Just started to discover the wide world of yoga? Or do you have some experience, but the urge to broaden your horizon? Here’s a list of a few yoga styles and the differences between them to give you an idea what’s out there.
Hatha yoga – this is the classical yoga practice as developed in ancient India. A hatha class usually includes breathing exercises and meditation along with physical practice. The physical practice is characterized by longer holds of the asanas (poses), and relaxations in between.
Ashtanga yoga – a very intensive practice in a fixed sequence of poses, using strong breath and continuous locks of the bandhas (e.g. engaging the abdominal muscles).
Vinyasa yoga – similar to ashtanga, vinyasa yoga is a dynamic and active style. In a vinyasa sequence, you are moving in a continuous flow using a strong breath. The difference is that vinyasa classes are often characterized by more variation and creativitiy in the practice.
Yin yoga – a very gentle style using relaxation of the muscles and very long holds (at least 3-5 minutes) to make the fascia more flexible. Beware: relaxing the muscles does not always mean it is comfortable! Yin yoga can actually be quite intense. The art is to practice the skill of noticing and observing what happens in your body, breath and mind. Therefore, yin yoga also helps to cultivate qualities such as stillness and softness at a deeper mental and emotional level.
Yin-yang yoga – my personal favourite, combining the best of both worlds! In a yin-yang yoga class, we alternate between the gentle, soft energy of yin and the powerful, dynamic energy of yang. You learn to tune the practice to your own needs, finding balance over time. I am teaching yin-yang yoga each Sunday morning at YogaZenter in Amsterdam – feel free to join some time!
This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of the most common yoga styles that many studios offer. Many other styles are variations of those – as all yoga teachers develop their own style, new forms of yoga are created all the time. To choose a style that suits you best, try different classes with different teachers. Each class, even in the same style, will be different!