Ashtanga, Hatha, Hot Yoga, oh my! What does it all mean?

If you are new to yoga, it is totally understandable why you might be *very* confused about the different yoga styles. Here we break it down for you and give you the “inside scoop.”
There are many “yoga styles,” or types of yoga. You can find everything from super relaxing to acrobatic types of yoga. There are yoga styles for everyone, and every body – athletic to limber, low energy to any energy – you name it, yoga has it! Why is this? Well, honestly, because anyone can “start” their own yoga style. Some people might be divinely guided, others might just want to promote a brand or business. You might be someone who really cares about how the style evolved, the teacher’s background and expertise. Or, you might just enjoy particular yoga styles and they work for you.

Here at Big Bear Yoga Festival headquarters we encourage you to try at least THREE different yoga styles. It shows you the different teaching styles, introduces you to different teachers and practices. What if you try a yoga style once and really hated it? Don’t give up on all yoga – it might be that teacher that didn’t work for you or that yoga style. Try two more yoga styles and see – make sure to ask about the style and find something different than the one you didn’t like.

We are giving you the inside scoop in this Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Styles on types of yoga we have personally experienced, and some of the most popular. We aren’t reviewing styles we haven’t tried. Don’t agree with us? Fabulous! Yoga is about finding your own experience and listening to your own body.

Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Styles:

Ashtanga
Generally we expect a more active class with challenging poses, and often the same pose sequence. Pranayama (breath work) is part of this style of class. Unless the class specifies otherwise, we find this style to be athletic and sometimes acrobatic. Don’t over do it in this style of class – you can hurt yourself if you aren’t careful. But, expect to feel amazing afterwards!

Kundalini
“How can something that looks so easy be so hard?” That is what we find ourselves saying after a Kundalini practice. We think this is a less strenuous practice than other styles of yoga, and yet very challenging and sometimes we are sore after the practice. This practice can seem (or is?) mystical. It might not be a good fit if you are someone with closely held spiritual or religious beliefs. There is a lot of breath work and repetitive movements. Mostly you are sitting on the floor for the practice. Music, gong, and chanting is often included. The practitioners often wear white clothing and a turban-style head covering. After class we feel relaxed, energized, clear thinking and refreshed.

Iyengar
One of our favorite styles of yoga, it is very precise and exact. No music here! This is a more regimented practice, but the benefits are amazing. This style is named after B.K.S. Iyengar, a teacher from India. This style is a match for those new to yoga and wanting to learn the basics. A great style for those who like to know exact details. This is a style that works for beginners to advanced, and you progress in classes as your knowledge, skill and ability progresses. This style is also a match for injury recovery, health challenges and limited mobility issues. Learn how to use yoga props in this type of class. We fell in love with yoga in an Iyengar class!

Hatha
Hatha yoga is a general yoga term. Broadly it just means “yoga.” Often it is the yoga teacher’s interpretation and combination of styles. This class could be easy, or super challenging. It is best to ask the teacher or read the class description to find out more about what to expect. There might be music, or not. There might be pranayama, or not. There might be flowing movement, or not. See? No set parameters except you can expect yoga poses in there. Some of our favorite teachers offer Hatha classes. It provides them more freedom in style and class details.

Svaroopa
We love Svaroopa yoga! Most classes are very relaxing, including calming music and lots of lovely props! Svaroopa yoga focuses on opening the hips, moving slowly, and finding support in all poses. After class we feel like we took a long, lovely nap. This style is easy and relaxing. If you are a super athletic or fast-paced person, this practice might drive you crazy. But, it might be the perfect practice for you to slow down and let go. It is comment to be laying down, seated or in kneeling type positions for most or all of the class.

Hot Yoga
Pretty self explanatory! Yoga done in a hot room. This practice is going to be more challenging, athletic and acrobatic in nature. Not a match if you just want to relax! In this practice you need to be very careful not to over do it and injure yourself. Not a match for any health conditions that prevent you from being in a hot room vigorously working out. We love Hot Yoga, afterwards we feel amazing. But, we don’t do the entire practice and take breaks when we need to. This is a match for people who want a work-out and love to feel like a wet noodle afterwards.

Laughter Yoga
Hahahahahahha! No, seriously – there is such a thing as Laughter Yoga – and we love it! All of that laughter really helps to improve your mood and clear your mind. Expect mostly to be standing in class. Sometimes you do traditional yoga poses, sometimes you do not. The bottom line is to laugh a lot – and who doesn’t feel better when they laugh? We don’t expect a “good stretch” or a “good workout” from class. But, laughter is amazing for your abdominal muscles. It is like doing a million sit-ups with out the sit-up!

Yin Yoga
Expect a really slow, really deep stretching class. Poses are held for a long time. Hard if you are an impatient type of person, but it might help you slow down and let go. Another class where you might feel refreshed afterwards and very relaxed. Perfect for those needing stress reduction in their lives.

Pre-Natal Yoga & Post-Natal Yoga
Disclaimer: We have never been pregnant and aren’t planning on it. So our review is limited. But, we have *taught* Pre-Natal Yoga and Post-Natal Yoga and generally students love it! You can expect an easier class focused on building the connection with you and your little one before and after birth. You can also expect deep stretches and a relaxing class with props.

Jivamukti Yoga
The focus is bringing all elements or possible elements of yoga together. Music, chanting, pranayama and yoga poses are all part of the classes. This is often a more challenging practice and is loved by physically athletic folks. It isn’t the hardest practice, but it is challenging. We love the flowing sequences and music. Great vibe and feel great afterwards.

Restorative Yoga
See title. LOL. It is a very restful, and well, restorative practice. It includes lots of props. You can find Restorative Yoga classes in Iyengar styles specifically, and some other styles too. Expect to hold resting poses on the ground or seated. Wonderful for stress reduction, and a great stretch. Not a workout.

Power Yoga
See title. LOL. Lots of powerful poses in this active practice. Perfect if you want a workout or a challenge. If you have any injuries or are new to yoga, start slow here. Make sure to take breaks and don’t push yourself. It is easy to injure yourself if you aren’t paying attention to warning signs from your body. This might be a style to check out after you have a dozen or more yoga classes under your belt.