Yoga is certainly a flexible practice. Yogis young and old, new to the practice or advanced in their ability to practice asanas (physical posture), can find classes, teachers, and experiences that fit their goals, even if those goals are ever-changing. Since it was first practiced, yoga has grown like a tree with many branches, and as a result, there are many different types of yoga that you can try all over the world. There are some branches that challenge you physically, and others that don’t involve physical movement at all.
If you’re looking to add yoga to your next vacation or trip, consider trying a new style of yoga. Exploring different parts of the body or styles of meditation can open your mind to a new way to connect with your physical body and the mind. Here’s a list of six different styles of accessible yoga. The locations are merely suggestions; a quick Google search can help you find classes near you, retreats around the world, or even festivals that celebrate a unique style of yoga.
1. Ashtanga yoga — Mysore, India
Ashtanga is one of the oldest yoga traditions. While ashtanga is a vigorous physical practice, it was developed as “yoga of the mind.” Ashtanga yoga consists of six series; each series includes a set of sun salutations, standing, seated, and closing poses. Mastering the first series can take years, and it’s recommended that yogis practice six days a week.
Mysore is a popular style of teaching ashtanga yoga, named after the place where it was developed. In the Mysore style, each individual completes a set of asanas at their own pace. They rely on their breath to move them throughout the different poses; the instructor will provide one-on-one instruction when appropriate.
Many yoga practitioners complete their teacher training in ashrams throughout Mysore and India. Yoga was developed through spiritual texts in India and many teachers believe it’s most appropriate to train in the place where yoga began.
2. Vinyasa yoga — Melbourne, Australia
In the world of yoga, ashtanga begets vinyasa. Vinyasa is the type of yoga that most Westerners think of when they’re first introduced to the practice. Vinaysa is a Sanskrit word, meaning “connection.” Practitioners connect their breath with different movements throughout the flow, and there’s a lot of focus put into the physical body. Teachers will instruct the students to inhale and raise their leg or exhale and twist their torso.
While you may be able to expect a similar class if you go to a Bikram or a Kundalini class, teachers have more freedom to change the environment and style of their vinyasa class. Melbourne, for example, has a studio, Yoga 213, where hip-hop lovers can boogie and get their flow on at the same time. As yoga has become more popular, teachers have brought in animals, drinks, and other gimmicks to make the classes more fun and appealing to new yogis. Classes may also have a theme that will strengthen one part of the body or work toward a more advanced “peak pose.”
3. Bikram yoga — Los Angeles, California
Bikram is the original form of “hot yoga” that’s offered in vinyasa classes around the world today. Bikram yoga consists of a rigid 90-minute practice that includes 26 asanas and two breathing practices. The practice is done in a room that’s heated to 40 degrees Celsius. Students sweat profusely throughout, and regular practitioners enjoy the feeling of getting a good workout after the practice is complete.
Los Angeles is the home of Bikram yoga; in the 1980s, Bikram Choudhury introduced the practice to Hollywood elite. Now, Bikram is practiced all over the world, but if you’re in Los Angeles, visit Modo Yoga LA or Set and Flow Yoga.
4. Yin and restorative yoga — Bali, Indonesia
Yin yoga is an alternative to a sweaty, flowing practice. Rather than practicing with a yang (masculine, active, and hot) energy, yin takes a softer approach. Yogis hold poses that stretch out different areas of the body, but with a focus on comfort overreaching their “edge.” Each pose is held for at least one minute, and sometimes for as long as 10 minutes. Restorative yoga is a similar practice that puts an even stronger emphasis on comfort, relaxation, and restoring the body after an active day.
At the Yoga Barn in Bali, practitioners can attend a variety of classes throughout the day. Yin, restorative, and myofascial release classes offer a more relaxing 90-minute practice. Sound healings, yoga nidra, and meditation classes provide a similar sense of calm and relaxation without any movement at all. Bali, specifically Ubud, is becoming one of the hottest places for people to practice yoga and attend wellness retreats that include activities like yoga and surfing. The Yoga Barn is one of the dozens of yoga studios that vacationers can visit in Ubud.
5. Kundalini yoga — Costa Rica
No matter what style of yoga you practice, breathing is just as important as the physical poses. Pranayama (breathwork) can work wonders for the physical body. In Kundalini yoga, practitioners complete different forms of pranayama, asana, and mantra to bring the feminine and masculine energies in the body together. Whereas ashtanga is “yoga of the mind,” Kundalini is “yoga of awareness.” Rather than sweating and flowing through different asanas, practitioners can expect to move through different mantras and meditations on the different chakras.
Costa Rica is the Western Hemisphere’s Bali; many yoga practitioners go to Costa Rica for yoga and wellness retreats such as Blue Osa. The Central American country is even home to yoga festivals, like Envision. Participants can attend workshops and classes taught by teachers trained in many different types of yoga.
6. Acroyoga — Vancouver, Canada
Acroyoga is an exciting combination of yoga and acrobatics that encourages a loving, welcoming community. Acro yogis meet up at “jams” to “play,” practicing poses in groups of two or even three. It’s a strong, often spontaneous practice where newbies and travelers can join in at a moment’s notice. Acroyoga is also a feature at many festivals around the globe and is also considered part of the circus arts community.
If you’re interested in acro, you can most likely find a meetup on Facebook. Tight-knit acro communities can be found in cities around the world. Vancouver has one of the biggest acro communities in the Western Hemisphere. Acro classes are taught weekly, and jams meet up throughout the city. Vancouver is also the home to a three-day acro fest led by over a dozen teachers.
Want to branch out?
Again, the styles mentioned above are just a small representation of the yoga world that’s accessible to beginners. If the next city you travel to offers a style of yoga that you’re unfamiliar with, give it a try! Every yoga class is an opportunity to deepen the connection between your body, mind, and soul. Keep an open mind and enjoy the adventure.