How to Choose the Right Types of Yoga if You're a Beginner

Want to begin your yoga practice but unsure which style is right for you? Our guide can help you make your decision.

Once the domain of ancient Indian yogis seeking enlightenment, yoga has well and truly entered the mainstream. This ancient system of principles and practices has come a long way in the thousands of years since its inception. Modern adaptations can involve hot rooms, props, music and sometimes even dance. For newcomers, the challenge is working out which style is suitable for you. To save you the time and effort of trying out each one, our guide breaks down five common styles that you’ll find in Australia.

Hatha

Hatha yoga involves a series of postures (known as asanas) that are intended to realign the body. It is slow-paced and focuses on movement, conscious breathing (pranayama) and meditation. “Hatha should suit all ages and levels of experience, particularly beginners,” explains Sophie Hamley, who teaches at The Yoga Room in Sydney’s north.

Advocates of Hatha say it helps increase strength and flexibility, improve your range of motion, promote balance and decrease stress.

Good if… you want a slow practice to help calm your mind.

Bikram

Bikram yoga is an adapted method of Hatha yoga. Classes generally go for 90 minutes and consist of the same 26 asanas and two breathing exercises. This series is performed in a heated room (ideally 40 degrees Celsius). The postures are relatively simple but the heat can make for a challenging environment and is not suitable for some, including pregnant women.

“Bikram yoga is designed to systematically work every part of the body from the inside out,” says Gail Asbell, spokesperson from Bikram Yoga Geelong.

Good if… you’re relatively new to yoga, can stand the heat, and want to strengthen, stretch and sweat.

“Bikram yoga is designed to systematically work every part of the body from the inside out.”

group yoga class

Vinyasa

Faster and often stronger than Hatha, Vinyasa refers to a certain sequence of poses that are intended to flow smoothly, as you inhale and exhale.

“There are a few different styles of Vinyasa yoga but the term usually implies a creative, flowing practice that is probably best for those who want a practice that challenges body and brain,” Sophie says.

Good if… you want to build strength and flexibility, plus get your heart rate up.

Yin

Yin is slow-paced and characterised by holding poses for long periods (sometimes up to 20 minutes) in a bid to free up the deeper connective tissues of the body such as tendons and ligaments. It focuses primarily on the hips, pelvis and lower spine.

“Yin yoga is a deep, non-aggressive practice that is growing in popularity; classes are suitable for beginners and those who need to work cautiously into joints and ligaments,” Sophie says.

Good if… you want a deep stretch and to calm your mind.

“Yin yoga is a deep, non-aggressive practice that is growing in popularity.''

Ashtanga

Ashtanga is a strong yoga style that follows the same sequence of postures over about 90 minutes. It is similar to Vinyasa except practitioners perform the same series of poses in exactly the same order. Unlike other yoga styles, where a teacher talks you through the class, you can often learn the sequence off by heart, and then practise individually.

“Ashtanga is an active practice that is ideal for those looking to build upper-body strength while maintaining flexibility and strength through the lower body,” says Sophie.

Good if… you want to build strength and eventually be able to do a handstand in the middle of the room!


Once you’ve picked the right style for you, you can be on your way to enjoying yoga’s numerous mind and body benefits. It’s a good idea to start with an instructor who can help guide you to learn the right techniques at the right pace, to build your ability to do poses safely.

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