Molly is a Content Creator at Dedico. After discovering yoga 5 years ago, Molly has loved trying out many different classes, teachers and styles.
Which Style of Yoga is Right for Me?
Forget all your preconceptions about yoga practice. You don't necessarily have to be spiritual, or flexible or own lycra leggings. Hailed for improving mental health, physical well-being and the mind-body connection, yoga is beneficial for everyone. Saying this, however, different branches practice varying philosophies, approaches and methods; some are inevitably more suited to you than others. Originating from ancient Hindu tradition, yoga in the Western world has surged in popularity since the 1970’s and continues to grow and evolve. Centred around ‘Hatha’ practice – which focuses on asana (postures)- there are many different styles of yoga. Finding the right yoga style for you can be bewildering. Embarrassed to admit ignorance, taking up any new activity is difficult; you often feel alone in the dark (believe me, everyone's been there). If you can grasp the basic concepts, principles and practices of the most popular yoga styles, however, you will soon discover your yoga flow!
- Static Postures
- Basic Pranayama
Our teacher Satvika, founder of Ashram Ibiza, specializes in Hatha yoga and provided her insight into the practice. Satvika offers an Emotional Cleansing Meditational retreat and a Yoga & Meditation retreat on Dedico.
Through the practice of Hatha yoga, the individual balances the mind, body and chakras (seven centres of spiritual power) through specifically chosen asanas (physical postures) and pranayama (controlled, meditative breathing). The practice stimulates kundalini (a term deriving from Hindu scripture referring to a divine energy located at the base of the spine), promotes spiritual wellbeing and physical health.
Hatha yoga is commonly used as a generic term to describe any style of physical yoga (nearly all Western practices are Hatha). Hatha yoga classes are particularly great for beginners as they are gentle and quite slow-paced, teaching the foundation asanas and meditative breathing. Expect to feel looser, longer and centred after classes.
Although beginners often find Hatha useful as a solid introduction to yoga, Hatha yoga classes are beneficial for everyone; all ages and abilities. Teachers will encourage you to deepen, develop and evolve your practice, using fundamental concepts of asana and pranayama to energize the body, awaken the spirit and rejuvenate the mind.
- Passive Postures
Emerging from the Taoist concepts of Yin and Yang, Yin yoga is slow, restorative and healing, balancing out physical exertions from Yang (energetic, heat-generating) activity. The passive stretches sink deep into your muscle tissues, targeting joints, ligaments and bones and softening any tension held there. Postures are held for long periods in meditative silence.
Each Yin asana stimulates different meridians (energy channels) in the body. Common Yin yoga asanas include Anahatasana (otherwise known as the melting heart pose- energizing the heart, lung and stomach), Happy Baby (stimulating the kidney and liver meridians) and Reclining Twist (massaging the internal organs). Slow, passive postures reach subtle points and energy lines in the body, which would otherwise be missed by more active, muscular activity.
Yin yoga is beneficial for everyone, particularly those experiencing lower back or hip pain and who struggle with a weak pelvic floor.
Also ideal for people who maintain their fitness with Yang exercise, Yin yoga balances the body. As life requires balance, varying your yoga practice between Yang styles (active, muscular forms such as Vinyasa and Ashtanga) and Yin is very rewarding.
Balance Yin with Yang on one of our combined courses; Windsurf and Yoga, Rock Climbing and Outdoor Yoga, Latin Dance and Yoga Villa or Surf and Yoga.
To go deeper in your Yin practice, and to share your passion with others, get yourself on one of our Yin Yoga courses:
- Connect movement with breath
- Dynamic, fluid motion
- Creative sequences
An ancient yoga form rooted in the teachings of Sri Krishnamacharya (often referred to as ‘the father of modern yoga’), Vinyasa is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to place in a special way’. Liz mentioned that this concept, of awareness and decision, can be applied to all aspects of life. In this way, Vinyasa encompasses a philosophy that transcends our practice on the mat.
Whilst many styles of yoga use asana, there are particular features of an asana class that are uniquely Vinyasa. Perhaps most significant is the emphasis on connecting breath with movement. Almost dance-like, your body flows and moves on inhale and exhale breaths. This means that the transitions, or journeys, between postures are just as important as the destination. Each embodied movement is an opportunity to tune in and move intentionally in a fluid way, hence Vinyasa often going under the alias ‘Vinyasa Flow’ or simply ‘Yoga Flow’.
‘Connecting vinyasas’ are the linking mini-sequences that mark the beginning and/or end of each krama (chapter or sequence). The ‘connecting vinyasas’ create flow between both sides of the body: for one sequence, you might focus on the left side of the body, then you repeat the sequence on the right side with a ‘connecting vinyasa’ in between. Just like in Jazz, there is lots of scope for creativity. Teachers mix up asanas to create fresh sequences, meaning that no two classes are the same - great for people who thrive on new routines.
Dynamic and physically challenging, expect to sweat in a Vinyasa class. It is a great addition to any work-out schedule and will benefit anyone looking to tone and strengthen their bodies (although don’t expect to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger after one session). Aside from its physical advantages, Vinyasa is, like all yoga, great for your mind. Focusing on connecting the breath to your movement, expect to feel energized, calm and balanced.
If you are looking for a gentle style, don’t be put off by Vinyasa. As mentioned before, classes really vary depending on the teacher and their energy. Our teacher Liz emphasised that Vinyasa is good for anyone: if you can breathe and move one finger, you can do it. Life pulses and Vinyasa taps into the pulse.
