Skimming the class schedule at your gym for a good yoga class can be a real exercise in confusion. How can you tell the difference between Anusara and Ashtanga? Or hot yoga and hatha? Here is a quick cheat sheet to the 8 most popular styles of yoga being taught today that I have put together for you. May it help you find your way to a class you love...
Developed by American yogi John Friend in 1997, Anusara yoga is a relative newcomer to the yoga world. Based on the belief that we’re all filled with an intrinsic goodness, Anusara seeks to use the physical practice of yoga to help students open their hearts, experience grace, and let their inner goodness shine through. Classes, which are specifically sequenced by the teacher to explore one of Friend's Universal Principles of Alignment, are rigorous for the body and the mind.
Ashtanga is based on ancient yoga teachings, but it was popularized and brought to the West by K. Pattabhi Jois (pronounced "pah-tah-bee joyce") in the 1970s. It's a rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is similar to vinyasa yoga, as each style links every movement to a breath. The difference is that Ashtanga always performs the exact same poses in the exact same order. This is a sweaty, physically demanding practice, so make sure to bring your trusty yoga mat towel.
About 30 years ago, Bikram Choudhury developed this school of yoga where classes are held in artificially heated rooms. In a Bikram class, you will sweat like never before as you work your way through a series of 26 poses. Like Ashtanga, a Bikram class always follows the same sequence, although a Bikram sequence is different from an ashtanga sequence. Bikram is somewhat controversial, as Choudhury trademarked his sequence and has sued studios who call themselves Bikram, but don't teach the poses exactly the way he says they should. It’s also wildly popular, making it one of the easiest classes to find. Due to the heated conditions of the studio, don't forget to bring a water bottle!
Hatha yoga is a generic term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Nearly every type of yoga class taught in the West is Hatha yoga. When a class is marketed as Hatha, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures. You probably won't work up a sweat in a hatha yoga class, but you should end up leaving class feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed.