Yoga is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and is one of the most popular types of exercise today. It combines movement, mindfulness, and meditation in various forms. There are many different yoga styles. Each style has its own benefits to the body and mind. For example, some are more physically demanding, while others are calmer and more meditative. Finding your favorite style and teacher will improve your overall experience and encourage you to try new things. It’s worth giving a few different styles and yoga teachers a try before settling on your end choice. Read on to learn about the origins, benefits and styles for some of the most popular types of yoga.
The word “vinyasa” is actually a Sanskrit word that means the flow of breath and movement. Many types of yoga, like Hatha and Power Yoga, are vinyasa flows. Vinyasa is a style of yoga which involves breathing in synchrony and moving from pose to pose. Power Yoga and Ashtanga are considered Vinyasa styles. Practicing Vinyasa Yoga can help you develop a more balanced body and prevent injuries. Sun salutations are common sequences in Vinyasa yoga.
Hatha, the Sanskrit term for all physical postures of yoga, is an amalgamation of all other, more popular styles (like Iyengar and Ashtanga), but it can also be a separate branch of yoga in and of itself. Another branch of yoga that is separate from hatha yoga is kriya, which does not recognize the existence of physical matter and instead focuses on tapping into the inner life energy for self-realization and tranquility. In general, Hatha classes are slower paced and focus on breathing exercises. These classes are recommended for beginners because they're more laid-back.
3. Iyengar yoga
B.K.S. Iyengar, who developed the style of yoga known as Iyengar, is the founder of this practice. Iyengar yoga is a type of yoga with an emphasis on alignment, precision, and slow progression. Iyengar Yoga is a physical and spiritual type of yoga that blends in poses with breathing techniques. Typically, students hold poses for an extended period of time while the instructors use props like blocks and straps to help them get deeper into their poses. This type of yoga is ideal for people who want to go slow. Some people find that it is a good alternative for those who are seeking relief from injury or those recovering from surgery.
4. Ashtanga yoga
In Sanskrit, “Ashtanga” means “Eight Limb Path.” Mysore, India is the capital of Ashtanga yoga. The format is usually in a vinyasa style and is traditionally done for a set amount of days or weeks before moving on to the next series. Along with this style, it requires intense physical activity and effort from the person practicing it. It takes a more experienced yogi to enjoy and benefit from Ashtanga yoga. K. Pattabhi Jois was an Indian guru who developed the flowing style of yoga known as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. He is hailed as one of the first people to introduce modern yoga to the Western world, along with B.K.S. Iyengar.
5. Kundalini yoga
Kundalini yoga is both spiritual and physical, but it mainly focuses on the spiritual energy that is trapped in the lower spine. These classes involve core strengthening poses and exercises in order to achieve this goal. Kundalini yoga is traditionally a combination of asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing practices) and chanting. The idea is that through the practice of Kundalini yoga, you can channel energy from the base of your spine to the top of your head. This process stimulates your chakras on the way up and provides various benefits like improved mood and metabolism.
6. Bikram yoga
Bikram yoga is named after Bikram Choudhury, who pioneered this form of practice. It takes place in a sauna-like room, usually around 105 degrees with 40% humidity. The sequence includes 26 basic poses and two breathing exercises performed in a room heated to help recreate the Indian climate Choudhury practiced in.
7. Yin yoga
Yin yoga places a heavy emphasis on connective tissue, such as the tendons, ligaments, fascia and bones. The practice is very passive, often poses are held for 3 to 5 minutes (although this varies per session) in poses that are meant to stretch these areas. Connective tissues, like tendons and ligaments, give us structure and help with our range of motion. Yin yoga design is usually less rigorous than other types of yoga. This approach is slow-paced and has a lot of seated postures.
8. Restorative yoga
Restorative yoga is a style of yoga that helps you unwind and slow your mind and body. Its core is body relaxation and many of the postures are modified to be easier and less strenuous. Props like blankets, bolsters, and eye pillows are used to help the body relax even more. Restorative yoga is not focused on building stamina, like most other styles. It’s all about feeling relaxed at the end of the session.
9. Prenatal yoga
Yoga is a great way to exercise during pregnancy. When you practice prenatal yoga, you will be practicing with other pregnant women, so modifications are made and poses are carefully curated to fit pregnant bodies. Yoga also helps with pelvic floor work, deep breathing, and bonding with the growing baby. You can find a wide range of props in a typical Yoga studio to modify your yoga pose, which ensures you’re as stable as possible.
10. Anusara yoga
Anusara is a form of yoga that focuses on alignment, most similar to Vinyasa yoga in the sense that they both focus on alignment. Anusara classes are different to such other styles because the instructor may often stop the class to break down a pose with a student. It is worth noting that Anusara follows a series of Universal Principles of Alignment which are designed to encourage optimal functioning in all areas of life.
11. Jivamukti yoga
Jivamukti was founded in 1984 by Sharon Ganon and David Life. The most famous style of yoga at Jivamukti is a flowing vinyasa-style that involves chanting, along with asanas with an emphasis on the five main tenets of Jivamukti philosophy. The philosophy emphasizes that life is interconnected with Earth, so many practitioners of this style of yoga are vegetarian.
The bottom line
Yoga has been around for centuries and every type of yoga has its own set of benefits and you might find a mix of various types of yoga in a class. Consulting with a certified yoga instructor can help you find the style of yoga that's best for your individual needs.