Omega's Guide to Yoga Styles | Omega

Starting a regular yoga practice means finding the style that's right for you. To make an educated choice, check out this guide to more than 30 yoga styles and yoga schools.

Are you new to yoga? If you glance the schedule of classes at your local studio, you’ll see that there are dozens to choose from. In fact, by some estimations, there are as many as 280 yoga styles. How do you know which one is right for you?

Most styles of yoga will improve your posture and flexibility, release tension, and foster a feeling of steadiness (sthira) and ease (sukha) in your body and mind. But it’s important to choose a style that suits your personality, goals, and fitness level.

For example, if you’re a hard-driving executive who goes to the gym five times a week, you might benefit from a calming practice like restorative yoga. If you have a desk job and are restless by the end of the day, you may need a vinyasa class to get your body moving and your heart pumping. If you have a medical condition such as back pain, arthritis, or depression, a one-on-one yoga therapy session could be right for you. If you’re an athlete and you love to push your edge, you might fall in love with a style of hot yoga, such as Bikram Yoga.

In the early stages of your practice (or whenever you need to break out of your usual routine) it’s helpful to try several different styles to figure out which practices and which instructors resonate with you. (You can also read 3 Questions to Help You Find the Right Yoga Class.) You’ll know you’ve found the right fit when you walk out of class feeling happier, healthier, and more connected.

Here is Omega’s guide to 31 prominent yoga styles and schools that you’re likely to see listed on class schedules. You’ll learn a basic definition of each practice, what to expect in a class, some keywords that summarize the essence of each style, and a description of the required fitness level. When applicable, the founder(s), year of inception, controversies, practice tips, and a website where you can find more information are included as well.


Omega_Institute_AcroYoga_OutdoorsWhat it is: AcroYoga is a dynamic blend of yoga poses, acrobatics, and Thai Yoga Massage. It’s a fun way to explore trust and communication with your fellow yoga friends (old and new).

What to expect: In class, you’ll work in groups of three, taking turns to play each of the following roles: the base (the person on the ground who serves as the mover and the support); the flier (the person who’s stretching into poses in the air); and the spotter (who makes sure the partners are safe by offering verbal and physical feedback).

Founders: Jenny Sauer-Klein and Jason Nemer

Year: 2003

Fitness level: moderate to high

Keywords: playful, dynamic, creative

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Aerial Yoga

What it is: Aerial yoga is a high-fitness fusion of yoga and the aerial arts.

What to expect: You’ll explore a variety of playful poses while you’re suspended in a silk hammock that’s approximately 12 feet long and 9 feet wide. Sun salutations, inversions, and arm balances are common in these classes, as are creative flips and other aerially-focused transitions from pose to pose. Aerial yoga strengthens the entire body, but especially the core and upper body.

Founder: n/a

Year: unknown

Fitness level: variable; beginner classes teach the basics (using the hammock as a prop that supports students in poses), but the practice generally requires a high level of fitness and athleticism

Keywords: fun, flying, circus-y

Ananda Yoga®

What it is: Ananda Yoga integrates gentle asana, pranayama, classical yoga meditation practices, and yoga philosophy to facilitate spiritual growth.

What to expect: Classes teach you how to practice safely with correct alignment, as you repeat a silent affirmation for each pose and try to maintain constant relaxation. You’ll also learn energy control techniques designed to help you increase your concentration and control prana (life force).

Founder: Ananda Yoga comes from the Kriya Yoga tradition of Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), the first renowned Indian yogi to make his home in the West and author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Ananda Yoga grew out of his teachings and was developed into a system of practice by his student Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013).

Year: 1960s

Fitness level: general; adapted to match the fitness level of the student

Keywords: gentle, inward, spiritual

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Anusara® Yoga

What it is: Anusara is a heart-oriented approach to an alignment-focused practice intended to help students experience their divine nature.

