There are many different styles of yoga. None of them are better or worse than any other; they are different and unique and each yogi has their own personal favourite. Here’s a little bit about the most loved forms of yoga available today.
The word “Hatha” is Sanskrit for “forceful” and although conceived to be a particular style of yoga, Hatha Yoga is actually an umbrella term encompassing all types of “forceful effort yoga”. Although stretching back thousands of years, in the 20th century, Hatha Yoga and particularly the Asanas (poses) became popular throughout the world as a more gentle form of physical exercise. Modern Hatha classes are slower paced, with less flow between the poses which allows for time to focus on relaxation and breathing techniques. Get The Hatha Yoga Music Experience music album here and your free Hatha yoga lesson plan.
VINYASA FLOW YOGA
Vinyasa is a general term used within many different types of flowing yoga. “Vinyasa” means a special link which is used to connect movement and breath. Vinyasa Flow yoga is made up of the following five elements linking them all together: (i) Pranayama (breath control), (ii) Bandhas (body locks), (iii) Drishti (gaze/focus point), (iv) Asana (poses), and (v) Vinyasa (the link) which is designed to move the practice along smoothly just like a choreography. Sun Salutations (Surya Namasara) are a big part of Vinyasa Flow yoga as are doing one yoga pose and then gracefully transferring to another yoga pose without coming out of the initial pose in the traditional way. The style and techniques given in each Vinyasa Flow class can vary greatly depending on the individual teacher. Get The Vinyasa Yoga Music Experience music album here and your free Hatha yoga lesson plan.
Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with Asanas (poses) that are held for longer periods of time ranging from 45 seconds to two minutes for beginners with advanced practitioners staying in Asanas for five to ten minutes. It was founded in the late 1970s, by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink and has since been developed by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers. Zink’s approach includes the full range of yin and yang Taoist yoga and is intended to be a complete practice in itself whereas Grilley and Powers’ version is supposed to complement other more active forms of yoga. Yin yoga is a more meditative approach to yoga. Poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body aiming to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility. Yin Yoga aims at cultivating awareness of inner silence and is a very relaxing form of yoga. Get The Yin Yoga Music Experience music album here and your free Yin yoga lesson plan.
ASHTANGA VINYASA YOGA
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a dynamic style of yoga made popular by K. Pattabhi Jois in 1948 when he opened the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute which is now run by his grandson, Sharath Jois. The word “Ashtanga” actually means eight-limbs and refers to Sage Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga which are eight steps to live a full yogi life on the path to enlightenment. Asanas (yoga poses) is one of these branches but Jois encourages practice of all eight limbs. Mysore in Ashtanga Yoga refers to a lesson where students perform one of the Ashtanga sequences from memory without the teacher’s guide, the teacher will only provide adjustments. Ashtanga has a set sequence and encourages you to only move on to the next pose once you have mastered the one you are working on. You can only qualify to be an Ashtanga Yoga teacher through the Mysore school and registered Ashtanga teachers include Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, David Swenson and Laruga Glaser.
B. K. S. Iyengar of India founded Iyengar Yoga, a form of Hatha Yoga that gives great emphasis on detail, precision and alignment of Asanas (poses) and Pranayama (breath control). Iyengar systematised over 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of Pranayama (with variations of many of them) ranging from the basic to advanced to help students progress gradually. Iyengar Yoga is big on props (straps, blocks, blankets, etc.) which allow elderly, ill or tired students to participate. Through the practice of a system of asanas, it aims to unite the body, mind and spirit for health and well-being. Iyengar differs from other yoga styles in technique, sequence and timing and emphasises holding poses over long periods, stressing the development of flexibility, strength, stamina, balance and concentration. Iyengar teachers complete at least two years of rigorous training for the introductory certificate.
