Yoga class types: Explained

So you are keen to try yoga, see a class on a timetable and have no idea what it all means…..

You are not alone….It is all very confusing and when you are not familiar or worse yet feeling overwhelmed the choice and variety can be off putting. Here is a run down of the most commonly seen class descriptions and styles.

Please drop me a message if you need any more help. xx

Iyengar yoga and Ashtanga yoga come from the same lineage – the teachers who developed these styles (BKS Iyengar and the late Pattabhi Jois) were both taught by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Many of the asanas (postures) are the same, but the approach is different. Iyengar yoga is great for learning the subtleties of correct alignment. Props – belts, blocks and pillow-like bolsters – help beginners get into poses with correct alignment, even when they’re new to them, injured or simply stiff. Ashtanga yoga is a more modern form of Iyengar.

Ashtanga is a more vigorous style of yoga. It offers a series of poses, each held for only five breaths and punctuated by a half sun salutation to keep up the pace. You can either attend a regular class or the more traditional Mysore style (see below).

Mysore style Ashtanga yoga taught one-to-one in a group setting. Students turn up at any time within a three-hour window to do their own practice as taught by their teacher.

Vinyasa flow is a teacher lead class that flows from one pose to the next without stopping to talk about the finer points of each pose. That way, students come away with a good workout as well as a yoga experience. If you’re new to yoga, it can be a good idea to take a few classes in a slower style of yoga first to get a feel for the poses or position yourself near the back so you can see the flow and copy, also be sure to tell the teacher you are new and they will help and guide you.  Vinyasa flow is really an umbrella term for many other styles. Some studios call it flow yoga, flow-style yoga, dynamic yoga or vinyasa flow. It is influenced by ashtanga yoga but not as ridged in the pattern or sequence of poses.

Bikram yoga is the favourite of anyone who loves to sweat. It was created by Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. He designed a sequence of 26 yoga poses to stretch and strengthen the muscles as well as compress and “rinse” the organs of the body. The poses are done in a heated room to facilitate the release of toxins. Every bikram class you go to, anywhere in the world, follows the same sequence of 26 poses.

Kundalini yoga was designed to awaken energy in the spine. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing, and chanting, as well as yoga postures.

Hatha yoga really just means the physical practice of yoga (asanas as opposed to, say, chanting). Hatha yoga now commonly refers to a class that is not so flowing and bypasses the various traditions of yoga to focus on the asanas that are common to all. It is often a gentle less sweaty yoga class.

Yin yoga comes from the Taoist tradition and focuses on passive, seated or floor level postures that target the connective tissues in the body. Poses are held for anywhere between one and 10 minutes. The aim is to increase flexibility and encourage a feeling of release and letting go. It is a wonderful way to learn the basics of meditation and stilling the mind. As such, it is ideal for athletic types who need to release tension in overworked joints, and it is also good for those who need to relax. The more active you are the more yin will benefit you – mind and body.

Restorative yoga is all about healing the mind and body through simple poses often held for as long as 20 minutes, with the help of props such as bolsters, pillows and straps. It is considered to be similar to yin yoga, but is very different in that the body should be completely restful with no stress or tension in any area. The focus is entirely on switching off our physical and mental systems and relaxing.

Jivamukti yoga was founded in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti means “liberation while living”. This strong vinyasa-style practice is often a themed class and often includes chanting, music and scripture readings. Jivamukti teachers encourage students to apply yogic philosophy to their daily life.




Hatha simply refers to the practice of physical yoga postures, meaning your Ashtanga, vinyasa, Iyengar and Power Yoga classes are all Hatha Yoga. The word “hatha” can be translated two ways: as “willful” or “forceful,” or the yoga of activity, and as “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha), the yoga of balance. In practice this style is often more simple and poses where you will hold for several breaths before stepping to the next one.


Vinyasa is a style of yoga characterized by stringing postures together so that you move from one to another, seamlessly, using breath. Commonly referred to as “flowyoga, it is sometimes confused with “power yoga” which is a modernised class using more strength and powerful poses to create a harder class. Vinyasa classes offer a variety of postures and no two classes are ever alike.



The main difference between a Hatha and Vinyasa yoga class is the pace and the goal of the practice. Hatha yoga, is designed to align and calm your mind, body and spirit. … Vinyasa classes often repeat sequences of poses and often involve increasing body heat — and sweat — and building strength.


I hope this helps. Yoga is the journey of the self to the self for the self…… so don’t follow the crowd, find what works for you. xx

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