What to expect: Anusara means “following your heart,” or “to move with the current of divine will.” In class, students are encouraged to chant prayers in Sanskrit and contemplate life-affirming teachings from tantric philosophy as they learn the Universal Principles of Alignment and coordinate each pose with the breath. Classes may also include other traditional yoga practices, such as pranayama, meditation, the application of bandhas (locks), mudras (sealing gestures), and a focus on various chakras (energy centers).

Founder: John Friend (whose primary hatha yoga influence was B.K.S. Iyengar)

Year: 1997

Fitness level: variable; beginner classes are adapted to students’ fitness levels, while moderate to advanced classes are physically demanding

Keywords: uplifting, empowering, creative

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Ashtanga YogaAshtanga Arm Balance

What it is:
Ashtanga Yoga is a muscle-toning aerobic workout based on flowing variations of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). It is often practiced in a heated room. Sometimes referred to as Power Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga is the inspiration for nearly all vinyasa-style classes that have developed in the West.

What to expect: Students move through a set series of uninterrupted poses that are synchronized with the breath and intended to build strength, flexibility, and stamina. Room temperatures are often set high to promote detoxification through increased perspiration.

Founder: K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009)

Year: 1948

Fitness level: high

Practice tips: Because the postures and sequences demand physical exertion in a heated room, overheating and dehydration are possible concerns—so drink plenty of water. Students should consult with their physician before attending.

Keywords: sweaty, hot, physically demanding

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Baptiste Yoga™

What it is: Baptiste Yoga™ is a vigorous, flowing vinyasa style of practice designed to build strength and personal power.

What to expect: The physically demanding vinyasa classes, which include self-inquiry and meditation, are 90 minutes long and are inspired by Baron Baptiste’s studies with B.K.S. Iyengar and T.K.V. Desikachar (both students of T. Krishnamacharya).

Founder: Walt Baptiste (1917-2001) and further developed by his son, Baron Baptiste

Year: 1940s

Fitness level: high

Keywords: powerful, athletic, strength-building

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Bikram Yoga®

What it is: Bikram Yoga is a demanding series of 26 asanas and two pranayama practices that are practiced in a hot, humid room.

What to expect: The Bikram Yoga series is designed to flush out toxins (via sweat) while progressively warming up and stretching your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Teachers crank the thermostat up to 105 degrees and create an environment of about 40% humidity. They lead their students through the same series in every class, holding each pose for at least 10 seconds. In some advanced classes, the series is completed twice.

Founder: Bikram Choudhury (who studied with Paramahansa Yogananda’s brother, Bishnu Ghosh)

Year: 1970s

Fitness level: high

Practice tips: Consult with physician before taking a class to make sure you’re healthy enough to participate. And stay hydrated (before, during, and after class).

Keywords: hot, sweaty, physically demanding

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Children’s Yoga

What it is: Thanks to yoga’s popularity and ongoing research about the benefits of the practice, there are a wide variety of yoga classes for children (and teacher training programs for those who’d like to share the practice with them). The classes are designed to improvechildren's flexibility, focus, and body awareness.

What to expect: Children’s yoga classes are generally play-based. They often integrate stories about poses, games, and age-appropriate approaches to working with the breath. Sometimes, children learn a sequence via a story (which is often animal-themed) or they’re encouraged to create a story to match poses. Teachers often integrate art projects, music, and discussion into their classes to keep kids engaged.

Founder: n/a

Year: unknown

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: fun, playful, creative

Forrest Yoga

What it is: Forrest Yoga is a highly physical, emotionally intense form of practice that is performed in a heated room. Students build strength and flexibility while explicitly addressing mental and emotional issues—all in an effort to find healing and wholeness.

What to expect: Expect to learn strong sequences of poses (with long holds), do serious emotional work, and strengthen your core in this practice, which is intensified by the heat.

Founder: Ana Forrest

Year: 1982

Fitness level: high

Practice tips: Consult with physician before taking a class to make sure you’re healthy enough to participate. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Keywords: strong, intense, emotional

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Hatha Yoga

What it is: Hatha yoga is the traditional practice of asanas (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing practices). Developed in medieval times, it has the same objective as other forms of yoga: self-transformation. And it’s where all of today’s forms of asana practice stem from.