Bikram Yoga is a system of yoga that was founded by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. Classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. It is one of the first styles of hot yoga and is practiced in a room heated to 40 °C (104 °F) with a humidity of 40%. All official Bikram classes are taught by Bikram-certified teachers who teach in a a standardised dialogue. Bikram Yoga one of the first styles of hot yoga devised from hatha yoga, by Bikram Choudhury. Although Bikram Choudhury has been the subject of much controversy over the years, people still flock to Bikram Yoga classes and seem to love this rigorous form of yoga. Celebrity aficionados include Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga.
Hot yoga refers to yoga exercises performed under hot and humid conditions to replicate the heat and humidity of India where yoga originated and increase an individual’s flexibility in the poses. Hot yoga is a form of moderate exercise. The temperature of the room varies typically between 87 °F (31 °C) and 104 °F (40 °C). Initially, Hot Yoga was an offshoot of Bikram Yoga as yoga teachers who were not Bikram registered could not teach it, but now now it is a popular and recognisable style of yoga itself. Hot yoga will make you produce sweat and lose water weight. It involves both static holds and flow poses. Hot Yoga differs to Bikram Yoga as it doesn’t have a strict requirement of performance of the 26 precise Bikram poses and the associated verbal script. Much like a common Hatha Yoga class, the actual techniques used and the style of hot yoga classes vary according to each individual yoga teacher.
“Power yoga” is a generic term that refers to any type of fitness-based vigorous yoga exercise with an aerobic element that is derived from Ashtanga yoga. Power Yoga was created by Bryan Kest in the late 80’s and made popular by Beryl Bender Birch. It was then later branded by Baron Baptiste who put his own spin on it. Power Yoga encompasses the benefits of both Ashtanga and Vinyasa, although Power Yoga does not necessarily keep strictly to the set series of poses prescribed in an Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga class. Like Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga is a dynamic, challenging and sweat-inducing practice.
Anusara yoga is a modern-day Hatha yoga system based on a Tantric philosophy with universal principles of alignment, founded by John Friend in 1997. Anusara means “flowing with grace,” “going with the flow,” “following your heart.” It focuses on experiencing bliss and joy in your yoga practice and your daily life and is based on the philosophy that life is a gift that we are invited to remember and celebrate in our yoga practice and is a self-proclaimed ‘philosophy that believes in the intrinsic goodness of all beings’. It’s big on alignment, of the body, heart and mind and teachers don’t really adjust students physically, only verbally which allows the student to progress on their own. There are over 250 poses included in Anusara Yoga but there are no set postural routines. Anusara yoga is suitable for students of any level or ability and often uses the aid of props.
Jivamukti Yoga was created in New York in 1984 by dancer and musician Sharon Gannon and her partner, artist and cafe owner David Life after they traveled to India and took the Sivananda teacher training program and met Swami Nirmalananda. Jivamukti means “liberation while living”. Jivamukti comprises of vigorous Asanas (poses) performed in a vinyasa-style series and also incorporates meditation/visualisations, chanting and uplifting music, with each class having its own theme. Jivamukti also advocates animal rights, veganism, environmentalism, and social activism. The five main tenets of Jivamukti are Shastra (scripture), Bhakti (devotion), Ahimsa (non-violence), Nāda (music), and Dhyana (meditation). There are six types of Jivamukti classes: Open, Basic, Beginner Vinyasa, Spiritual Warrior, In-Class Private and Meditation. Celebrity aficionados include Christy Turlington, Sting and Uma Thurman.
Forrest Yoga is Hatha Yoga style created by Ana T. Forrest who spent over 30 years developing it, and it practices in a hot environment much like other methods of hot yoga. It focuses on holding poses for a longer period of time and repeats 20 specific poses to accentuate the stretch equally on each side of the body, using the heat to help deepen the stretch without causing trauma to the body. It focuses on the connection between the emotional and physical being and combines Asana (poses) with Native American spirituality. Forrest Yoga aims to awaken each of the senses and help you connect to your core. Combined with deep breathing and vigorous sequences, Forest Yoga’s mission is to “create a sense of freedom, a connection to one’s spirit and the courage to walk as one’s spirit dictates.” It builds flexibility, intelligence and strength with the idea of “helping you to deepen the relationship with your authentic self.”