Styles And Types Of Yoga
What are the different yoga styles?
Yoga – what is it? A difficult question to answer in a brief description it is simply a practice of; breath control, simple meditation, and body postures (asana/poses), which is practiced for health and relaxation. It is important to note that Yoga is not a religion, but it is a spiritual practice, but it does not mean you must be ‘spiritual’ to practice yoga to reap the benefits!
Hatha yoga relates to a set of physical postures, also known as asana or pose, in a sequence and is a descendent of the Raja style of yoga. The poses are designed to align the body, mind and soul and help to create balance and harmony within. What we have come to know as ‘yoga’ in the West is essentially Hatha yoga because it refers to all the well-known styles of yoga such as Iyengar, Ashtanga etc, as they are grounded in a physical practice.
It can get quite confusing because traditionally Hatha was seen as a very strong and athletic practice, but over time it has become to be, mainly in the West, the gentler form of practice and a great one for beginners to start out with. It is important to know there are four paths of yoga - Karma, Bhakti, Raja and Jnana yoga – all have their own approach of achieving this unification of mind, body and soul.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into these physical styles of yoga:
One of the more athletic styles of yoga. It is a type of flowing yoga; the idea is to flow from one pose to the next. It can be quite challenging to take up as a beginner because it can be quite face paced. Vinyasa was adapted from the stronger style, Ashtanga in the 80s and the movement is connected to breath too. As vinyasa styles vary so much from teacher to teacher and studio to studio, it’s best to have a good understanding of the basic yoga postures before trying a class like this out. Or opting for a beginner friendly/beginner only class so that it’s much slower might be a safer way to try it out.
Ashtanga yoga was created by K. Pattabhi Jois and is a reasonably recent variation of yoga, developed in the 20th century. This class differs to vinyasa because it has a set structure, and there are up to 6 series of these set sequences including primary, intermediate, and four advanced series. It’s very well known for being one of the hardest styles of yoga because it is so physically demanding. For further information about Ashtanga and the series, Ekhart Yoga has a great blog article here.
Based on an attention to detail when it comes to alignment and precision, Iyengar yoga mainly concentrates on postural alignment and body awareness. B.K.S.Iyengar developed this widely practiced method of yoga after studying for many years and being taught by T. Krishnamacharya. Iyengar yoga is very standardised therefore, so long as you attend a class held by a registered teacher, it will be similar no matter where you go. Iyengar yoga looks at the fundamentals of the postures and uses props to aid correct alignment, and the student must learn the correct alignment before being allowed to progress. It’s a great style of yoga to attend for beginners because you will be walked through these postures in great detail.
Kundalini yoga is a mixture of Bhakti and Raja yoga styles. It focuses on mindfulness alongside the physical practices of mental and physical control. This practice is designed to arouse the sleeping Kundalini Shakti (coiled serpent) from the base of the spine through the chakras to the crown (top of the head) chakra. These classes will work your core and your breathing with fast-paced breath exercises and postures. They can be quite intense and involve mantra and meditation alongside chanting.
There are a number of hot yoga styles with the most well-known being Bikram. It rose to popularity in the 70s and has a set sequence of 26 postures all performed in a room heated to 35-42 degrees Celsius with a 40% humidity. There are many different styles of hot yoga and are essentially a form of vinyasa in a heated room. A great class to choose if you’re looking to get a sweat on.
Yin yoga can also be seen as a restorative style of yoga because of its slow-paced style. That being said, it can still be quite the work out because you hold the poses for much longer than your standard yoga class, up to 5 minutes or longer for the experienced student! Yin yoga is based on the Taoist theory of yin and yang and its aim is to restore balance to the mind and body. It’s great if you are tired or stress-out!
Very similar to Yin yoga, the idea is to slow down and calm the body. It is very common to use yoga props (blocks/blankets/bolsters etc) to help aid comfort and alignment and to allow the body to fully release into the pose, even if you’re not able to get into the “full” version of it, meaning you can still reap the benefits. It’s just a great way to relax and truly experience the more meditative side of yoga.
Created in 1984 by Sharon Ganon and David life, Jivamukti is a similar to a vinyasa class but it is mixed with spiritual Hindu teachings. You can expect to open the class with chants and then flow through a sequence of postures which have been designed to follow the philosophy of Jivamukti. The poses flow through the chakras, with certain poses at each stage which are believed to help align those chakras. This style also reinforces the connections to Earth as a living being and many who seriously practice this style are devotees to a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.
One final note
Yoga has many different schools, styles and teaching so if you attended one class and didn’t enjoy it don’t let that stop you from trying another and don't be intimidated to try a different style even if you are dedicated to another. You’ll eventually find a style (or many) you fall in love with. Enjoy the journey ðŸ˜‰