There’s More Than One Way to Downward Dog: Discovering Your Ideal Yoga Practice

by Kelly Brown

Booking your first yoga class used to be easy. Now, skimming the class schedule at your gym for a good yoga class can be an exercise in confusion. How can you tell the difference between Ashtanga and Vinyasa? Or hot yoga and Hatha? Most importantly, how do you know which one is right for you? Our cheat sheet will help you decode and decide on your best yoga flow.

Hatha: Beginner

Hatha refers to any practice that combines poses (also called “asanas”) with breathing techniques, or pranayamas. The goal of a basic Hatha class is to develop flexibility and balance while connecting with your breath in every movement. Hatha is known to be relaxing and restorative which makes it perfect for those with joint pain, beginners or anyone looking to relax their mind and deepen their range of motion. Class often begins with chanting and then moves into a series of poses.

Top Tip: Before starting a new yoga class, ask the instructor how quickly you’ll flow through poses. If the answer is rapidly, and you’re a beginner, you may want to find a slower-paced class for your first few sessions.

Vinyasa: Torching Calories

Vinyasa is known for being one of the most well-liked, well-attended yoga classes on the gym schedule. This fast-paced style, sometimes called power yoga, requires you to move continuously throughout the class, connecting breath with movement. The most well-known vinyasa sequence is the sun salutation.

This sequence is probably something you’ve done at home already. It involves a flowing series of lunging, bending and stretching asanas. Vinyasa is a great option if you’re looking to spend time working on inversions. Or, if you want to burn some serious calories.

Bikram: Flexibility

At this point, we all know someone who’s done Bikram yoga. This famous practice was founded by Bikram Choudhury who popularized this “hot yoga” style in the 1970s. To mimic the climate of Choudhury’s hometown in India, studios are heated to 105 degrees with a whopping 40 percent humidity level. This intense heat loosens the muscles and allows you to stretch deeper. Each 90-minute class includes a series of 26 poses done twice throughout and two breathing exercises.

Top Tip: Avoid eating two hours before class and bring LOTS of water. Skip the perfumes and heavily scented hair products.

Buti: “Non-Yoga” Yoga

This trademarked style of yoga combines jump training, tribal dancing and yoga asanas into an intense workout. Buti translates to “a secret remedy or cure.” Buti Yoga was created by Bizzie Gold in 2001 and has grown to include instructors all over the world.

This style of yoga is targeted toward women and meant to uplift and motivate – set aside your ego and embrace your own beauty.

A cardio intensive yoga workout, Buti is not recommended for those with joint issues that don’t allow for impact.

Ashtanga: Advanced

This physically challenging style consists of an unvarying sequence of poses. Typically, you execute 70 poses for 90 minutes. These poses will include sun salutations, inversions, backbends and advanced arm balances. Ashtanga requires strength and endurance. So, if you’re new to your yoga practice, we recommend skipping this one. Once you’re committed to a routine, challenge yourself by adding Ashtanga to your practice.

Yin Yoga: Chill Out

Named for the calm of yin-and-yang, this style requires moving slowly into poses, most of which are done lying down. From there, you melt into each pose for five minutes to allow for a deeper stretch and enjoy time to just be. Restless mind? Yin is a great way to let thoughts float away and focus on breathing. Not surprisingly, Yin yoga is great for activating the part of your nervous system that helps you bounce back from stress. So, if it’s been a particularly difficult week at work, add a Yin class to your schedule!


Kelly Brown is a writer, marketer and egg-eater. Her writing have been published across Michigan and the US. When she isn’t writing, she works full-time at Green Giftz, instructs at Beer City Barre, and attends classes at CrossFit 616

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