Hatha and Vinyasa and Iyengar, oh my! How to choose the yoga practice that’s right for you

Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one who doesn’t speak Sanskrit, but we’ve got you. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you navigate the different types of yoga practices.

With so many people clad in colorful yoga pants and your friends on Facebook raving about their newest yoga instructor, you begin to wonder what all the hype is about? Can doing yoga really make you a happier, healthier person?

Health benefits

Yoga is so popular because it has been proven to have both physical and mental health benefits. According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga increases flexibility, muscle strength, improves respiration and helps maintain a balanced metabolism. It also decreases stress and chronic pain and relaxes the mind. So what’s the story behind this alleged game-changer?

A brief history

Yoga is so much more than mastering body positions. It has a rich, complex history, and many historians debate over the exact origin. The earliest mention of the word ‘yoga’ can be traced back to the Vedas, which are the oldest writings of Hinduism, dating back to 1500 BC. By 5th century AD, yoga was practiced by Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus as a spiritual practice used as a means of attaining enlightenment. It is only recently that yoga has been adopted by the Westerners for its physical health benefits.

The practice of yoga has lasted for thousands of years and spread across many cultures. It is great for beginners because you hardly need any equipment and yoga can be modified for all physical ability levels.

Are you curious about trying yoga? There are multiple types of yoga, so depending on what you want to take away from yoga or your workout, preferences dictate the type of yoga you practice.

Here are a few of the most common types.


Hatha is a gentle form of yoga. The classes are usually slow moving and require you to hold each pose for a few breaths.

Hatha is best for beginners or those looking for a more mellow practice.


In most Vinyasa classes, you will flow from pose to pose gracefully. The pace can be quick, so be prepared for your heart to start pumping. Music is often played to match the pace of session. Classes are usually fun and lively.

Vinyasa is best for people who want an upbeat fast workout.


Iyengar yoga is known as the practice of precision. The detail and proper body alignment are very important here. Unlike in Vinyasa, each posture is held for a period of time.

Iyengar is best for detail-oriented people and people looking to cultivate strength and stability.

Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is practiced in a heated room. Classes are usually pretty intense and intended to make you sweat. The heat allows you to move deeper into some poses compared to a non-heated class. It can be easy to overstretch, so be careful to not overdo it.

Hot Yoga is best for people who love to leave a workout drenched in sweat feeling like they accomplished a great deal and people who are comfortable in very hot environments.


Known as the “yoga of awareness” Kundalini is both physically and mentally challenging. Different from your typical yoga class. Kundalini usually involves chanting, singing and meditating.

Kundalini is best for people looking for a spiritual practice. Its emphasis is on the internal aspects of yoga, including breath work, meditation, and spiritual energy.


Usually only involving five or six poses held for long amounts of time, restorative yoga allows your body to relax into each pose. Props such as blankets and yoga blocks are often used to make you even more comfortable.

Restorative yoga is best for people who are looking to relax and feel at peace with their body.

While it can be intimidating to navigate the different types of yoga starting out, the only way to find what works for you is trying them out. Do your research as many yoga studios offer a deal for new students, like CorePower, YogaWorks, and Lululemon. There are probably local yoga studios in your area that offer free classes that you can find through a simple google search. Or if you’d rather practice in the comfort of your home, try online resources like doyogawithme.com.

Whatever reason you have to practice yoga, or you start to practice yoga, knowing a little more about its history and ancient spiritual origins can help you take even more away from it than you previously thought.

Originally published at uqora.com.