With the growing popularity of yoga around the world, it is a great time to get started with this ancient practice. It might feel intimidating as you scroll through social media and see young, flexible practitioners contorted into seemingly impossible shapes. Don’t let this deter you – yoga is a practice that goes beyond the physical and is available for everyone.
The easy types of yoga for beginners are practices that allow you to move slowly, experience your body with mindfulness, and orient you to the deeper significance in the physical practice. Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga are some of the best ways to get started as a true beginner.
In the rest of this article, we will take a look at these three branches of yoga more closely. We will also explore a few additional yoga types that a beginner may also find suitable and interesting. Ultimately, the right yoga for you will depend on your body and preferences, and this guide can help you choose what to try out first.
Easy types of yoga: Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga has been around for thousands of years. It is one of the most practiced types of yoga in both the west and the east. The way we experience it in class today is a wonderful fit for beginners because it moves slowly and focuses on both the breath and the body to create the union that yoga is intended to help us find.
In a Hatha class, you will hold each position for several breaths, allowing time to sink into the posture and experience its benefits. You will not be moving as rapidly as in a vinyasa class or other flow type practice. Beyond the method that the asanas are practiced in Hatha yoga, this branch of yoga also lays a conceptual foundation for those just getting started on their yoga journey.
Philosophy of Hatha Yoga
With “ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon in Sanskrit, this style of yoga is very much focused on the dual energies that exist within all of us. To practice Hatha yoga is to find how to unify and explore them through practice. Hatha yoga should not be thought of as an exercise but as a way to move the body physically to experience its energetic capacities.
For example, if you are upset, you can imagine how you are likely to be sitting. Perhaps you will be slouching or tense in the neck and shoulders. Think now about if you were excited and consider how your posture would change. Perhaps you would find yourself sitting more upright and with attention.
The practice of Hatha yoga reverses this idea. By moving the body through certain positions, we are able to change the mindset and open ourselves up for deeper experiences.
This exploration goes beyond the physical asana practice. Pranayama, or breathwork, is commonly used alongside the asana postures in the Hatha tradition. This component extends past using your breath during your asana practice, which is also very important. Sitting for an additional pranayama session can help you quiet the mind and further prepare yourself to connect to your true nature.
For the curious yogi, mudras, mantras, and physical cleansing techniques are all part of the tradition as well. While Hatha yoga is a great place for a beginner to start, there is no limit to how deep they can go with this practice. How much they can explore themselves through these practices is truly limitless.
Finding Hatha Yoga Classes
Hatha yoga classes are one of the most widely taught styles of yoga class. Your local yoga center likely offers Hatha classes that you can join to experience the practice. If this is unavailable to you, there are many options available online where you can get a taste of how a Hatha class feels.
If you are a true beginner, practicing at home allows you to feel comfortable and get a feeling of the practice. However, it is essential to occasionally attend some classes in-person to receive adjustments or feedback from the teacher. Your teacher will be able to guide you to proper positioning and alignment. This feedback is important as you can experience the benefits of the postures without the threat of injury.
If you are interested in learning a very pure form of Hatha yoga, you may be interested in the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. These centers exist all over the world and offer a holistic approach to Hatha yoga practice. Their teachings can help you explore the physical practice and the other aspects of yoga to help you experience more peace and unity. You can visit their website to see if there is a center near your home.
Easy types of yoga: Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar Yoga, which can also be seen under the name Restorative Yoga, is a gentle and healing practice available to all. This practice is originally named after B.K.S. Iyengar, an Indian yoga master, and teacher who helped develop this incredibly therapeutic branch of yoga.
Iyengar Yoga has made several contributions to the practice of yoga, all of which have made asana practice more healing and accessible to all. The first component of his style of practice is the sequencing of the positions. By adjusting the order in which the different asanas are performed, he created a class that will not stress the body but rather gives it a chance to heal naturally.
He also specified a particular time period that each pose should be held for in order to receive its maximum benefits. From his point of view, different asanas need to be held for different periods of time to have the intended impact on the body.
One of the most notable parts of the Iyengar practice is the props. If you have attended an Iyengar class, you will likely have caught a glimpse of all the different props commonly used in this type of practice. These might be ropes attached to the wall or ceiling, blocks, blankets, and chairs.
The use of props is highly encouraged to make this type of yoga accessible to everyone. Iyengar wanted everyone to perform the practice and receive the full benefits no matter the injury or physical limitation.
The story of how B.K.S. Iyengar came to yoga is an interesting one. He was incredibly sick as a child, suffering from different conditions throughout his youth without ever being able to use his body fully. As he came to asana practice in his late teens, his health and body transformed to an amazing degree. He spent the rest of his life dedicated to learning and teaching the yoga that transformed his life.
His style of yoga is rather therapeutic, moving slowly and focusing on proper alignment of the body in each position. You will not move through the class with sweat and intensity as you would with other types of yoga classes. Instead, you will move with your breath and explore the exact positioning of your body. This type of yoga can be very healing while still energizing you when the practice is complete.
