The modern yoga world offers an extensive array of diverse teachings, teachers and styles that is both amazing and bewildering. Someone who is new to the practice could easily feel overwhelmed by the excess of options.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll delve into the different popular styles of hatha yoga (which primarily emphasizes physical postures and breathing techniques) and their benefits, so that you can determine which style or styles suit you best.

The whole of Yoga is a vast field that encompasses karma yoga (selfless service), bhakti yoga (devotion to a deity or teacher), dhyana yoga (meditation practices) and so much more—but that’s another story.

15 Yoga Styles and their Benefits

1. Hatha

Woman standing in yoga position

The term “hatha yoga” technically encompasses most of the lineages on this list. When you see a class labeled “hatha,” however, it indicates that each pose will be held for several breaths, as opposed to a faster-paced practice of moving from one pose to the next.

  • Level: beginners
  • Benefits: gentle; excellent for beginners; great for overall flexibility, balance and strength

2. Hatha Flow

Young woman doing yoga workout at home

A hatha flow class includes some medium-paced flowing from pose to pose, usually through sun salutations or other series of connected poses. It will also incorporate sustained holds of selected postures for a longer period of time. Hatha flow classes vary greatly from teacher to teacher.

  • Level: beginner to moderate
  • Benefits: super for intermediate students; cultivate coordination, flexibility, strength and balance

3. Vinyasa

Fit yogini woman practices yoga asana Anjaneyasana

One of the most common styles of modern yoga, vinyasa involves a fluid flow from one pose to the next. The terms “Vinyasa” and “Vinyasa flow” are interchangeable.  These types of classes vary greatly from teacher to teacher; some are faster paced while others (which may be labeled “vin-yin” or “slow flow” incorporate more slow and mindful movements.

  • Level: moderate to advanced
  • Benefits: cardiovascular workout; raise energy level; hone coordination, flexibility, strength and balance

4. Yin Yoga

Woman pose yoga seated forward bend Paschimottanasana

This unique style is all about surrender. It involves releasing effort and letting go of muscular tension by holding poses for much longer than in other practice styles. It seeks to deepen flexibility of the fascia and connective tissues instead of just the muscles. Most yin poses are performed lying on the floor and can be held for 3 to 7 minutes each.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: deep stretching, meditative/stillness, moving energy along the meridian lines, reset/correct posture and physical alignment

5. Restorative Yoga

In this restorative style of yoga, the poses are all done lying on the floor in various positions using plenty of bolsters, blankets, straps and blocks to enable the practitioner to relax completely and stay in each pose for several minutes.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: relaxation; deep rest; gently opens the body and increases flexibility

6. Ashtanga

Young sporty woman in Ardha Matsyendrasana yoga pose

This lineage was established by Indian guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Even the first series of this style is extremely challenging. It involves a prescribed sequence of sun salutations A and B, followed by standing, balancing, seated, twisting and reclining poses.

More advanced Ashtanga practices include bandhas (internal locks) and drishti (focused gaze). Ashtanga is the precursor for most vigorous styles of hatha yoga, including its most commonly taught derivatives, Power Yoga and Vinyasa.

  • Level: intermediate to advanced
  • Benefits: cardiovascular workout; raise energy level; hone athleticism, flexibility, strength and balance

7. Power Yoga

fit young woman doing yoga

This vigorous style incorporates plenty of fast-paced sun salutations and other intermediate to advanced poses, flowing from one to the next. Be prepared to sweat. Some of the most popular teachers of this style include Baron Baptiste, Beryl Bender Birch and Shiva Rea.

  • Level: intermediate to advanced
  • Benefits: cardiovascular workout; raise energy level; hone athleticism, flexibility, strength and balance

8. Dharma Yoga

This eclectic hatha yoga style incorporates Buddhist philosophies and teachings and features an added focus on Zen or Tibetan Buddhist techniques of meditation.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: deepen physical and spiritual practice; meditative; intention-based; can be physically gentle, moderate or challenging depending on the teacher

9. Forrest Yoga

This modern lineage was founded by Los Angeles based teacher Ana Forrest. Her style weaves yogic and Native American teachings. Poses are typically held for many breath cycles. A Forrest Yoga practice integrates core-strengthening and fierce balancing poses.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: balance, strength, flexibility, mental toughness, fierceness, inner strength and peace

10. Iyengar Yoga

Sporty beautiful young beginning yoga female student standing in Utthita Trikonasana, Extended Triangle Pose leaning on yogic wood brick, studio full length profile view on white background, isolated

This popular lineage was developed by Indian guru B.K.S. Iyengar, who trained teachers at his center in Pune, India into his nineties. (His family is carrying on the tradition.) Iyengar yoga focuses precise alignment in each asana. Props like folding chairs, blocks and straps are often utilized to enable practitioners to modify the pose to their level of ability.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: balance, strength, flexibility, correct postural alignment, precision

11. Jivamukti

mindfulness yoga meditation

This New York City based modern lineage was founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon. The eclectic style includes Sanskrit chanting and both hatha flow and sustained hatha poses—as well as an emphasis on meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises).

  • Level: intermediate to advanced
  • Benefits: balance, strength, flexibility, spiritual attunement, meditation, vocal toning

12. Kundalini

Woman sitting in lotus position doing namaste

This unique lineage’s founder is the Indian (Sikh) guru, Yogi Bhajan. Some (but not all) Kundalini yoga practitioners wear all white garments, including a turban. The Kundalini practices—called kriyas—typically involve fast, repetitive motions sustained for several minutes. Breath of fire (quick, forceful exhalations through the nose) is done in many of the poses. The style emphasizes chanting, chakras and mantra meditation.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: mental clarity, energy healing, chakra balancing, strength, flexibility, vocal toning, meditation

13. Sivananda

young yoga female doing pose / exericise

Swami Sivananda established many international ashrams in the mid-20th century. A Sivananda class begins with a few moderately-paced sun salutations and includes several brief periods of savasana (deep relaxation in corpse pose) interspersed throughout. This lineage emphasizes yogic philosophy and text, as well as chanting, meditation, pranayama and Ayurvedic nutrition.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: balance, strength, flexibility, spiritual attunement, meditation, relaxation

14. Ananda

This gentle hatha style comes from the lineage of Parmahamsa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. The focus is on gentle stretching, deep breathing, mantra meditation and sweet relaxation.

  • Level: all levels
  • Benefits: balance, flexibility, spiritual attunement, meditation, relaxation

15. Partner Yoga

Two young beautiful women doing yoga asana virabhadrasana helping each other on the roof outdoor. partner yoga.

Partner yoga comes in three main varieties. The first simply involves  practicing specific poses with another person, such as balancing tree, seated twist and standing forward bending.

The second, AcroYoga, is a style of partner yoga that involves one person as the base and another person “flying” in various poses balanced on the base’s feet and a third, the spotter. It is a challenging physical practice that blends elements of yoga, acrobatics, performance and healing arts.

Finally, Thai Yoga Massage is a style of partner yoga/massage that originated in Thailand. Most of the poses involve one person giving an adjustment to the receiver (who is usually in a reclining position), using his or her hands, elbows and feet. The focus is on energy lines and pressure points as taught in traditional Chinese medicine.

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