A Simple Discussion On The Different & Most Popular Types Of Yoga As Well As Some Possible Health Benefits

most popular types of yoga

Yoga, over the years, has become a very modifiable practice based on a practitioners wants and needs. In basic terms the art has evolved over time. However, as a beginner yogi, maybe the first thing to consider is the style or "path" of yoga best suited for the goals you have in mind, as not all yoga practice is created equal. From what most think about when yoga comes to mind, Hatha yoga, all the way to more structured styles like Ashtanga, it's important to have a general idea of each. 

Yoga has been known to be a popular and successful alternative type of exercise which creates a balance of body and mind. Many people think of yoga as only a way to get in touch with your spiritual side, however this is not always the case. It can be used as an outlet for stress, a powerful exercise routine, a way to balance out or round-out your current exercise regimen, as well as a way to better connect our mind and body. 

Yoga can play a crucial impact on the complete well-being of an individual, from both a physiological perspective to psychological, which we'll discuss later on in this post. As we discuss in many posts, one of best ideas for any beginner is to attend a few different types of yoga classes, or get with a certified yoga instructor who can help guide you in the right direction. 

most popular types of yoga

For instance, you may be someone who wants a more vigorous flow or exercise, so doing a restorative type yoga routine may not be the way to go, instead trying your hand at Vinyasa flow may be more suited to your goals. Maybe you are someone well versed in yoga and you want to try your hand in aerial yoga. For older individuals who may need something slightly more gentle with slower poses, modifiable hatha yoga using props, like a chair to help support you, may be the way to go. 

Okay, so with all this being said, let's get into some of the different and most popular styles of yoga. It's important to note, we will not go in tremendous depth in this post in regards to history of each application or style. Our goal is to simply help modernize each path of yoga, so that you may be better inclined to identify what style fits your needs. 

After this section, we'll touch on some (general) researched benefits yoga can have on both your body and mind!

A Brief Background On 6 Of the Most Popular Styles of Yoga:

Hatha Yoga: (Sanskrit "Discipline of Force")

Hatha Yoga is a form of yoga, and is derived from the word “Ha” which means Sun and “Tha” that means moon, and in combination denotes "will" as well as "power". Hatha yoga aims to balance these two energies. This is also one of the most popular types of yoga, and is probably the one most relate to when they think of the practice of yoga.

Hatha yoga dates back thousands of years, and in today's culture focuses much on the physical presence, involving and emphasizing both postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (Pranayama). That being said Hatha yoga can also encompass anything done with the body including; mantra's (or chanting), mudra (hand gestures), and even visualization practices

hatha yoga

Hatha yoga is a form of yoga that is used to try and calm the mind and body. For these reasons it is a style that can oftentimes be well suited to prepare oneself for the art of meditation.

It is sometimes recommended for beginners because of the slower, more static type poses, which gives your body time to align and adjust. A few of the main poses of Hatha yoga are Sukhasana, Mountain, forward fold, low lunge, downward dog, and warrior pose. You can oftentimes expect these types of classes to last up to 90 minutes, and with a combination of breathing, yoga postures/poses as well as being followed by meditation.

Vinyasa Yoga: (Sanskrit "Connection")

From a more static type style of yoga (Hatha) to one more focused on movement or flow of asanas, connected or anchored through breath (Ujjayi Breath), is Vinyasa yoga. When you think of Vinyasa, think of smoothness or a flowing "type" of movement. A major difference between Vinyasa to some other styles of yoga like Ashtanga and/or Bikram is the variations of poses in different classes you may attend. 

vinyasa yoga

Although this from of yoga is put together with a seamless flow of asanas, these asanas can and will differ from class to class, and can be both slower paced transitions to a more rigorous pace. An advantage to this way of practicing may be more versatility, often thought to help prevent injuries, because of the focus on differing parts of the body through different sequences, instead of the same maneuvers in the same sequence, like several other styles. A yogi can expect to go through a various set of categories of postures, including back-bends, forward-bends, standing postures and so on. 

Ashtanga Yoga: (Sanskrit "Union of the Eight Limbs of Yoga")

Ashtanga yoga has grown immensely in popularity over recent years. Unlike Vinyasa's style, Ashtanga focuses heavily on a series or fixed set poses, in which the previous pose must be mastered before moving to the next series. It is a more structured path of yoga. These poses are also linked or deeply connected by the breath and like Vinyasa focus on Ujjayi breathing also known as victorious breath. 