Why Is It Ideal for a Beginner?
This practice is an ideal choice for someone who is brand new to yoga. It will allow you to come to yoga without worrying about limited flexibility, injury, or chronic physical limitations. The use of props and the emphasis on accessibility will make anyone feel comfortable walking into an Iyengar class for the first time.
Practicing Iyengar Yoga is also a wonderful way to lay your foundations if you wish to move on to other yoga practice types eventually. By moving slowly and learning about proper alignment, you will have a deep understanding of your body and how to move it to hold poses correctly. It is essential to understand this in order to fully experience the benefit of each pose without any risk of injury.
This practice goes deeper than the physical level as well. The Iyengar practice is about learning how to position your body and experiencing what that feels like. Through the process, you can understand yourself better as you bring together the explanations you hear in class with the sensation in your body. This practice can help you change your relationship with your body profoundly for those open to the experience.
If you do find yourself injured or limited in your capacities, even as a more advanced yoga student, returning to the Iyengar practice is always an excellent choice to perform nourishing movements that can help heal your body.
Easy types of yoga: Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga is another type of yoga that moves slowly through different asanas to incorporate other elements into the practice effectively. These additional elements typically include breathwork, chanting, or meditation. Kundalini Yoga makes a good choice for beginners because the physical demand will be less intensive while the conceptual foundation has a chance to be absorbed.
Since, in the modern world, yoga can often be perceived as a physical practice alone, Kundalini Yoga allows beginners to explore the true intention in yoga practice. Kundalini is far from a simple practice, as the name itself signifies an important component in the energetic body. The word “kundalini” describes the energy thought to be coiled at the base of the spine. Through different practices, the practitioner seeks to activate the kundalini energy.
As the kundalini gets activated, energy moves up our spine, through our chakras. With too much chatter in mind and other common problems in the modern world, our chakras can become blocked, restricting our life energy flow. By engaging in Kundalini practices, we seek to open the chakras and allow our vital energy to flow through us in all of its power.
The asanas can be held for so long in the Kundalini practice to allow areas of the body to open and for the energy to become unblocked. The combination of physical positions, along with chanting or meditation, helps to clear out the energetic body and allow for our natural health and energy to be restored.
What Does Kundalini Yoga Look Like?
A Kundalini class will likely follow a unique structure to help the goals of the practice be attained. Although it might differ from other classes, it is still very accessible to beginners, and everyone is encouraged to try out this type of yoga.
The class will likely begin with a chance to quiet the mind and transition from the busy, external stimulation of the outside world to the stillness of the inner world. This is usually accomplished through an opening chant that you will perform with the teacher. Practicing the mantra chant will allow you to prepare yourself for the deeper unifying practice, no matter what level of yoga you are used to practicing.
Some warm-up positions will likely follow the opening chant. From there, the kriyas begin. You may have heard this term in other areas of yoga to express different ways of cleansing the physical or energetic body. In Kundalini yoga, it is specifically used to describe a physical asana performed with a specific breathing technique.
As you hold the asana and practice the provided breathing technique, you are encouraged to keep your mind where your body is, which is to say, practicing mindfulness. Every kriya gives you a chance to be present with the experience and deepen your practice.
As class comes to an end, there will likely be a period of relaxation, or savasana, with time for meditation after. After the savasana and meditation have concluded, you will come together for a final chant. At the end of this practice, you can watch with awareness how it feels to chant the final mantra.
Also, your teacher will likely come to class dressed completely in white. You may be wondering why and it has to do with energy. In the Kundalini tradition, dressing in white allows your own energy to extend beyond you more easily. At the same time, it also serves as a protection against negative energy that you may encounter.
Easy types of yoga: Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is another type of yoga growing in popularity in recent years. It is another slow-moving practice that beginners will enjoy. It offers its practitioners a deep stretch along with the chance to access inner stillness.
You may be familiar with the concept of yin and yang, the idea that dualism exists in all of us. Many rigorous style yoga classes like vinyasa or Ashtanga can be considered the “yang” side of yoga. This is to say that they focus more on active flows, where energy moves through your body and heats it up while building muscle.
Yin Yoga, on the other hand, focuses on the opposing force. Yin Yoga is a passive approach where you will move slowly into a position and hold it for several minutes. There are no vinyasa flows here. Instead, it is a chance to allow the body to cool down and lengthen. These stretchy classes give your deep connective tissue time to heal, including your ligaments, joints, bones, and fascia.
This isn’t to say that Yin Yoga is without its challenges, though. As you sink deeply into each of these postures, it is part of the experience that discomfort will come. Of course, you don’t want to push yourself so that you are in pain, but naturally, you will experience small discomforts in tight areas of your body. Part of the yin experience is to stay with the experience and breathing through whatever you may be feeling.
The goal of Yin Yoga is to allow our vital energy to flow unobstructed throughout our bodies. Holding these positions, breathing through the experience, and letting our body absorb the benefits in savasana compose this deep and beautiful practice. Regular practice of yin yoga can have profound effects on both the physical and energetic body.
