A Comprehensive Guide to Different Styles of Ashtanga Yoga

Checking your gym's class schedule for a good yoga class can be a real confusing exercise. How can you tell the difference between Anusara and Ashtanga? Or hot yoga and hatha? To help you find your way to a class you love, here is a comprehensive guide on the different styles of yoga being taught today. Ashtanga is based on ancient yoga teachings, but was popularized and brought to the West by K. Pattabhi Jois (pronounced pah-tah-bee joyce) in the 1970s.

It is a rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of poses and is similar to vinyasa yoga, since each style links each movement to a breath. The difference is that Ashtanga always performs the same poses in the same order. This is a sweaty and physically demanding practice, so be sure to bring your trusty yoga mat towel. Hatha yoga is a generic term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical poses.

Almost all of the types of yoga classes taught in the West are Hatha yoga. When a class is promoted as Hatha, it generally means that you'll receive a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga poses. You probably won't sweat an iota in a hatha yoga class, but you should end up leaving class feeling longer, looser and more relaxed.Much the same as Bikram. In general, the only difference between Bikram and hot yoga is that the hot yoga studio deviates from the Bikram sequence in some way, so they must call themselves by another name.

The room will be heated and you can sweat like crazy, so check out our mats and accessories designed specifically for hot yoga classes.Iyengar yoga was developed and popularized by B. K. S. Iyengar.

It is a very meticulous style of yoga, in which the utmost attention is paid to finding the right alignment in a posture. To help each student find the right alignment, an Iyengar studio will have a wide range of yoga accessories: blocks, blankets, straps, chairs and cushions, all common. There aren't many jumps in Iyengar classes, so you won't increase your heart rate, but you might be surprised to discover how difficult it is to stay still both physically and mentally. Iyengar teachers should receive comprehensive training if you have an injury or a chronic condition.

Iyengar is probably your best bet to ensure that you receive the well-informed instruction you need.Vinyasa (pronounced vin-yah-sah) is a Sanskrit word for a phrase that roughly translates as placing in a special way, in hatha yoga in reference to a sequence of poses. Many wonder if vinyasa yoga is difficult, but you'll be happy to know that vinyasa yoga classes are known for their fluid and motion-intensive practices. Vinyasa yoga teachers order their classes to make a smooth transition from one pose to another, with the intention of linking breathing with movement, and often play music to keep things lively.The intensity of the practice is similar to that of Ashtanga, but no two vinyasa yoga classes are the same. If you hate routine and love to test your physical limits, vinyasa yoga may be just what you're looking for.The Sanskrit term hatha is a general term for all the physical poses of yoga.

In the West, hatha yoga simply refers to all other styles of yoga (Ashtanga, Iyengar, etc.). However, there are other branches of yoga, such as kriya, raja and karma yoga, that are separate from physics-based yoga practice. Physical-based yoga is the most popular and has numerous styles. Ashtanga is a more vigorous style of yoga.

It offers a series of poses, each of which lasts only five breaths and is marked by a half-sun greeting to keep up the pace. You can attend a normal class or in the more traditional Mysore style (see below). Yoga asanas (also known as poses) and meditation are part of the broad spectrum of the yogic lifestyle, which goes far beyond physical practice. Whether you want a physically demanding yoga class or a relaxing and meditative one, there are many different styles of yoga that suit a variety of skill levels and needs.

In Mysore, India, people get together to practice this form of yoga together at their own pace. If you watch an Ashtanga directed by Mysore, you are expected to know the series. Vinyasa styles can vary depending on the teacher, and there can be many types of poses in different sequences. This can refer to the flow between the poses (from the dog down, to the chaturanga or the dog up, for example) or, in a more general sense, to a dynamic style of yoga in which the poses flow one from the other, with three to five breaths in each one explains Allie Williams.

We asked instructors and teachers to break down each style; think of it as a crib sheet for when you can't decide what type of practice you want or want to remember what to expect from each class. If you're new to yoga, it's a good idea to first take some classes in a slower style such as yin or restorative yoga to get an idea of the poses. From deep and slow yin yoga, hot rooms above 36ºC combined with gymnastics and traditional sequenced classes such as Ashtanga; there is something for everyone. Another slower style of yoga, restorative yoga, is perfect for calming down, relaxing and letting your body rest.

Personally I teach vinyasa style based on alignment and choreography with new flows every time; but I also like to maintain some of the poses longer after warm-up.


Yoga, involves physically demanding sequence of poses; so this style of yoga, definitely not for beginners. For example if you already do lot strength training; then look for yoga, style which focuses on flexibility rather than strength.

Theresa Duerr
Theresa Duerr

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