hands on knees in yoga pose

Before you walk into a yoga class, having an idea of what you're in for can save you time, money, and possible embarrassment. If you're looking for something calming and end up in a fast-paced environment, you might quickly lose your will to embrace the benefits of yoga. Learn what type of yoga might be best for you with this introduction to some popular paths.

Bikram Yoga
The first thing you'll notice about this class is the extreme heat. Bikram yoga requires the classroom temperature to be an uncomfortable (at first) 105 degrees, hence the nickname "hot yoga." Bikram Choudhury, the founder of this yoga path, believes the high temperatures help the body rid itself of toxins from pollution, food chemicals, and cigarette smoke. Even Bikram calls his studios "torture chambers." Torture chamber or not, this form of yoga is a popular path among celebrities due to the pounds it melts off and the muscle strength it builds. Sting, Lady Gaga, Jenny McCarthy, and Madonna all swear by the health benefits of the core 26 postures that systematically target every part of the body. If you choose to take a Bikram class, take a large bottle of water and plan to shower afterward.

Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa yoga, also called flow yoga, uses the breath to lead you through a series of poses. As the nickname indicates, movements flow one into the next and are much more fluid than many other types of yoga. Although this style focuses on repetition of a series of poses, no two classes are the same. A little experimentation with different instructors might be in order to get the right fit for you.

Restorative Yoga
This type of yoga simply makes you feel good all over. Poses are held for a long time and rely on a number of props, such as bolsters, blankets, and pads, to position your body for optimal relaxation and restoration. It helps you quiet your mind as well as your body and aims to bring healing to both. The biggest challenge in restorative yoga may not come from the difficulty of the poses, but the challenge to let go and relax.

Anusara Yoga
This yoga path relies heavily on the philosophy of Tantric yoga principles. In Anusara yoga, poses are combined with breath action. The instructor doesn't correct the alignment of your posture according to a standard, but rather brings out the best posture according to your divine ability. This yoga path may be especially helpful to people with disabilities or limitations, as the philosophy of the Anusara path provides a strong foundation for patience. With more than 250 postures, you can expect no two classes to be the same.

Ashtanga Yoga
Also called power yoga, ashtanga yoga challenges the body through a series of advanced, fast-paced, muscle-strengthening postures. Although based on the vinyasa tradition, power yoga relies heavily on jumps from one pose to the next. This type is not ideal for a beginner yoga student, as the class moves quickly and even those who are fit can find it challenging. However, if you're looking for a more aerobic type of yoga, power yoga might be a good fit for you.

Many people mix up the types of yoga they practice according to their daily needs. Dropping in on a new class, renting a DVD, or taking an online class can open up different paths of yoga and bring new flexibility to your body and mind.