Teachers lead classes that flow from one pose to the next without stopping to talk about the finer points of each pose. That way, students come away with a good workout as well as a yoga experience. Vinyasa flow is really an umbrella term for many other styles. Some studios call it flow yoga, flow-style yoga, dynamic yoga or vinyasa flow. It is influenced by ashtanga yoga.

Bikram Bikram yoga is the favourite of anyone who loves to sweat. It was created by Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. He designed a sequence of 26 yoga poses to stretch and strengthen the muscles as well as compress and “rinse” the organs of the body. The poses are done in a heated room to facilitate the release of toxins. Every bikram class you go to, anywhere in the world, follows the same sequence of 26 poses – if it doesn’t follow the 26 poses that should be executed in 90 minutes then it cannot call itself Bikram (Yup its copyrighted).  In addition, the only place to train as a Bikram instructor is in LA with Choudhury himself………..Dont confused hot yoga for Bikram.  If your class does not follow the 26 poses and last for 90 minutes you are at a ‘hot yoga’ class rather than a Bikram class. In recent times Bikram has got alot of celeb attention – even Andy Murray claimed it helped him to victory at Wimbledon.


Hatha yoga really just means the physical practice of yoga (asanas as opposed to, say, chanting). Hatha yoga now commonly refers to a class that is not so flowing and bypasses the various traditions of yoga to focus on the asanas that are common to all. It is often a gentle yoga class.  The poses are usually held, rather than flowing in and out of postures (as the more Dynamic classes tend to do). Hatha Yoga moves at a slow pace, allowing time to experience each posture.

Forest yoga

Forrest Yoga seamlessly blends techniques, philosophies and movements from a number of different types of yoga including Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa and Sivananda.  Created by Ana Forrest, Forrest Yoga embodies traditional concepts but utilises them for modern bodies and minds. For example, specially designed wrist stretches have been added in order to combat carpal tunnel syndrome, whilst shoulder exercises were also created to help deal with modern ailments of tight upper backs and neck tension.

Intense pose sequences help you develop the skills to awaken each of your senses, while long holds help you go deeper into the poses. Forrest Yoga is also a form of semi-hot yoga, taking place in studios heated to 85ºF, to aid the body in releasing toxins.

Yin yoga

Yin yoga comes from the Taoist tradition and focuses on passive, seated postures that target the connective tissues in the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Poses are held for anywhere between one and 10 minutes. The aim is to increase flexibility and encourage a feeling of release and letting go. It is a wonderful way to learn the basics of meditation and stilling the mind. As such, it is ideal for athletic types who need to release tension in overworked joints, and it is also good for those who need to relax.

Jivamukti yoga

Founded in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti means “liberation while living”. This is a vinyasa-style practice with themed classes, often including chanting, music and scripture readings. Jivamukti teachers encourage students to apply yogic philosophy to their daily life.

So there you have it!! A crash course in the differernt styles of yoga so grab a mat and jump into your downward facing dog!


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