Yin Yoga and Beginners
One of the reasons that Yin Yoga is the right choice for beginners is that it is typically all floor work. This means you will likely not be standing up at any point but rather working through different positions closer to the mat. This type of practice can feel less intimidating for beginners, especially if they are worried about their balance or level of physical fitness.
Also, props are widely used in Yin Yoga. Any of the positions can be modified so that the practitioner can come into the pose with ease. While a little discomfort is normal in tight areas, such as when stretching the hips, props can make this sensation possible in an otherwise unavailable pose.
Even though Yin Yoga may not make you break a sweat, it is still giving you plenty of physical and mental benefits that can provide a beginner a taste of what yoga has to offer. This practice can help improve flexibility and circulation while reducing stress and anxiety.
Additionally, since the poses are held for several minutes, the beginner has no rush to move through poses, possibly learning them incorrectly. Here, careful attention is paid to the alignment of the posture, and several minutes are spent breathing and exploring the sensations of each shape. This pacing is a great way for a beginner to start the journey of increased body awareness.
While this concludes our list of the easiest types of yoga that make a great fit for beginners, there are still other options that might be more appealing to active beginners looking for a more rigorous workout through their yoga practice. If this sounds like you, read on for a few options that may be more physically challenging.
Vinyasa classes, also referred to as “flow,” are a bit more physically intensive. This style of yoga requires you to move through positions rather quickly, holding for a short number of breaths and transitioning into the next position swiftly.
If you become a regular in vinyasa classes, you will notice that the positions and sequencing of the asanas are always changing. There is plenty of variety in vinyasa yoga practice, and this variation helps avoid injury that could come by always using the same muscles in the same way.
Breath is key in any yoga practice, helping keep the mind present with the body and move through the positions with complete awareness. Although this is a faster-paced class, it is by no means rushed or frantic. Developing your vinyasa practice isn’t just about strength but about your ability to use your breath to guide you calmly through the physical positions.
Transitions are very important in this style of yoga. Since the poses are so closely tied together, the transition from one pose to another is part of the practice as well. Moving mindfully and with the breath is all part of the vinyasa experience.
Since vinyasa classes are always different, this can be great for a beginner who may find themselves bored in a practice that repeats the same asanas or moves quite slowly. Even though this is a faster-paced class, it is still a yoga practice and therefore still holds the deep potential to quiet the mind and bring the practitioner a sense of peace.
For beginners who are interested in the style of a vinyasa flow, they may also be interested in trying out a hot yoga class. Hot yoga is a broad term that can be used to describe many different kinds of styles, but they all have the same underlying environment: a hot, heated room.
These classes are usually a vinyasa flow style and are held in rooms with heat set to anywhere between 95 – 105 degrees Fahrenheit (35 – 40 degrees Celsius). When you practice yoga in an environment with this amount of heat, it has a few different impacts on your body.
First, as you can probably imagine, you will be sweating intensely. This gives your body a chance to purify and sweat out toxins that you may be carrying around with you. It also allows you an opportunity for your body to open in a way it may not be used to doing. The heat can help you stretch further and experience your practice more deeply, as long as you don’t push yourself too far.
If you’re looking for an intense yoga experience that will give you a chance to explore the practice in a very intimate way, hot yoga may be of interest to you. It is a practice that is growing in popularity in the last years, and many hot yoga studios can be found all over the world.
If you crave structure and challenge, Ashtanga may be a practice that appeals to you. This practice is composed of the same set of asanas to be practiced every day, in the same order. There are different series, and typically it takes years of practice to master each asana of the primary series alone.
If you are looking for a practice that will push you to grow as you expand your perceived physical and mental limitations, Ashtanga can provide you with that. The intensity of the practice can help you evolve in a way you may not have predicted. However, Ashtanga can be hard on the body since you are doing the same asanas every day with intensity.
Ashtanga may not be a practice for everyone, but it can bring a lot into your life if it’s the right practice for you.
Choosing Your Style of Yoga
When choosing the type of yoga that will be the best match for you as a beginner, there is no need to stress over this decision. What will be right for you may not be right for someone else. There’s no need to compare yourself with anyone else at any time during your yoga journey. This is an opportunity to come to know your own needs and your own body.
Now that you have a better understanding of different yoga types out there feel free to try out some different classes. Reading descriptions can help guide you, but you won’t know what is right for your body and your needs until trying out a class for yourself. Different types of yoga may speak to you in different ways, and following this inner intuition is essential in many aspects of your practice.
Additionally, regularly attending various classes can be a great way to avoid injury and let your body move in different ways. As you progress with your practice, attending a mix of classes that allow you to practice the more “yang” intensive style and the more “yin” restorative style will allow you to bring balance and sustainability to your practice.
Beginning a yoga practice is a beautiful journey that can bring so much into your life, both physically and mentally. There is no rush and no destination to arrive at in yoga, only the practice of showing up on your mat, again and again, to connect with yourself more deeply. No matter which style you choose, you will be selecting a chance to unify your mind and body and find some inner stillness.