From all-day-every-day leggings to the sea of "Namaste" bumper stickers in your hometown, there’s no doubt that yoga has spread far beyond hippie culture and Madonna. No matter who you are, you’ve at least heard the word, and you’ve probably tried a class — if you’re not already a devotee.
A study conducted this year by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance found that more than 36 million people practice yoga in the U.S. And for good reason: Research has linked practicing yoga to better heart health, lower stress, and a reduction in PMS symptoms (yes, please!) and back pain. Plus, since yoga hones in on that mind-body connection, it’s also great for promoting body positivity along with better mental health. It may even help those of us with anxiety and depression manage symptoms.
Of course, we’re certainly not the first to discover all these perks. People were practicing yoga as a spiritual pursuit long before that trendy studio opened up in your neighborhood. Yoga is, in fact, ancient; it dates back so far, historians aren’t even sure of the precise origins. What they do know is the word “yoga” is mentioned in the oldest known Indian scripts, the Vedas, which date back to 1500 BCE. And the term started popping up even more in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist writings from the 3rd century BCE.
So if you still haven’t jumped on the yoga bandwagon, you’re about 3,000 years behind.
But don’t worry, we totally get it. Yoga can seem like an insular club, and with so many poses to learn and so many competing styles of practice, it’s hard to figure out where to even begin. It’s also an ever-evolving practice here in the Western world. While most people around the world who practice yoga continue to do so for spiritual or religious reasons, we have come to think of it as a form of exercise that is often completely divorced from its spiritual beginnings.
To get some info on the most common types of yoga out there today, we spoke with Heather Peterson, experienced instructor and the Chief Yoga Officer for CorePower Yoga. “I always say that yoga is for everybody, but not all yoga practices are right for all people at all times in their life,” she says. “Try as many different types of yoga as you can, and find the couple that really resonate with you. Yoga can be a lifelong practice, especially if you are willing to keep trying new styles to fit where you are at the current moment.”
Here, Peterson offers a rundown of 10 different types of yoga to help you discover your perfect practice.