What to expect: Yoga classes that are called hatha yoga tend to be gentle, slower-paced classes that focus on basic postures, simple breathing techniques, relaxation practice, and (perhaps) meditation. More advanced classes encourage longer holds and introduce practices like the bandhas (locks) and the kriyas (cleansing practices).

Founder: Goraksha Natha

Year: 10th or 11th century

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: gentle, methodical, traditional

Hot Yoga

What it is: Hot yoga refers to classes that offer yoga practices in artificially heated conditions, such as Bikram Yoga, Forrest Yoga, and power yoga.

What to expect: Hot yoga classes demand a high level of endurance. The heat is said to promote detoxification and increase flexibility, so you can go deeper in poses than you normally would without injuring yourself.

Founder: n/a

Year: unknown

Fitness level: high

Practice tips: Consult with physician before taking a class to make sure you’re healthy enough to participate. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Keywords: sweaty, hot, challenging

Integral Yoga®

What it is:
 Integral Yoga is a gentle hatha yoga practice with a spiritual focus.

What to expect: Classes begin with 45 minutes of breath-centric yoga postures, followed by deep relaxation, a breathing sequence, and a meditation. They can include kriyas (cleansing practices) and chanting. The goal of the practice is self-transformation on four levels—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—leading to an experience of spiritual unity.

Founder: Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002), an Indian spiritual teacher and yoga adept who gained fame in the West during his time in New York from 1966 to 1972

Year: 1966

Fitness level: all levels; teachers offer modifications to make the practice accessible to people of all ages, sizes, and abilities

Keywords: gentle, traditional, spiritual

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Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT)

What it is: Integrative Yoga Therapy takes a body-mind-spirit approach to healing, offering a smorgasbord of tailored (but traditional) yogic practices. Individuals can choose one-on-one sessions and classes geared toward specific peer groups, such as seniors, moms-to-be, or patients with cancer or heart disease.

What to expect: In any given class, you might learn specific asanas, pranayamas, mantras, yoga nidra practices, mudras (sealing gestures), and meditations tailored specifically for your needs.

Founder: Joseph Le Page (a yoga teacher in the Kripalu tradition and an energy healing body-worker)

Year: 1993

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: healing, experiential, transformational

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Iyengar YogaOmega_Institute_Woman_ArmBalance

What it is:
Iyengar Yoga is a form of hatha yoga that focuses on breath control and precise physical alignment in poses.

What to expect: Iyengar classes are highly verbal and precise. Students systematically progress from a beginner-level understanding of their alignment in specific poses to more complex levels of understanding—and to more advanced poses. Iyengar Yoga teachers will actively correct any misalignments as you hold a pose—mainly verbally, but with some soft hands-on adjustments as well. Expect to use a variety of props in class. They’re intended to help you perform the postures correctly.

Founder: B.K.S. Iyengar

Year: Although the exact date is unknown, Iyengar started teaching in the late 1930s and founded his yoga institute in Pune, India, in 1975.

Fitness level: all levels (a beginner’s “Level 1” Iyengar Yoga class is appropriate for all fitness levels, and certified teachers generally know how to adapt poses for common structural challenges)

Keywords: precise, alignment-focused, verbal

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Jivamukti Yoga®

What it is: A vigorous, Ashtanga-influenced style of vinyasa designed to sculpt your body while feeding your soul. Cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon translate the Sanskrit word “jivamukti” as “living liberated.” The ultimate goal of Jivamukti Yoga, they say, is “realization of the oneness of being.”

What to expect: Vinyasa-style sequences set to eclectic music (from Mozart to hip hop to Krishna Das). Classes often include intention-setting, chanting, spiritual teachings, and meditation. Ahimsa (nonharming) plays an important role in this school’s philosophy. Teachers often explore the connections between yoga and veganism, environmentalism, and political activism.

