Yoga classes have been gaining popularity among health-conscious Malaysians in the last couple of years. Not only does the sport make your body stronger and more flexible; practicing it regularly also enhances your mental focus, making your daily stress easier to manage.

From relieving severe body pains to improving your body’s metabolism, yoga offers enough benefits to compel us to start picking up a yoga mat. And considering how recent years have seen yoga studios popping up in almost every neighbourhood in KL, there’s no better time to start than now. There is, however, one daunting aspect of it. Many of these studios offer a variety of classes such as Hatha, Vinyasa, Astanga or Iyengar — names that don’t exactly ring a bell, and are hence pretty confusing to beginners. After all, how does one know which form of yoga is more suitable? And what’s the difference between the many different types, such as Bikram and hot yoga?

With the wide array of options to research and choose from, picking up yoga may seem like such a hassle. Which is why we’ve prepared this cheat sheet on the many different styles of yoga you can try out in the various studios and gyms around Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Dust off your mat, and get ready to work up a sweat.

1
Hatha

Hatha is a general term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. It’s an old system that includes the practice of yoga postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama), which help bring peace to the body and mind. These day, the term is being used in a broad way, classifying nearly every yoga class out there as Hatha. Considered a gentler form of yoga, Hatha requires you to hold each basic pose for a few breaths.

Best for: Beginners or students who prefer a more relaxed style of yoga, because of its slow pace.

Yoga Life Center, 243-A, Lorong Nibong, Off Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60342515245

2
Iyengar

A purist form of Hatha, Iyengar yoga puts emphasis on detail and musculoskeletal alignment in the performance of asana and pranayama. Named after prominent yoga guru BKS Iyengar, each pose is held much longer to achieve precision. A wide array of props such as blankets, blocks, boards, harnesses, chairs, and bolsters are used to guide students on how to move into different poses properly.

Best for: Those seeking comprehensive training, as it requires intense physical and mental focus to stay put in poses that follow deliberate sequencing.

Swarapu Iyengar Yoga, No. 38-2, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60322835105

3
Aerial or anti-gravity yoga

Applying the same principles of Hatha, this playful type of yoga combines acrobatic arts and anti-gravity asana. It uses the aid of an aerial silk known as hammock to support the body while doing asanas that aim to lengthen the spine without compressing your vertebrae. These props ensure alignment in every pose you make, proving particularly helpful when doing inversions such as headstands, handstands or shoulderstands. It’s also excellent for strengthening the muscles surrounding the back and abdomen.

Best for: Those looking for relief from body pains caused by back spasms, scoliosis or herniated discs.

Dream Dance Studio, No. 37C, Jalan SS15/4, Selangor, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, +60173311688

4
Anusara

A new form of Hatha, Anusara yoga is a popular and fast-growing style that focuses on experiencing bliss and joy in your yoga practice and daily life. It seeks to use the physical practice of yoga to help students open their hearts and let their inner goodness shine through. Founded by American yogi John Friend in 1997, Anusara yoga students are guided to express themselves through poses that differ from the standard cookie-cutter positions.

Best for: Those who wish to be creative and have fun performing the poses their bodies can do best.

Surya Yoga and Pilates Studio, No. C-1-9 and C-1-11a, Jalan PJU 1/45 Aman Suria, Damansara, 47410 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, +60378036044 

5
Bikram

Synthesised from traditional Hatha yoga techniques, Bikram is a hot style of yoga that consists of two series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Each asana is copyrighted, which makes every Bikram class the same wherever you are in the world. Popularised by Bikram Choudhury, it’s practised for 90 minutes in a sauna-like room heated to approximately 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity.

Best for: Those who’d like to lose weight or relieve stress since toxins in the body are flushed out of the body with every sweat session.

Life Hot Yoga, Level 3, Unit 3.05-3.07, Glo Damansara Shopping Mall, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60323811950

6
Hot yoga

Like Bikram, hot yoga is also practised in an artificially heated room. But unlike Bikram, students aren’t constrained to perform the 26-pose sequence exactly as they are. They are allowed to deviate from the Bikram’s copyrighted sequence. The heat encourages you to move deeper into poses, although it can be very easy to overstretch.

