Any yoga practice that includes specific movements and series of postures (asanas) is a form of hatha yoga, so unless you’re looking for a non-physical spiritual practice, you’ll want to go for hatha yoga to start. It’s likely that whatever you’ve heard about from friends, articles, or even just passing by that new “hot yoga” studio on your way home from work is hatha-related.
Hatha yoga includes traditional postures, careful movements, breath, and mindfulness work aimed at keeping your mind and body feeling alive, fit, and working together in harmony. Basically, it rocks.
Do you want a calorie-torching, muscle-building, generally fast-flowing workout? Vinyasa will make you glow with sweat and calm your mind, all in one challenging class. A warning: Unless the class listing uses words like “gentle” or “beginners,” then a vinyasa class will be best for people who already have a little yoga experience. Maris says to look to vinyasa if you want “a fluid class…though no two vinyasa classes will be alike.”
“Unlike vinyasa, which will be much more varied, iyengar classes are incredibly specific and pay acute attention to detail,” says Maris. It’s great for learning proper alignment in the poses, she explains, especially if you’re newer to yoga. In iyengar yoga, there are strict series of postures that you follow—in order, every time. Sequences tend to build on each other, Maris says, so these classes are best booked in a series, rather than drop-in style.
Maris says ashtanga is a strong, physically demanding type of yoga. Like iyengar, it also consists of a few set series of postures, from a beginning to advanced set, that lead into each other. According to Yoga Journal, ashtanga might be right for you if you’re into “building core strength and toning the body.” As long as you don’t mind a bit of repetition, ashtanga can help you move your body with intention and get you out of your head.
You guessed it, any class listed as prenatal will be geared toward safe poses for the mom-to-be (though it’s always good to check with your doctor before beginning a practice). Prenatal yoga can help with everything from easing pregnancy woes to helping prepare mom’s body for an easier labor and recovery. I went to prenatal yoga classes when I was pregnant and too sick to run (“ugh” to pregnant bouncing) and loved it.