Founders: Sharon Gannon and David Life

Year: 1984

Fitness level: moderate to high

Keywords: intense, innovative, intellectually stimulating

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Kundalini Yoga Mudra

Kundalini Yoga

What it is:
A dynamic, body-mind-spirit approach to yoga designed to awaken kundalini energy.

What to expect: Be prepared to learn chants (in the Sikh language of Gurmukhi), mudras (sealing gestures), and kriyas (defined in Kundalini Yoga as sequences of movement-oriented poses, vigorous pranayama, and meditation). Each kriya is intended to create a specific outcome, such as detoxing your system, stimulating the heart center, or building immunity. This challenging practice might push your limits—and that’s sort of the point. Kundalini Yoga (also referred to as the Yoga of Awareness) is intended to wake you up out of your slumber and jump-start your physical and spiritual transformation.

Founder: Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004)

Year: Brought to the United States in 1969.

Fitness level: general

Keywords: dynamic, intense, energizing, spiritual

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Kripalu Yoga

What it is: Kripalu Yoga uses classic hatha yoga and meditation practices as tools to help you cultivate a quiet mind and awaken the flow of prana (the life force).

What to expect: Classes vary from chair yoga for seniors to gentle, moderate, and vigorous. But no matter what level you choose, you can expect a few constants: your class will include some centering time, classical asanas and pranayama, meditation, and deep relaxation. Compassionate self-acceptance plays a key role in Kripalu Yoga classes, as does witnessing (or observing your thoughts without judgment). The goal is to progress through deeper levels of mind-body awareness—and practice yoga on and off the mat.

Founder: Yogi Amrit Desai (with inspiration from his guru, Swami Kripalvananda (1913-1981), a Kundalini Yoga master from the Gujarat province of India)

Year: 1960s

Fitness level: all levels; teachers adapt practices to students of all ages, fitness levels, and body types

Keywords: compassionate, spiritual, mentally quieting

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Partner Yoga

What it is: Partner yoga is an interactive yoga practice between two or more people. You can try it with your child, your significant other, or someone you meet in a partner yoga class.

What to expect: Partner yoga classes vary in style and levels, from beginner to advanced. Sometimes you come together to create a single pose, while other times, you mirror each other, or use each other as human props to help deepen a stretch or balance in a challenging pose. It’s a great way to build a sense of trust and unity between two people—and reinvigorate your practice with a dose of creativity.

Founder: n/a

Year: unknown

Fitness level: varies from beginner to advanced

Keywords: dynamic, trust-building, creative

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Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT)

What it is: Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a one-on-one style of yoga therapy, during which the teacher actively moves your body into yoga poses with props and hands-on assists.

What to expect: According to the PRYT website, “Physically, it is like having a yoga class done to your body. But we add layers of deep introspection, which leads to the opportunity for creating a more fulfilling life.” A yoga therapist will guide you through assisted poses and conscious breathing, inviting you to verbalize your experiences and connect to your inner landscape in a safe and sacred space. The goal of this practice is to become aware of your thought patterns and release old habits and traumas. This work is very personal, and often considered most effective when done in a series of sessions.

Founder: Michael Lee (who was exploring an approach to humanistic psychology that examined key issues about how people change and transform when he discovered yoga)

Year: 1970s

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: introspective, gentle, healing

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Power Yoga

What it is: Power yoga is a vigorous, vinyasa style of yoga that’s popular in gyms because it focuses on flexibility, strength, and athleticism. However, some power yoga teachers incorporate the ancient "eight limbs" of yogic wisdom, teaching their students a systematic set of age-old principles, physical practices, attitudes, and perspectives.

What to expect: You can expect a power yoga class to be physically demanding and rigorous. Sequences are often based on flowing, athletic renditions of the sun salutation. They often incorporate jump-throughs and other challenging (but beautiful) techniques for moving through the poses without stopping.

Founder: n/a

Year: unknown

Fitness level: moderate to high

Keywords: athletic, demanding, powerful

Prenatal & Postnatal YogaOmega_Institute_Pregnant_Yoga

What it is:
Prenatal and postnatal yoga classes address the evolving needs of women during all stages of pregnancy and after childbirth.

What to expect: Many styles of yoga offer their own approach to prenatal and postnatal yoga. But generally, moms-to-be can expect to learn poses that relieve some of the common discomforts of pregnancy; anxiety-reducing relaxation, meditation, and breathing practices; and pelvic floor toning exercises to prepare for labor. New mothers can often bring their babies to a postnatal class, learning infant massage and gentle “baby yoga” stretches, while they rebuild their physical strength and learn various yoga practices to cope with parenting stress.

Founder: n/a

Year: unknown

Fitness level: all levels

Practice tip: Women with health conditions should consult with their doctor or midwife before choosing and attending a class.

Keywords: gentle, flexible, nurturing

Purna Yoga

What it is: Alignment-based asana classes that incorporate pranayama, heart-centered meditations, and yogic teachings designed to help you connect to your inner light.

What to expect: There is a strong spiritual component to Purna Yoga, even though the 90-minute classes focus on an Iyengar-inspired asana practice. (The Sanskrit word “purna” means “complete” or “whole.”) The focus is on finding and embodying a positive, beautiful feeling instead of creating the perfect pose. Some practices aim to open your heart center and help you cultivate a deeper connection to your soul. Your teacher may probably talk about the body-mind-spirit connection, applied yoga philosophy, and healthy nutrition during class, too.

Founder: Aadil Palkhivala and Savitri 

Year: 2003

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: energizing, precise, transformational

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Restorative Yoga

What it is: Restorative yoga uses lots of props to support your body in gentle, passive poses.

What to expect: You’ll activate your body’s relaxation response by resting in supported poses that are designed to move the spine in all six directions. A plethora of props—straps, blankets, bolsters, and blocks—will help you hold postures for longer than usual, so you can experience active relaxation with minimal effort. Your teacher will guide you through conscious breathing practices to give your mind a calming focal point.

Founder: B.K.S. Iyengar

Year: 1970s

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: gentle, relaxing, rejuvenating

Satyananda Yoga™

What it is: A comprehensive, tantric style of practice taught by the Bihar School of Yoga, Satyananda Yoga features asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control practices), mudras (sealing gestures), bandhas (locks) and meditation. This is a spiritually focused practice.

What to expect: In addition to the techniques listed above, Satyananda Yoga integrates the physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of yoga into each class. Teachers encourage students to gradually explore their higher selves through these practices (and more) over time.

Founder: Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923-2009)

Year: 1964

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: spiritual, holistic, systematic

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Sivananda Yoga

What it is: Sivananda Yoga is a gentle, relaxing spiritual practice based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda.

What to expect: The core focus of each 90-minute class is 12 asanas, which you’ll perform between periods of savasana (relaxation). The classes also instruct you in five fundamentals designed to elevate your consciousness: asana, pranayama, relaxation, positive thinking, and meditation.

Founder: Swami Vishnudevananda (1927-1993), who named the practice after his teacher, Swami Sivananda (1887-1963)

Year: 1962

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: spiritual, gentle, relaxing

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Standup Paddleboard Yoga (SUP)

What it is: Standup paddleboard yogis strike poses on top of 10- to 12-foot-long boards that are floating on the water.

What to expect: You’ll learn how to perform dozens of yoga poses (from downward dog to boat to warrior) while rocking with the ripples (and/or waves)—and, hopefully, enjoying the scenery. Your core muscles (as well as muscles you rarely use during an earthbound yoga practice) will feel the burn as you make an effort to balance on the board. Don’t be surprised if you get wet.

Founder: n/a

Year: approximately 2009

Fitness level: high

Keywords: playful, challenging, core-strengthening

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Svaroopa® Yoga

What it is: Svaroopa Yoga is a gentle, slow-paced style of practice designed to release tension in the muscles along your spine and facilitate an inner opening, so you can experience svaroopa, “the bliss of your own Being.”

