Yoga Styles

Confused? Try this quiz at to help you figure out which style is right for you.

Hatha Yoga, often said to be derived from the Sanskrit words for “sun” and “moon”, refers to the physical practice of yoga postures in order to create physical balance. Very non-specific when used as the title of a class, so be sure to ask the studio what is involved.

Vinyasa: simply refers to the linking of physical poses with the breath. When used as the title of a class, this often indicates a more vigorous/ athletic practice, but not always. Ask the studio if you are unsure.

Ananda Yoga: Developed by Swami Kriyananda, this style of yoga aims to promote spiritual growth. Silent affirmations are used while holding a pose, to help deepen each movement and balance body, energy and mind. The classes use poses designed to move energy upward into the brain, as a preparation for meditation. To experience this in RI, try Grace studio)

Anusara Yoga: The word anusara means “flowing with grace.” This style was founded by John Friend in 1997 to integrate the “life affirming Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness with the Universal Principles of Alignment.” The style focuses on finding the good and the uniqueness in everyone and everything, while still paying close attention to proper physical alignment. Expect an invocation chant at the beginning of each class, which you are free to participate in, or simply listen to. You can aso expect a playful class, usually centered around a theme, and often emphasizing the “opening of the heart”. Good for beginners. To experience this in RI, check out the Motion Center, Body Kneads, Studio Exhale or Essence Yoga.

Bikram: Founded by Bikram Choudhury, this is a specific set of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises done in a heated, humid room (100+ degrees F). You can epect 45 minutes of standing poses and 45 minutes of poses on the floor.

Forrest Yoga: This practice originated in 1982 with Ana Forrest. It is a strong, hot practice that focuses on realizing your own strength, and often involves emotional exploration along with challenging physical poses. To experience this in RI, try Shri, Santosha, Raffa, Body Kneads or Tree of Life.

Ishta Yoga: Style of yoga founded by Alan Finger and Mani Finger. It is an acronym that stands for “Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra and Ayurveda. This style focuses on developing a practice that resonates with each individual. A good place to start for beginners.

Kripalu Yoga: This is a yoga system developed within the last 20 years by yogi Amrit Desai at the Kripalu Center in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts. The 3 stages of kripalu yoga include a willful practice (of breath, alignment and consciousness), a willful surrender, and a sense of meditation in motion. Often a gentle style, good for beginners and those with physical limitations. To experience this in RI, check out the Heart Center, Innerlight, Simplify Yoga, Breathing Time, All That Matters, Bristol Yoga Studio, Yoga Loft, or Village Wellness Center.

Krishnamacharya: man that taught 3 of the most influential modern teachers. Each man required a different type of yoga practice for his individual constitution, and each one went forth to teach that type of yoga:

a. Iyengar Yoga: yoga based in precise physical alignment. BKS Iyengar himself experienced physical challenges, and this type of yoga is often considered appropriate for those with physical limitations. Lots of props and modifications are used to assist the individual. Breath work is not taught until more advanced levels. You can expect poses to be held for longer periods of time, and often deconstructed so that beginners can learn the alignment and basic structure of each posture. To experience this in RI, try Iyengar Source or the Motion Center.

b. Ashtanga Yoga: founded by Pattabhi Jois (Pa-tah-bee-Joy), a young, strong boy with a vigorous and athletic practice. This style of yoga is rooted in strong vinyasa (linking poses to breath), and is the basis of many “flow” and “power” styles of yoga today. Ashtanga classes tend to be fast-paced, vigorous, athletic and specific, moving you through 6 series of poses of increasing difficulty. There is less modification and often vigorous “hands-on” adjustments. These classes are often aught “Mysore style”, which means that students practice at their own pace while a teacher circulates in the room. Not generally a great place to start for beginners with medical conditions. To try this in RI, check out the Yoga School of South County, the Motion Center, or Ashtanga Yoga RI.

c. Viniyoga: Founded by T.K.V Desikachar, this style of yoga is a gentle style based more on breath than precise form. It is considered a therapeutic style, and offers many modifications. A great place to start for beginners or those with medical conditions. To experience this in RI, check out Breathing Time or Santosha to start,.

Kundalini Yoga: A derivative of tantric philosophy, kundalini focuses on removing energy blockages along the spine so that energy can move from the base of the spine, up through each chakra, and into the brain. Along with more familiar poses, you can expect repetitive motions, mantra (sound) repetition, and dynamic/challenging breathing techniques. To experience kundalini yoga in RI, check out Tenth Gate, All That Matters, Santosha or Shri.

Power Yoga: a westernized version of Ashtanga Yoga (see above). The class will vary from studio to studio, though you can expect a hot room and a physically challenging, flowing class where you move in and out of poses with the breath.

Prana Flow Yoga: This style was founded by Shiva Rea in 2005. The style reflects Shiva’s background in dance, Indian martial arts, and Tantric philosophy. You can expect a playful, flowing, physically challenging practice that explores creativity and constant motion. In RI, you can find these classes at Body Kneads, Eyes of the World, Laughing Elephant, All That Matters, Shri, Essence, Freedom, Island Heron, Bristol Yoga Studio and others.

Restorative Yoga: This is a form of yoga that involves passive poses (no muscular action) held for 5-20 minutes. Your body is propped on pillows, blankets, bolsters, towles, etc, and the idea is to promote maximum relaxation and muscular release. This can be thought of as supervised naptime for adults. Excellent for beginners, those with injuries/medical conditions, and everyone in between. Most RI studios offer at least one restorative class.

Sivananda Yoga: involves chanting, meditation and 12 basic yoga poases

Svaroopa Yoga: This style, developed by Rama Berch, emphasizes a systematic release of the small muscles surrounding the spine, starting at the tailbone. It emphasizes finding the pose from within, rather than imposing a form on the body. You can expect a lot of floor poses and a lot of props/blankets with a focus on removing tension. Excellent and accessible style for beginners. In RI, look for these classes at Blissful Moment, Time for You and Heartsong.

Yoga Nidra: This is referred to as “yogic sleep,” and is a state of consciousness somewhere between being asleep and awake—it is like a sense of sleep while maintaining a deep awareness on some levels. The idea is that through a series of guided relaxation exercises, you can mimic the brain waves of deep sleep while still being awake. You can expect to lie in a comfortable position and listen to a guided relaxation exercise. This is used with some success to help war veterans manage symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Many studios offer either Nidra classes or a short yoga nidra at the end of class. Try Shri, Essence, Santosha, Breathing Time, All That Matters, Blissful Moment, Body Kneads, Exhale and Laughing Elephant.


Bhakti yoga: a devotional practice

Jnana yoga: the yoga of knowledge in order to obtain wisdom

Karma Yoga: selfless action

Kriya Yoga: techniques of energy purification, often focused on the breath

Mantra: repetition of sounds

Mudra: a yoga position for your hands

Tantra: a life philosophy that focuses on expansion, spiritual freedom and dualism vs non-dualism

Yantra: visualizations of images