- High energy
- Set sequences
- Emphasis on Pranayama and meditative state
A Vinyasa-style practice, Ashtanga yoga was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois in the 1950’s. Essentially, Ashtanga can be defined by the combination of a six-asana sequence with pranayama (deep, controlled breathing techniques). By following a set progression throughout the practice, you focus your attention less on movement and more on your breath and meditative state. Just like in Vinyasa yoga, you flow through movements, linking one posture to the next with an inhale or exhale. Every pose is deployed, held and closed in a precise way. One point of divergence from Vinyasa yoga, however, is the speed of the flow. While Vinyasa yoga is usually slower, and asanas are held for longer, Ashtanga yoga is fast paced, intense and high energy.
Every asana connects to a particular drishti, a direction of sight, to focus the gaze. Ashtanga places emphasis on drishti to deepen dharana (concentration) and pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses). External stimuli is replaced by internal reflection, bringing you closer to yoga’s goal of Samadhi (being at one with your human and cosmic consciousness).
If you are looking for a yoga that combines physical and spiritual elements, Ashtanga is ideal. Most Ashtanga classes are more suitable for experienced yogis due to its fast-paced sequences, however it is not unusual for teachers to offer beginner Ashtanga yoga.
- Deep relaxation
- Yogic sleep
- Guided Meditation
During a Yoga Nidra practice, the practitioner is guided into a deep state of relaxation. Turning their focus inwards, the individual takes control of their body's relaxation responses and brings their awareness to the subtle inner body. Techniques of the 'body scan' (in which the individual focuses their attention on different areas of the body, relaxing each part) and awareness of breath, slow the nervous system and reduce stress.
The goal is to reach samadhi; a meditative state in which the individual is at one with themselves.
- Precise movement and posture
- Asana held for long periods
- Systematic practice
Developed by Bellur Iyengar, the man credited for bringing yoga to the West, this particular style privileges detailed, accurate movement over quantity and pace. Asanas are held for a long time, encouraging stability and awareness of posture, and great attention is given to pranayama.
Unlike more experimental and dynamic styles such as Vinyasa, Iyengar yoga is precise, measured and systematically created. Iyengar formulated a step-by-step practice which includes over 200 yoga postures and 14 types ofpranayama ranging from basic to advanced level. Students progress gradually through the steps, exploring and developing their mind, body and spirit. As well as this methodical approach to yoga practice, Iyengar pioneered the use of props, using blocks, belts and blankets to support asanas and ensure correct alignment.
The structured steps of Iyengar yoga means that it is accessible for everyone, regardless of their limitations or challenges. By following the successive stages, everyone can progress and develop their practice.
- Combines meditations, mantras, pranayama
- Spiritual practice
- Use of Kriya
An uplifting and energizing combination of spiritual and physical practices, Kundalini yoga involves asanas, meditation, mantra chants and pranayama.
In Sanskrit, Kundalini means ‘coiled snake’. Early Hindu philosophy inscribed the belief that divine energy was located at the base of the spine. Kundalini yoga releases this suppressed snake and unites us with an internal divine energy. Practiced for hundred of years in India, Kundalini yoga became popular in the west during the 1970’s and remains today one of the most widely practiced yoga styles.
Each class typically begins with an opening chant and warm up asana sequences before Kriya (a series of movements and breathing that have a specific effect). There are particular Kriyas, for example, that target the heart, stimulate the pituitary gland, boost intuition (through the naval chakra) and enforce the nervous system.
Kundalini practitioners believe that Kriya breaks down the blockages in our bodies where our energy is stuck. Releasing these obstructions, our energy is pulled from the base of the spine and up, out of the crown of your head. Moving freely through the seven chakras, our kundalini energy creates balance, wellbeing and peace.
Kundalini yoga classes are very powerful, and it is not unusual to experience overwhelming emotion following practice. Very fulfilling for those seeking more spirituality in their yoga, Kundalini classes are most effective when approached with an open mind and a willingness to engage fully in the practice.
- Set sequences of 26 postures
- Hot and humid room
Founded by Bikram Choudhur in the early 1970’s, Bikram yoga is practiced in a hot and humid room. Distinct from other yoga styles, Bikram is characterised by precision and structure: all Bikram yoga teachers are educated and certified at a Bikram Choudhur center and the yoga room is heated up to a sweltering 105 degrees with 40% humidity.
The hot and humid environment is believed to help soften the muscles, deepen stretches, prevent injury, flush out toxins, increase circulation and promote weight loss.
Bikram yoga classes work through a sequence of 26 postures, which include Garuḍāsana (or Eagle Pose, opening up the 14 largest joints in the body), Standing Bow (firming the abdominal wall) and Camel Pose (improving flexibility of the spine and neck).
If you prefer routine and structure over experimentation and variety, Bikram yoga might be the style for you!
- Combines acrobatics with yoga asanas
- Great for building trust and connection
- Experimental style: push your your practice
Liberating, fun and dynamic, Acroyoga is a great practice for learning about connection, union and trust. Combing acrobatics with yoga, and practiced in pairs or groups, Acroyoga is more vigorous than other yoga practices and can be more physically challenging. This means that it is great for building up strength, flexibility and awareness of the body.
Elements such as Therapeutic Flying, in which the ‘flyer’ is supported by a ‘base’ person, are beneficial for relaxation and release of bodily tension. The ‘flyer’ entirely relaxes the body and is supported by the ‘base’ through various stretches and postures This requires a strong bond of trust between the pair, which is built up gradually through practice.
Due to its physicality, Acroyoga is not suitable for complete yoga beginners. It does provide, however, more experienced yogis the opportunity to experiment with their practice and try something different!
Check out our Acroyoga retreat in Goa, India.
More Tips for Finding the Right Yoga Style for You
- Experiment with classes, teachers and styles
- Don't be afraid to speak to yoga teachers, find out more about their practice
- Approach a new style with an open mind
- As with anything in life, variation in your yoga practice is always good!