The Different Styles of Exercise Yoga

By Karen Tran; First Year Project Manager

As we enter into the winter season, the weather becomes cold, rainy and wet. Being active outdoors can become a challenge, but there are still so many options to staying active indoors. One common form of exercise is yoga, which can be performed indoors or outdoors. Yoga isn’t just a form of exercise though. It is also a form of meditation and healing, used to heal the mind, body, and spirit, improving overall well-being.


Yoga actually originated from India more than 5,000 years ago and has become a prominent method of complementary medicine in the US today. Within yoga itself, there are many forms and branches with each specializing in a specific aspect of well-being.

When we talk about yoga as an exercise, we’re talking specifically about Hatha yoga — “a system of physical postures, or asanas, whose higher purpose is to purify the body, giving one awareness and control over its internal states and rendering it fit for meditation.” Hatha yoga includes many different styles, so we’re going to clarify the most common ones. Next time you go to a yoga class you’ll know the differences and can pick which style of yoga will fit you best.

A few styles of exercise yoga explained:

Anusara: This style focuses on opening one’s heart with a goal of each student leaving feeling uplifted and empowered. Through a sequential progression, each pose follows the “Universal Principles of Alignment” to push each person to make improvements each time so that they feel better about themselves. Anusara challenges your body and mind.

Ashtanga: Ashtanga can be a rigorous and sweaty workout that also calms the mind. It is similar to vinyasa in that each pose is synced with a breath but is different in that for Ashtanga, the same poses are performed in the same order each time. It is a fast-paced, nonstop sequence that uses breathing techniques to focus the body and mind.

Bikram: One of the popular styles of yoga, Bikram takes place in a room heated to over 100 degrees, making you sweat like you can’t imagine. It follows a challenging nonstop 26 pose sequence that stretches your body, detoxifies, and relieves stress. Bikram pushes you physically and can strengthen your muscles.

Iyengar: Pronounced “eye-en-gar”, this style of exercise yoga is great for beginners. It is slow-paced but also very meticulous. Iyengar focuses on ensuring proper alignment of the body in each pose so you may use props such as belts, blocks, chairs, and pillow-like bolsters to help you get into poses with correct alignment. It doesn’t get your heart rate pumping, but it challenges you physically mentally to stay in the proper position.

Kripalu: This gentle style of yoga focuses on a deeper mind-body awareness. It barely causes a sweat through its slow movements, but progresses through three levels to reach that deep level.

Kundalini: Meant to awaken the energy inside the body, Kundalini is a more spiritual and philosophical style of yoga. It offers repeated movements, dynamic breathing techniques, chanting, meditation and mantras. Each specific movement is synchronized with the breath and aims to open your heart, drawing up energy from the base of the spine to flow throughout the body.

Power Yoga: One of the most athletic forms of yoga, power yoga builds upper body strength, flexibility, and balance. It is a rigorous style of vinyasa yoga based upon the poses of Ashtanga yoga. It is fast-paced and challenging, flowing from one post to the next.

Vinyasa flow: Vinyasa, influenced by Ashtanga, is all about moving and flowing from one pose to the next in a smooth nonstop sequence. The poses are different each time, but this form of yoga also synchronizes breathing with each pose. You can get a good workout and a good relaxing experience from this yoga style because it pushes your physical limits and focuses your mind.

If you’re still lost with all the different types of yoga or don’t know where to start, try referencing this chart created by (link provided below) to figure it out! Chart:




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