14 Different Types of Yoga and Their Benefits

There are so many different types of yoga accessible for practice today, all yielding a variety of benefits, that it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to begin! It’s all based on what you seek – looking to destress? Build muscle and flexibility? What about meditation and mindfulness? From gentle flows that help us release stress and relax, to rigorous, sweat-inducing workouts, yoga can take on many different forms.

At Asheville Wellness Tours, we offer a variety of yoga options to suit your preferences. Our team of yoga instructors boast extensive experience across styles and can accommodate everyone, from brand new beginners to the most well-practiced yogi. Of course, it can be challenging to know what type of yoga to request if you don’t know all the different styles of yoga that are available! 

Let’s go through the most common yoga class options and their benefits so you can decide what’s best for you. Additionally, you can always contact us if you’re unsure what style of yoga would be best for you and your group during your Asheville getaway.

First, why are there so many different types of yoga?

The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to the Indus valley civilization (India) around 3000 BCE. Over those many centuries, variations of yoga have evolved to meet different needs and based on those who were practicing. Generally speaking, yoga focuses on physical postures, breathing, and meditation. 

At all stages of life and at every level of fitness, yoga can be practiced for its litany of health benefits. Regardless of the style or specific focus of a given practice, the benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, strength, improved circulation, and more. You should also check out our article on the mental health benefits of yoga and meditation to learn more.

Whether you’re thinking of getting started with yoga or you’re looking to change up your typical practice and try something new, there are countless ways you can expand your horizons and challenge yourself!

Best Types of Yoga for Beginners

If you’re just getting started with yoga, there are several types that can help you get introduced to the practice, the variety of poses, and the terminology, which often features words from Sanskrit, an ancient Indo-European language of India.

1. Hatha Yoga

Hatha means “force” in Sanskrit and can cover a broad range of yoga styles. Hatha yoga breathing techniques can be traced back to the 1st Century in both Buddhist and Hindu texts, but it was another 1,000 years before the use of yoga postures, or asanas, and breath control was recorded as a way to enhance vital energy. 

Classical Hatha yoga was developed in the 15th century and included guidance for the proper setting of yoga, asanas, pranayama (breathing exercises), mudras (hand gestures), and meditation for personal spiritual growth. 

Because of the all-encompassing nature of this type of yoga, classes referred to as “Hatha” can differ from teacher to teacher, so you’ll never know exactly what might be included in any Hatha Yoga class. That makes this style of yoga perfect for beginners as an introduction to the abundance of different poses and breathing techniques. 

2. Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga practiced in studios today. The word “vinyasa” can be translated as “arranging something in a special way,” such as asanas (poses). In Vinyasa yoga classes, movement and breath coordinate to flow from one pose to the next. Many other common styles of yoga today could be considered Vinyasa yoga.

Vinyasa Flow can vary between teachers and locations, with no specific sequence of positions to follow. If you’re new to yoga, taking Vinyasa classes with different teachers will surely introduce you to a variety of poses and styles so you can find your favorites!

3. Yin Yoga

The practice of Yin yoga is based on ancient Chinese philosophies of Yin and Yang, which believe there are pathways of Qi (energy) that run through our bodies. While “Yang” yoga focuses on your muscles, Yin yoga targets your deep connective tissues, like your fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. It’s slower and more meditative, giving you space to turn inward and tune into your mind and body. 

In Yin yoga classes, you will hold positions for much longer periods, which helps you stretch and lengthen lesser-used tissues. This may be more challenging for beginners especially! But, research shows that for deeper release of muscles and fascia, it can take up to two minutes resting in a given posture, so this style is sure to leave you released and relaxed. Your body will thank you later!

4. Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga is exactly as it sounds: calming, relaxing, and gentle. This slow-paced type of yoga encourages meditation and relaxation, with gentle stretches held for long periods of time. You might also use blocks or blankets, or other yoga props, for extra support in poses, making this style of yoga truly relaxing!

More Advanced Types of Yoga Practices

For you yogis looking to try a different type of yoga and mix up your practice, there are tons of options out there! Depending on your preferences (or your desire to try something totally new), you might want to take a look at some of these options.

5. Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga is a much more spiritual type of yoga, incorporating challenging breath exercises with asanas and meditation as a primary component of classes. It comes from the Sanskrit word kundal, which translates to “coiled energy.” Kundalini is designed to open the chakras through repeated movements that aim to energize from the base of your spine upward. 

The ultimate goal of Kundalini is to increase your self-awareness by silencing your mind and unblocking your chakras so that your vital energy can flow freely. “The process of growth through Kundalini Yoga is a natural unfolding of your own nature,” says Yogi Bhajan. If you’re looking for a more spiritual yoga practice, this might be perfect for you.

6. Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is for those who like it hot! In a humid room hovering around 105 degrees Fahrenheit, you will follow a very specific sequence of poses. Bikram is one of those types of yoga that you can do anywhere in the world and practice the same series no matter who is teaching and in what language. If you like knowing what you’re getting into, this could be a great style for you to start mastering! 

Bikram Yoga is not for everyone. You’ll only want to do this style of yoga if you’re okay with heat and humidity and also if you enjoy a challenging, formulaic type of class. It’s a great workout and a very popular style amongst long-term yoga practitioners! 

7. Ashtanga Yoga

Another formula-driven yoga style is Ashtanga Yoga. Following a specific sequence, you can join an Ashtanga class anywhere and know what to expect. With breathing exercises in combination with six series of poses, Ashtanga is a way to level-up your yoga practice. You will move onto the next series once you have mastered each pose from the previous series, so there is a gradual progression through which you can track your own progress.

Ashtanga is definitely more vigorous than the gentle flows of other types of yoga, but it can be very rewarding for those looking for long-term growth and a dedicated practice.

Alternative Yoga Practices

So, those were the common types of yoga classes you might see at any studio. But in today’s world there are SO many other types of yoga popping up, which are considered to be more alternative. These are also some of our favorites at Asheville Wellness Tours!

8. Prenatal Yoga

If you’re pregnant and want to practice prenatal yoga, Sue Ann, owner of local studio West Asheville Yoga offers some insights into the practice. “Prenatal Yoga helps those preparing for birth to combine functional movement, childbirth education, and build community with other parents-to-be,” Sue Ann says. “Prenatal Yoga offers evidenced-based, functional movement practices to meet the ever-changing pregnant body, and mindfulness techniques to incorporate into your pregnancy, birth and beyond! At West Asheville Yoga we find great joy in guiding families through intention yoga practices.” 

You can check out their pre/postnatal yoga insights for more details.

9. Acrobatic (or Acro) Yoga

Acro is a partner-based style of yoga that we love to do with private groups, especially couples. With Acro Yoga, you can have fun, improve your communication, and really connect with another person. Whether that’s your partner, your sibling, your bestie, or a brand new friend, this is an interactive way to build trust and have fun together!

10. Power Yoga

Power Yoga is for those seeking a challenging, more physically-demanding type of yoga. As a faster-paced class, it might feel like more of a traditional workout if you’re trying to combine your yoga and cardio sessions. There is no specific pose sequence for these classes and teaching styles can definitely vary, so it’s a good idea to ask more about the session before joining.

11. Outdoor Yoga

Practicing outdoors certainly has many advantages, ranging from health benefits to the simple enjoyment of a change of scenery. But before you take off into the forest, there are a few things to take into consideration. 

For starters, should you bring a mat? There are many suggested benefits that come from direct contact between the earth and our bodies. Proponents of Earthing say that touching the earth with our bare hands and feet provides a means of grounding, which they claim has health benefits ranging from pain relief to optimizing energy. 

And where exactly should you practice outdoors? Choosing a forest locale for your practice is a wonderful way to get a connection with nature. But any environment — from hot, dry climates even to cold, snowy locales — make a perfect backdrop for yoga! 

This type of yoga can offer a fun way to explore while on vacation or even your own backyard! You’ll enjoy a new perspective on your usual habitat. There are so many upsides to spending time in fresh air, and yoga fits wonderfully within nature. You can try it some time with us on a Yoga Hike!

12. Goat Yoga

Who doesn’t love baby goats?! Goat yoga has to be one of the cutest ideas we’ve seen. Picture this: You do your poses while an adorable goat (or several of them) hang out, making little bleating sounds and maybe munching on some grass or hay. In Asheville, locally owned Franny’s Farm takes the cake on goat yoga offerings

In some goat yoga classes, you will actually have the goats interacting and jumping on you, so be ready!

13. Equine Yoga

Yoga with horses is a unique way to practice, finding increased connection between yourself and nature. These beautiful, graceful creatures encourage a deeper appreciation of our own breath, bodies, and the world around us.

For more details on both Goat Yoga and Equine Yoga in Asheville, take a look at our article on practicing yoga beyond the studio.

14. SUP Yoga

Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga is so much fun, y’all! Who can top getting out onto the water and practicing a yoga flow with friends on a sunny summer day? These classes are always fun, usually challenging, and we love encouraging locals and visitors alike to partake in our SUP yoga classes on the beautiful French Broad River. 

While that isn’t every single type of yoga that exists, we think we’ve covered the bases for the most popular types, plus some of our personal favorites! If you’re coming to Asheville, check out our private group yoga classes or our awesome yoga hikes for a fun outdoor adventure! If you’re anywhere else in the world, join us for a virtual yoga class. We love helping beginners get to know yoga and we love helping yogis maintain their flow and try new styles for an extra challenge. Join us!