The term Ashtanga is made up of 2 Sanskrit words, one being "Ashta" and the other being "Anga". "Asta" referring to the number eight and "anga" to limb, so the whole meaning of the word is "eight limbs of yoga". So the practice itself encompasses eight limbs of yoga which include; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. 

Why we say as a beginner to be leery of this style is strictly due to the intensity and physical demand to complete the series. It will take quite a feat of strength, flexibility and endurance to complete. Ashtanga yoga is made up of 6 total series that are very demanding, done in a similar flow or fashion as Vinyasa sequences. As you complete poses, and series, you'll then be guided through more difficult or advanced series of poses. These include series or sequences known as Sun Salutation A & Sun Salutations B, then progress from here. 

Iyengar Yoga: 

This yoga form was developed by Bellur Krishnamachar SundararajaIyengarand and is a form of Hatha Yoga itself which works on perfecting each pose with yoga props like yoga foam blocks, chairs, belts or custom made supports made out of materials like wood. It also blends with pranayama or breathing, focusing on technical alignments of poses. 

Like many other forms of yoga, Iyengar yoga (using effective alignment in mind), also places an emphasis or balance on body, mind and breath. The fact that alignment and use of props in prominent in this style, makes it well suited for beginners to yoga. With that said, intermediate and advanced levels yogi's can also benefits due to the ability of Iyengar yoga to build both strength and flexibility. 

It helps the body in alignment and may aid many in the recovery from injuries or prevention of. It is recommended for people of all age groups who prefer an organized type of yoga, as sequencing or ordering of poses is a part of this style. This can help to aid in a gradual progression in a safe and effective manner. 

it is touted that this styles of yoga help with increasing focus or concentration, improving both physiological and psychological health as well as release tension and stress from the body, as do other paths of yoga. 

Restorative Yoga:

Restorative yoga, is a style of yoga that can be geared toward any age or yoga "level". A slow paced style of yoga, that puts most emphasis on longer holds, calmness, stillness and deep effective breathing. Props in restorative yoga help to support the body and make holding these asanas (sometime upwards of 5-20 minutes) possible. A style focused on passive stretching, restorative yoga may just encompass a few poses throughout course of the session. 

restorative yoga

Like Iyengar yoga, props like blankets, foam blocks, or bolsters are utilized to give the body aid in positioning and provide a deeper relaxation period. The goal is to relax. Oftentimes a yogi that practices more intense styles of yoga, may split up there sessions with a restorative one to help better relax and "restore" the body and mind. 

This form of yoga is extremely useful for those who wish to relax and distress their bodies and mind, it can even be an aid in people who suffer from insomnia or anxiety, as it can be performed multiple times per day with only a few different poses if that's what your time permits.

While other forms of yoga and exercise engage muscle groups within the body, the focus here is to relax them, while also encouraging gentle stretching. 

Bikram Yoga:

This form yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury and hence the name. This is a form of hot yoga and offers a structured environment from the heated room to the set series of 26 poses and 2 breathing (Pranayama) exercises

The typical class will continue for 90-total minutes, and due to the elevated temperatures makes it imperative to stay properly hydrated both before and after a session. Temperatures of the room are often up to 105 degrees F, and humidity upwards of 40%. 

Much of the movement or poses are structured after Hatha style positions. Common poses used in Bikram classes include; Triangle pose, Cobra pose and Eagle pose, just to name a few. 

This form of yoga is structured to help relieve stress, may help with chronic pain such as arthritis, joint aches, and perhaps other injuries. The hot climate allows for muscles and joints to reach elevated temperatures faster, helping to potentially deepen poses and stretches within the designated time frame. 

One of the biggest misconception is that Hot yoga and Bikram yoga are the same. This is not the case. Bikram is considered a type of Hot yoga, however, Hot yoga is any yoga performed in a room with elevated or purposeful hot temperatures. 

Potential Health Benefits of Yoga:

a. Stress Relief:

Studies have shown the effect that yoga can have on stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have indicated that yoga may not just reduce stress, but also "enhance your mood and sense of well-being". 

some benefits of doing yoga

There is current literature providing similar conclusions. A review of literature published in 2012 on 35 trials addressing effects of yoga on anxiety and stress, concluded 25 of those trials "noted a significant decrease in stress and anxiety with yoga regimen". 

Other ways in which yoga may aid in stress reduction is due to it's ability to help promote flexibility, relive tensions and potential from that help with pain control. According to Healthline, yoga poses (like exercise), promotes the release of endorphins (our happy-hormones or feel-good hormones). This release can help with both short and long term stressors as you become better apt to handle emotions. 

