Yoga for beginners – A guide to the different styles

Yoga may be an ancient art, but its popularity has been retained through a number of revisions and adaptations. New styles focusing on certain elements of yoga or teaching it in a specific manner mean that the simple term ‘yoga’ can cover a huge range of exercises and activities. Depending on your body, age, and the type of exercise you’re looking for, you’ll want to find a class that suits you and gives you exactly what you’re looking for from yoga. There are certainly some common features – all share the same ancestor from thousands of years ago, and all should help you find relaxation and peace. This guide will give a brief explanation of the different styles so that you can find the one that suits you best.

Iyengar yoga

One of the most common forms of yoga, Iyengar is a good style for beginners as props can help you make sure you get things perfect from the off, even if you’re not able to hold some of the more advanced poses. Emphasis is placed on alignment, precision and detail, especially with regards to posture and breathing.

Ashtanga yoga

This is a more energetic style of yoga, where poses are held for short periods of time and moved through more quickly. A variation of this style of yoga, Mysore, allows a traditional learning method of one-to-one tuition as students arrive within a certain time-frame to practise in the presence of their teacher.

Kundalini yoga

Kundalini yoga often includes some of the wider aspects of yoga and, as well as poses and physical exertion, includes meditation and special breathing techniques which can help to reduce stress and make the student feel more relaxed. This form of yoga is also known as the ‘yoga of awareness’.

Jivamukti yoga

Although this style of yoga was only founded relatively recently, it has a much wider scope of the ancient practices of yoga, including music. It teaches students to embrace the whole philosophy and apply it to their lives, as well as hold the poses.

Hatha yoga

The antithesis of Jivamukti yoga, this style focuses precisely on the physical activity of yoga, minimising the attention paid to the traditional and philosophical aspects of the art.

Bikram yoga

One of the more esoteric styles of yoga, this style focuses on a specific set of poses which are run through in a heated (usually around 40 °C) environment to give students a thorough physical workout.

While you may find that some styles suit your needs best, all types of yoga are open to absolute beginners, even the more physical styles, so it’s worth giving a few a try. Once you’ve decided which style you like, see if you can find yoga classes near you.