The Different Styles of Yoga

When people say to me they want to start Yoga, I think 3 things,

1 – Woohoo, what a journey you are about to begin!

2 – I hope you come to my classes otherwise this conversation will be weird.

3 – I wonder what type of you you will like best?

Because here’s the things no-one on the outside of yoga tells you before you go to a class is that Yoga is SO varied. Oh my gosh is it varied!

Yoga is yoga, yet it comes in many different styles. Hot Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Yin Yoga, and more!

No yoga class is really the same, and no studio really teaches the same. That may give you an understanding of why there is so much fuss about Yoga, and why the people who go love it so much.

For a new person to Yoga it can be challenging to find the style of yoga that you enjoy. It is therefore essential that you try as many different types of yoga before you find ‘The One’.

Not only are there different styles, there are 1000’s of different teachers. What you may not enjoy from one teacher, you may LOVE in another teacher. Imagine finding a class, teacher, or studio that makes your heart sing? Imagine! 

Yoga really is for everybody, so please don’t write it off if you’ve tried a class and didn’t become an instant fan. Try different styles on for size!

Yoga styles in a nutshell. (Call it a 101 of Yoga but not to its face)

Pretty much all western yoga came via the same person, Tirumalai Krishmanacharya, often called the father of modern Yoga.

Yep, pretty much all of the Yoga we know today came directly from him and his Shala in Mysore, India.

Students of the brands of yoga we practise,  Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa were handed down from T Krishmanacharya. What an amazing legacy.

If it didn’t come from Krishmanacharya directly, it came from a student who studied under him.

There are 4 main styles of yoga that you will find on a class timetable, and here I explain a little on their history and what you can expect from a class.

Hatha Yoga

History: Hatha yoga is basically all yoga. It is the earliest form of yoga to be documented and dates back to the 15th century. It includes standing postures, seated postures and twists.  The Hatha Yoga Pradikipa is one of the most cited yoga texts and very much worth a read if you are interested in exploring Yoga’s rich history.

What to expect: Just as its history is varied, Hatha takes many forms in yoga classes too, varying from teacher to teacher. It is generally slower and great for beginners. A class will take you through different postures and you will hold them for several breaths. thoroughly enjoyable and a definitely a good place to start.

Gentle, slow and great for beginners .

Vinyasa Yoga

History: Vinyasa originates from the Ashtanga school of yoga. Ashtanga Yoga practise starts with Sun Salutations A and B, and these vinyasas are also included later in the practise.

Vinyasas are also taken to balance out the body. This heady flow creates heat and balance in the body. Vinyasa is a western style that joins all of the Hatha Yoga postures (and some new ones!) into a flowing style.

What to expect: A faster paced class that moves between postures, leading from one to the next in a flowing style. Generally one side of the body is worked through postures, before repeating the sequence on the other side.

Classes can vary in pace, so pay attention to what is listed in the class description. Slower classes will generally be listed as Gentle Vinyasa. Music is normally played too, so let go and enjoy!

Side note: Vinyasa classes changed Yoga for me, they were quite a revelation compared to the Hatha classes I had been used to.

Faster-paced, fun and all about flow – a real revelation

Ashtanga Yoga

History: Ashtanga Yoga founder Sri K Pattabi Jois studied under Krishmanacharya in 1930’s.  Ashtanga means Eight Limbs in Sanskrit and this is the basis of its style of yoga. The eight limbs in yoga are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. (I will go into these in more depth in another post but if you can’t wait, google or read up!). Ashtanga yoga is rather disciplined and follows a set sequence, moving with breath and count, enabling students to move along the series as they attain new asana. Ashtanga follows the moon cycles and students do not practise on full moon days, or Moon days as they are called.

What to expect: A set routine starting with Sun Salutations A & B, then standing postures leading to seated postures, then backbends, inversions, meditation, and savasana. Ashtanga is fast-paced and great for building strength.

If you can try a Mysore room at an Edinburgh Ashtanga studio, you will learn so much more about this style of yoga and how it works for you.

More disciplined and great for building strength

Iyengar Yoga

History: Iyengar studied under Krishmanacharya but only for 1 year, he was then sent to oversee a shala in Pune. Side note, he was also Krishmanachayra brother-in-law not that this earned him any favour, quite the contrary.

The two had a troublesome relationship. Despite this Iyengar always credits his Guriji with his success. His book Light on Yoga is a worldwide bestseller. We can also credit Iyengar with developing Restorative Yoga. 

What to expect: A class with props and adjustments. Iyengar yoga is almost a personal prescription of yoga and teachers have to undergo vigorous training to teach. You will be in very safe hands if this style suits you.

A more personal class, with teacher and pupil working closely together

Yin Yoga

History: Yin Yoga was developed in the 70’s by Taoist Paulie Zink, who was better known as a martial art practitioner. He took Hatha yoga postures and separated them into Yin and Yang classes, adding the Yin postures he developed. Sometimes his classes lasted 8 hours! His students Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers brought Yin yoga to wider audiences, helping to spread into the West.

What to expect: A slower paced class with perhaps only 6 postures, all floor based. Poses are held for 2-5 minutes. Yin yoga works with deeper tissue and fascia, as well as ligaments, aiming to improve flexibility.

A slow class aiming to build strength and improve flexibility.

Other types of yoga

Hot Yoga


Hot Yoga was brought to the west by Bikram Choudhury, who began heating his studios to the same temperature of his home town, Calcutta. It is believed he did this after seeing this type of yoga practiced in Japan. Hot Yoga became a fierce trend and everyone who was anyone began tweeting about it!

What to expect

Yoga poses in heated studios. Bikram Yoga is a sequence of 26 postures true to the Bikram style, whereas Hot Yoga might defer and follow a Vinyasa style of sequence. Temperatures are normally listed, usually 32°C or 28°C. Warm Yoga is practiced at  22°C. Classes are high energy and you will SWEAT!

Yoga Nidra


Around for centuries, Yoga Nidra has its roots in Buddhism and Hinduism. Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation and sleep-but-awake mindfulness. Enabling the student to become super-relaxed. It has become popular in recent years because of its relaxation properties.

What to expect

A dark, possibly candle-lit, room. A teacher talking you through a body scan to relax every part of your body, then a visualisation exercise to bring you to a deeper awareness. Expect to feel extremely relaxed to the point that you might fall asleep.

You will find a good array of yoga classes at most studios in Edinburgh. The key is try a good selection until you find the one that suits you best!

I hope you have a better understanding of Yoga styles and could confidently walk into a class knowing what to expect. We’re lucky in Edinburgh to have such a great array of studios on our doorstep. You’ll find a great selection of teachers, and studios, as well as classes.

They say that the best things are learned when we introduce fun into the equation, so I hope you have some fun finding a local studio that sings to the beat of your drum! And if you think going a step further and training as a Yoga Teacher is for you, read my blog post on being a Yoga Teacher.

One response to “The Different Styles of Yoga”

  1. […] Just like one size does not fit all, no yoga pose will fit all. So pushing aside the ‘perfect’ idea of a pose is better for your yoga practise. […]

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