One specific study on a Hatha yoga regimen on 52 women over 12 sessions, concluded that yoga has an effective role in reducing stress, anxiety and depression.  Reiterating it's use as a from of safe complementary medicine. 

b. Help Manage Chronic Health Conditions:

According to one article posted in Frontiers in Psychology, yoga is one of the top ten complementary health practices used by adults in the U.S, where 45% of the population have at least one chronic health condition.

yoga for chronic health conditions

Yoga has even been shown to have positive effects on distress and functional performance of those who suffer from chronic health conditions or diseases

A study published in 2017, displayed evidence supporting the recommendations of yoga as a supportive interventions in helping women with breast cancer to help fight fatigue and sleep disturbances as well as improved quality of life. 

A meta analysis of 10 studies found evidence that yoga may be effective in helping to improve physical ability, lung function and quality of life in people with COPD, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. They also discuss research evidence surrounding yoga's positive benefits on patients with asthma, HIV/AIDS, as well as a helpful agent for smoking cessation and weight loss. 

c. Reduction in Inflammation:

Inflammation is a common and natural response of the body to acute trauma. However, if you suffer from chronic inflammation it can actually lead to a risk for certain health conditions.  

There have been several studies linking yoga to lower levels of inflammatory markers after exercise. One particular study included 218 subjects resulted in lower inflammatory markers of the yoga group vs. the non-yoga group participants. in conclusions the study found that "regular practice of yoga can protect the individual against inflammatory diseases". 

A study of a restorative Iyengar yoga intervention  published in 2014, was found to reduce inflammation-related gene expression in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue. 

d. Chronic Pain Reduction:

yoga for chronic pain

Millions of people suffer from chronic pain of all kinds. Continued evidence is showing yoga can help in relieving some of these pain symptoms, as well as perceived pain symptoms. 

So far the evidence for the effectiveness of yoga or mind-based practice remains relatively low, however there is some promise of yoga, or movement/body awareness practices including in the treatment for helping with symptoms of fibromyalgia.  

Other research identifies the possible benefits of yoga for chronic lower back pain, headaches and arthritis pain.

One such pilot study identified Ilengar yoga as being a feasible treatment options for reduction in pain and disability caused by knee osteoarthritis. 

Another study on yoga based interventions vs. wrist splinting for carpel tunnel syndrome concluded yoga as a more effective treatment in relieving signs and symptoms of CTS. 

A narrative literature review evaluated the effects of movement-based mind-body interventions (MMBI. This included practices such as yoga, tai chi and qigong. 32 articles were included in the review in which yoga had the highest number of focused intervention, then qigong, then tai chi. The conclusion was that the articles showed MMBI to be effective for treatment of lower back pain. This included a reduction in pain or psychological distress (like anxiety/depression), and improved function. 

Related ArticleYoga for Lower Back Pain

A systematic review and meta analysis published in 2019, included 10 randomized control trials (involving 686) participants. The analysis provided a conclusion that yoga may help relieve neck pain intensity, improve pain-related functions, increase cervical range of motions (ROM), and quality of life. 

There is also an increasing amount of evidence suggestive that yoga (along with adjunct therapies) may help reduce migraine intensity and frequency

e. Sleep Benefits:

According to John Hopkins Medicine, "studies have linked yoga's benefits to improved sleep". On specific study provided evident on yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly. The study concluded that "regular yoga exercises in the daily routine of elderly people can helps achieve good sleep quality. 

Another study comparing the effects of yoga and Ayurveda on self rated sleep in a geriatric population, showed the yoga group with a significant decrease in the time taken to fall asleep and increase in the total number if hours slept. They also stated feeling more rested in the morning after 6 months time. 

Besides these maybe not so obvious ways in yoga can play a part in improving out lives are the more obvious reasons individuals get involved in the practice, which include bettering flexibility, balance, strength as well as breathing through controlled breathing exercises and techniques. 

Final Thoughts!

These different types of yoga and their benefits can be very beneficial for your overall health and fitness as well as maintaining good mental health. Be sure before performing any of these yoga techniques and art forms that you are able to safely exercise and perform them.

It's always a good idea to take a class or two, and explore the vastness of this practice.

Thanks for stopping in, we thank your for your time and please share your thoughts in how yoga has positively effected your life or any other tips you'd like to offer! Be sure to share our posts on social media platforms!



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