What to expect: You’ll learn new ways to practice familiar poses, which aim to decompress your spine from bottom to top. Your teacher will support your body with blankets, blocks, and other props to make the poses more accessible to you when necessary. In this practice, yoga is more than exercise. By removing inner blocks and filling the mind-body with steadiness and ease, Svaroopa Yoga can become a gateway to understanding your essential nature.

Founder: Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati (formerly known as Rama Berch)

Year: 1964

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: healing, transformational, revitalizing

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What it is: TriYoga is a flowing, dancelike blend of three practices: asana, pranayama, and mudra sealing (hand gestures).

What to expect: Creative, graceful sequences are the hallmark of this meditative style of yoga flow. You’ll synchronize your breath and your mudras with wavelike motions of your spine and other artful, slow-mo movements as you gradually progress through seven levels of practice, building strength, flexibility, and endurance along the way. Classes conclude with deep relaxation, rhythmic breathing, and meditation.

Founder: Kali Ray, a longtime student of Ganapati Sachidananda (who lives in Mysore, India)

Year: 1980

Fitness level: moderate to high

Keywords: graceful, dancelike, meditative

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Vinyasa Yoga

What it is:
The word “vinyasa” in the West typically refers to a choreographed type of yoga class characterized by fluid poses and movements that are synchronized with the breath.

What to expect: Many different schools offer their own unique approach to vinyasa classes, but the general rule is that you’ll practice a flowing sequence of poses linked with the breath, often put to music. Flows are often moderately to fast-paced and can quickly become athletically challenging. On yoga studio schedules, vinyasa classes may also be labeled “power” or “flow.” Ashtanga Yoga and power yoga are two examples of vinyasa style practices.

Founder: n/a

Year: unknown

Fitness level: moderate to high

Keywords: flowing, beautiful, athletic


What it is: A gentle form of yoga therapy tailored to your mind-body constitution and designed to address specific ailments (such as anxiety or back pain). This is a practice of great philosophical spiritual depth; the goal is self-transformation on every level.

What to expect: Viniyoga sequences are often fluid, because they coordinate each movement with the breath and aim to mobilize the spine. But no two yoga therapy prescriptions are alike. Your Viniyoga teacher will chat with you about your unique mind-body condition and needs and walk you through a practice you can do at home. Elements may include specific asanas, pranayamas, chanting practices, meditations, prayers, rituals—even the study of yogic texts. The goal is to give you the tools to heal and begin a journey of self-discovery.

Founder: The practice comes from the T. Krishnamacharya lineage. Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, studied with Krishnamacharya’s son, T.K.V. Desikachar, for more than 30 years.

Year: The American Viniyoga Institute was founded in 1999, but the practice goes back for generations.

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: gentle, therapeutic, multidimensional

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Yin YogaOmega_Institute_YinYoga_ForwardBend

What it is:
Yin Yoga is a very slow-paced style of yoga that is designed to improve the flow of qi, the subtle energy said in Chinese medicine to run through the body’s energy pathways.

What to expect: Classes emphasize posture holds ranging from one to twenty minutes—so they can be quite challenging, especially if your flexibility is limited. Prepare to work your hips, pelvis, and lower spine. According to, “Yin Yoga targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that normally are not exercised very much in a more active style of asana practice.” Props make the poses more accessible to the flexibly challenged. Beginners start with shorter holds and gradually increase their time in each pose.

Founder: Paulie Zink

Year: 1970s

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: slow, deep, challenging

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Yoga in the Tradition of Krishnamacharya

What it is: A highly individualized style of yoga originally taught by T. Krishnamacharya, designed to help people heal on all levels—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

What to expect: Classes move from gentle to advanced and are limited to one-on-one and small group sessions. Students coordinate each movement with a particular segment of the breath (an inhalation, an exhalation, or a hold). As Krishnamacharya said, “Breath is central to yoga because it is central to life…and yoga is about life.”

Founder: T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), who is known as the father of modern yoga and introduced the term "viniyoga" to the West.

Year: unknown

Fitness level: all levels

Keywords: breath-centric, holistic, healing

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