How do you know what type of yoga you’re in the mood for?

By Sheila Miller | Published: March 12, 2018 | Last updated: March 25, 2018

What we want isn't always what we need. We tend to feel more balanced (sattvic) after the practice we need—the one that helps us bring into balance excesses and deficiencies. One of the best diagnostic tools for what we need is the breath. The goal of having an asana practice is to enable our breath to be deep, full and relaxed.

This short guide will help you answer which practice is best for you, based on the state of your breath, which is intimately linked to the state of your mind.

(How do we control our breath?)

Diagnose Your Current State

The first step for determining what type of yoga you’re in the mood for is checking in with your breath. If it’s already deep, full and relaxed, any practice that keeps you in balance is fine. However, regardless of your initial mood, end each practice with savasana.

Balancing Shallow Breathing

Breath that is short, shallow and high up in the chest often corresponds to anxious thoughts. When we feel this way, the idea of being still can be a challenge, and yet fast-paced practices tend to do little to balance our breath or mind.

You might start with a few Sun Salutations to appease your mind and then move into either an Iyengar-style strong, alignment-based practice followed by a couple restorative poses.

Balancing Sluggish Belly Breath

Some days we feel like we can’t possibly do anything. If you’re exhausted or depleted, especially if you haven’t slept enough, consider Restorative yoga or yoga nidra (a form of guided meditation practiced in savasana). Otherwise, if you’re feeling more stuck or down, some movement will likely be beneficial, and vinyasa could be a good choice.

Balancing Strong Breath

This breathing pattern is a call to take it easy. Avoid opportunities for criticism of self and others. Avoid especially strenuous practices like Ashtanga in favor of those that will leave the belly and lower back relaxed. A gentle flow into Restorative or Yin yoga can help take the edge off.

(What are the most relaxing yoga poses?)

Balancing Any Breathing Pattern

In addition to balancing sluggish belly breath, yoga nidra is also a good, sattvic practice for balancing any breathing pattern.

Current Mood

Experience will teach you how to adapt the generalities below to your personal practice. Our cultural bias is to try to fit more, do more, demand more. This means that finding balance usually requires doing less, creating space and establishing pathways to relaxation.


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Written by Sheila Miller

Sheila Miller

Sheila Miller, Ph.D., ERYT-500 is a Senior Teacher of ISHTA Yoga and has been a student of yoga and Buddhism for more than 20 years. Her specializations include teaching meditation, asana and yoga nidra for healing, self-knowledge and lasting personal transformation. She researches the effects of meditation and yoga practice on learning, communities, health and the healing of trauma. She also teaches public and private classes, workshops and retreats around the world.

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