People are usually drawn to yoga to maintain good health by reducing stress, losing weight, increasing endurance level and working deep muscles.
Initially, the sole purpose of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment as the name Yoga means to“yoke” or “union,” describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one’s own pure, essential nature.
Physical practice of yoga encourage a deeper mind-body awareness. Healing and balancing the physical body helps bring clarity and focus to the mind as well.
To get started on your individual yoga quest, it’s helpful to begin with a list that clearly prioritizes what needs you want to fulfill: Are you looking to sweat your way into a lean form, or does a gentler, more meditative approach?
Not all practices fit into nice little holes. There’s a great deal of crossover among the various yoga schools, and there’s even a diversity in teaching approaches within each discipline.
Find Right Match to Suit Your Needs.
Many different types of yoga exist and it can be difficult to figure out which particular one is right for you. Most styles of yoga are based on the same basic yoga poses (called asanas), however the experience of one style can be radically different than another. In this quick guide, we have outlined the most popular forms of yoga, along with their essential characteristics, to make it easier for you to know where to begin.
The list below begins with classical hatha yoga, then moves down the list from vigorous, flow-style classes to the more relaxing passive classes, finishing with restorative yoga.
Hatha is a general category that includes most yoga styles. It is an old system that includes the practice of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (yoga breathing exercises), which help bring peace to the mind and body, preparing the body for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation.
Like hatha, vinyasa is a general term that describes many different styles of yoga. It essentially means movement synchronized with breath and is a vigorous style based on a rapid flow through sun salutations. You may also see a vinyasa yoga class referred to as a flow class, which refers to the continuous flow from one posture to the next.
Ashtanga is a system of yoga that was brought to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. If you attend an ashtanga class at a studio you will be led nonstop through one or more of the ashtanga series, while being encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Each series is a set sequence of asanas, always in the same order. It is typically fast-paced, vigorous and physically challenging..
Power yoga is used to describe a vigorous, vinyasa-style yoga. It originally closely resembled ashtanga and was an attempt to make ashtanga yoga more accessible to Western students. It differs, however, in that it is not a set series of poses, but rather allows the instructor freedom to teach what they want.
One thing you can be sure of when you attend a Bikram class is consistency. Outside of the instructor, a Bikram class is the same no matter where you go, consisting of the same, copyrighted twenty-six postures and two breathing techniques, in the same order for ninety minutes, in a room heated to 105°F (40.6°C), with a humidity of 40%.
David Life and Sharon Gannon created jivamukti yoga in 1984, and since then have studied with a number of teachers, including Swami Nirmalananda and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Their classes resemble ashtanga yoga in the vinyasa-style flow through asanas. Each class begins with a standardized warm-up sequence unique to jivamukti and often teachers will incorporate weekly themes, chanting, meditation, readings and affirmations.
The trademark of iyengar yoga is the intense focus on the subtleties of each posture. B.K.S. Iyengar teaches his classes from his home in Pune, India and has become one of the most influential yoga gurus of our time. In a typical iyengar class, poses are held much longer than in other schools of yoga, in an effort to pay closer attention to the precise musculoskeletal alignment within each asana. Another trademark of iyengar yoga is the use of props, such as blocks, belts, bolsters, chairs and blankets, which are used to accommodate injuries, tightness or structural imbalances, as well as teach the student how to move into a posture properly.
The anusara style is a new system of hatha yoga that teaches a set of Universal Principles of Alignment that underlie all yoga postures, while encouraging flowing with grace and following your heart. Founded by John Friend, the practice of anusara is broadly categorized into three parts, known as the Three A's. They include attitude, alignment and action.
Sivananda yoga is a form of hatha yoga founded by Swami Sivananda and brought to the west by Swami Vishnu-devananda. A class typically begins with Savasana (relaxation pose), kapalabhati and anuloma viloma, followed by a few rounds of surya namaskara. The class then moves through Sivananda's twelve asanas, which together are designed to increase strength and flexibility of the spine. Chanting and meditation can also be a part of a full-length class.
Viniyoga refers to an approach to yoga that adapts the various means and methods of practice to the unique condition, needs and interests of the individual. Created by T.K.V. Desikachar, the goal is to give the practitioner the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.
Kundalini yoga incorporates repeated movements or exercises, dynamic breathing techniques, chanting, meditation and mantras. Each specific kundalini exercise, referred to as a kriya, is a movement that is often repeated and is synchronized with the breath. The practice is designed to awaken the energy at the base of the spine in order to draw it upward through each of the seven chakras.
Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga in which poses are held for five minutes or longer. Even though it is passive, yin yoga can be quite challenging due to the long holds, particularly if your body is not used to it. The purpose is to apply moderate stress to the connective tissue - the tendons, fascia and ligaments - with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility.
Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT)
Integrative yoga therapy brings together asanas, pranayama, mudra, yoga nidra, mantra and meditation into a complete package where they can be utilized for therapy. Founded by Joseph Le Page in 1993, IYT was an attempt to create a training program with the focus on yoga as a healing art, and has designed programs specifically for medical and mainstream wellness settings, including hospital and rehabilitation centres.
Restorative yoga is a gentle, relaxing, passive form of yoga that allows students to relax and release the body into a gentle stretch that is held for as long as 10 minutes. This style makes use of a wide range of props, including bolsters, blocks, straps and blankets. The intention is to provide support within each pose, making it easier to completely let go.