Best for: Those who love a tough workout.

Hot Yo Studio, 26-2 (Second Floor), Jalan 24/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60362113263

7
Ashtanga

Based on ancient yoga teachings, Ashtanga is a rigorous style of yoga that follows six series of specifically-sequenced asana with each style linking every movement to pranayama. Each class will have you perform the same poses in the same exact order, increasing in difficulty as you move from the first series to next. Popularised by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in the ’70s, Ashtanga is physically-demanding and fast-paced, so you can expect to sweat buckets — perfect for those looking for a challenging yet orderly approach to yoga.

Best for: Those who aim to tone their bodies or build core strength, as breathing through each pose builds internal heat while strengthening the muscles over and over again.

Mysore Room, 7th floor, Unit 6, Binjai 8 Premium Soho, Lorong Binjai, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia +60 19-234 6290

8
Vinyasa

The Sanskrit term “vinyasa” means to arrange something in a special way. In yoga, students coordinate movements with breaths to flow from one asana to the next in a dance-like manner. In the late 1980s, Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest popularised this type of yoga by adapting the traditional Ashtanga system to appeal to aerobic-crazed yoga students in the West. But unlike Ashtanga, it neither sticks to the same sequence of poses nor lingers long in each pose. The pace can be quick, so be prepared for your heart rate to rise.

Best for: Runners, athletes, or HIIT lovers who may find the continuous movements at a faster pace challenging enough.

Yoga Dynamics, No. 10-2, 2nd Floor, Jalan Telawi 2, 59100 Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60322823493

9
Kundalini

This form of yoga looks and feels different than any other, due to its invigorating poses called kriyas that are often repeated, constantly moving energies in the body. The practise is synchronised with dynamic breathing techniques, chanting, meditation, and mantras in order to awaken an energy supply coiled like a sleeping snake at the base of the spine and move it up through the body. Comedian Russell Brand is one of the celebrities that gave this type of yoga a cult-like following in the recent years.

Best for: People in search of a spiritual experience, as Kundalini yoga emphasises the internal aspects of yoga that can bring one to a higher level of self-awareness.

Cocoon Yoga, No. 11-2, Jalan Solaris 2, Solaris Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,+60 3-6203 0112

10
Yin

First taught in the US by martial arts expert Paulie Zink in the late 1970s, this slow-paced, meditative type of yoga requires you to hold each pose for five minutes. Instead of actively flexing or engaging the muscles, yoga props are used to help release the body into postures that apply moderate stress on the tendons, fascia, and ligaments in order to increase circulation in the joints. Such exercises are believed restore length and elasticity of the connective tissues, thus improving your flexibility.

Best for: People who need to stretch and unwind, as it encourages students to relax their muscles and let gravity do the work.

Aravind Yoga, L-2-2, Plaza Damas Phase II, No. 60, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60123666608

11
Viniyoga

The term “vini” actually means differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application. A highly-individualised practice, Viniyoga encourages students to learn to adapt poses and goals based on their own needs and abilities. Instead of focusing on stretching to get strong and flexible, it uses the principles of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or PNF, which warms up and contracts a muscle before stretching it. This decreases your chance of injury.

Best for: Those who are nursing or recovering from minor injuries.

Our Body Space, No.12-14, Persiaran Ampang Hilir, Taman U Thant, 55000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60 12-228 1402

12
Restorative Yoga

A passive style that allows students to relax and release their bodies into gentle stretches, which are held for 10 to 20 minutes each in just four or five modified versions of standard asana. We love how it uses blankets and pillows to prop and support students into passive poses so that the body can experience the benefits of a pose without exerting too much effort. Helping them sink deeper into relaxation, a restorative yoga is more rejuvenating than a nap.

Best for: Those who are having a hard time falling asleep, and in dire need of soothing their frayed nerves.

Prana Yoga KL, Unit 2-3, 2nd Floor, Pusat Kreatif Kanak Kanak Tuanku Bainun, No. 48, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +60129764866