Yoga Types

Hatha yoga, the physical aspect of yoga, is what most of us today regard as yoga. Yoga itself comprises eight different disciplines as taught by the sage Patanjali of which asana (Hatha yoga) is just one. However, that one discipline is broken down into a myriad of postures and has led to a bewildering number of styles. Each type shares a number of common elements, certain poses and a common yogic philosophy. But every style has its own variations and techniques.

The following list describes some of the more popular types of yoga available today. Some are more spiritual, some more strenuous, and some offer degrees of combinations of the two. As one who’s interested in practicing yoga, you owe it to yourself to learn more about some of these prominent “arms” of today’s yoga.

Integral Yoga

As the name implies, Integral yoga represents a fusion of body, mind and spirit. It’s gentle, restorative and highly invigorating all at once. The poses can be an excellent source for rigorous physical workout and fitness. At the same time, the Integral “school” adds a liberal infusion of spiritual content, meditation and yoga nidra (deep relaxation) into the class session. Integral yoga is suited for beginners or experts of any age.

Astanga Vinyasa

Pronounced (and often spelled) Ashtanga, this form of yoga was first introduced to the West in the early 1980’s when Westerners traveling to India discovered it and brought it back. A number of derivatives now exist (Vinyasa flow, Dynamic or Power yoga) and the original form is still taught by its founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India. He was a direct student of Krishnamacharya, whose other students gave birth to other major styles of yoga. Astanga’s appeal lies in its challenging and dynamic aspects. It combines movement with breath and focus, requiring students to gain stamina and strength. It is well suited to the “achievement oriented” Westerner as progress is rapid and sustaining.

Iyengar

Iyengar yoga was developed in Pune, India when BKS Iyengar, another direct student of Krishnamacharya, was working with a physician to explore the medical and health benefits of a yoga practice. The style is very precise, focusing on achieving “perfect” alignment of the body. Of course there is always room for improvement, but the overall effect is to ensure energy flows throughout the body in a balanced and unobstructed manner. This practice builds body awareness and control, requiring a great deal of concentration on detail.

Bikram

Also known as “Hot Yoga,” Bikram yoga is one of the most popular types of yoga today. Bikram yoga (named by its creator, Bikram Choudhury) is practiced in a room heated to temperatures as high as 115 °F. Why? Because Bikram insists that heat enables the body to move and stretch with far less chance of injury. A typical 1.5-hour Bikram class consists of a fixed number of poses, all done in an order that never varies. This type of yoga is very popular because it is easily accessible-as long as you can endure the heat! Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your session.

Kundalini

Popularized by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini yoga features frequent chanting, breathing techniques and vigorous aerobic exercises. Kundalini is a term that refers to the spiritual energy force that lies dormant in most people. This type of yoga helps prepare the body and mind for the activation of this energy. As a result there is less emphasis on form or on holding positions. Given the intense focus of the practice (and the advanced breathing techniques), Kundalini practitioners may achieve results faster than other types of yoga.

Viniyoga

Begun by Krishnamacharya’s son Desikachar, Viniyoga is a method that celebrates the differences in people. Each individual is given a personalized practice schedule that addresses their individual needs and requirements with the aim of restoring them to balance.

Sivananda

Created by Swami Vishnu-devananda and named after his guru Swami Sivananda, this style of yoga focuses on five points:

  • proper exercise
  • proper breathing
  • proper relaxation
  • proper diet
  • positive thinking and meditation.

Classes follow a set pattern of postures with relaxation in between. These postures become more advanced as the practitioner gains experience.

Make the most of your “yoga exploratory” and try different types of yoga. It’s a great way to discover which one suits you best.