For the curious and/or confused, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you navigate a few of the more popular and widespread styles, based on your personality. Keep in mind, these are just suggestions — you’re not always going to gravitate toward one particular style just because you’re an extrovert or introvert. The best practice of all: approach any yoga class with openness, curiosity, and few expectations. (The same attitude will serve you well in your day-to-day life, too.)
If you’re an industrious powerhouse who tends toward introspection, try: Ashtanga
Physical, athletic, and challenging, (kind of like you, no?), Ashtanga is a set series of poses, learned at your own pace. As a self-practice, Ashtanga gives you the chance to hone your discipline and patience. “Ashtanga is most often represented through a Type A personality because of this person’s drive and fortitude,” says Alana Kessler, an Ashtanga instructor and owner of Sangha Yoga Shala in Brooklyn. “Ashtanga helps balance out the competitive, ‘go- go-go’ nature by encouraging focused concentration using the breath, and over time leads to a softer, quieter mind.”
If you’re an intuitive seeker with a penchant for details, try: Iyengar
Curious, thoughtful yogis who love to play around (think: blocks, blankets, hanging upside down from rope walls) will be drawn to Iyengar yoga. A typical class might be focused on mastering the finer points of one or two poses in total, rather than “flowing” through poses rapidly. With so much focus on the physical aspects rather than the spiritual, you’ll leave class feeling confident in your mastery of, say, Triangle Pose. Attention to proper alignment, muscular actions, and physical structure make Iyengar great for analytical people, and also for students with injuries or other physical limitations.
Photo: Via Free People
Vinyasa, like Ashtanga, involves moving through poses with emphasis on coordinating the breath to “flow.” The big difference: Vinyasa takes its inspiration from spontaneity rather than structure. “Vinyasa helps people to let go and experience something through their bodies rather than being super analytical,” says Liz Buehler Walker, co-director of Yoga High in New York. This means that you can expect a class with an eclectic playlist, creative sequencing, and a mix of fast and slow pacing to keep you on your toes.
Vinyasa is extremely popular in the U.S., and with thousands of teachers come thousands of interpretations of this style. It might take some sleuthing to find a teacher you really click with, personality-wise. “There is something naturally extroverted about Vinyasa, but yoga in general is a very internal practice,” adds Walker. “You can find a beautiful balance between extroversion and introversion in it.”
If you’re a social busybody with a tendency to stretch yourself thin, try: Yin
Truly the “yin” to our “yang” lives, Yin sessions are made up of postures held passively for long periods of time. Count on lots of calming forward folds and supine poses (on your back), with focus on stretching hips, lower back, and legs. With a focus on mindfulness and body-mind balance, Yin yoga can help you become centered and calm. Sound like something your frenetic self could use? Go for it. Yin yogis even testify that this gentle style is the yoga gateway to another tried and true practice: meditation.
If you’re the reliable, perceptive rock in your relationships and you need a little TLC, try: Restorative
This deeply relaxing, prop-heavy style stays true to its name and “restores” you in every sense of the word: physically, mentally, and emotionally. If friends always look to you for your wise counsel and comforting ways, but your energy is depleted, this might be just the ticket. Anyone can (and should) practice Restorative yoga, says Suzanne Taylor, a Restorative instructor at Reebok Sports Club. “It’s not so much about personality type as it is about life experience at the time,” she adds, noting that anyone recovering from illness, injury, or grief also benefit from restorative techniques.
Photo: Via Free People