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Explore The Different Styles of Yoga

Updated on September 25, 2014

Want to give yoga a try? See which type of yoga is right for you.

Yoga is an ancient and rich tradition dating back nearly 5,000 years. Since its start, yoga has been practiced throughout the world, changing and growing with the times. There are currently hundreds of different styles of yoga and deciding which one is right for you can be a daunting task.

Although there are many styles of yoga, they are all based on the same physical postures and all share a common lineage. The differences are usually about how the posture is aligned, coordinated with the breath and movement, or the flow from one posture to the next. No style is better than another; it's simply a matter of finding what is right for you.

Throughout my personal yoga practice, I have explored many of the different styles of yoga and have found that depending on my mood or current life situation, one style 'feels' better than another at that time. I have created this lens to discuss a few of the different styles of yoga and hopefully this can help you decide which style might be right for you.

Vinyasa Style Yoga

Going With The Flow

Currently my favorite form of yoga is vinyasa flow. It also happens to be the most popular form of yoga in the United States today. Perhaps its popularity in recent times is due to the fact that it is a vigorous work out, moves quickly and is set to high paced and fun music.

Vinyasa flow is also sometimes called Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga, Yoga for Athletes, sometimes something like Yoga Boot Camp, or sometimes simply Flow.

The word Vinyasa means "breath-synchronized movement." Synchronizing breathing and movement in the asanas (postures) heats the blood, cleaning and thinning it so that it may circulate more freely. Improved blood circulation relieves joint pain and removes toxins and disease from the internal organs. The sweat generated from the heat of vinyasa then carries the impurities out of the body. Through the use of vinyasa, the body becomes healthy, light and strong. In a vinyasa class, the teacher will instruct you to move from one pose to the next on an inhale or an exhale.

The vinyasa style allows for a lot of variety, and as such differs from teacher to teacher, city to city and studio to studio. There is no single philosophy, rulebook, or sequence that teachers must follow, so there is a lot of room for individual personalities and quirks to come through. Almost certainly though, all vinyasa style classes will include Sun Salutations. When Vinyasa is used as a noun during class, it describes a series of at least three poses that are done as part of a Sun Salutation sequence. For example in a possible sun salutation B, When the instructor says, "go through the Vinyasa at your own pace," she means do warrior II, extended side angle and reverse warrior.

Another way to describe vinyasa flow yoga is in terms of the mental aspects of the class. The vinyasa practice itself is often considered a "moving meditation". With time and practice, the sensations experienced in class can be simply observed, thoughts can pass through the body and mind and not be engaged. With the release of the constant chatter of the mind and the focus on the breath, we become present. In doing this, we connect to our true selves. At the very least, we learn how to be calm and peaceful in the midst of great challenge.

Here Is a Sample Of A Challenging Vinyasa Yoga Sequence

An Excellent Yoga Mat Choice

Manduka PRO Yoga and Pilates Mat, Black,71"
Manduka PRO Yoga and Pilates Mat, Black,71"

This mat is thicker than most and way more durable. It will last long after other mats have broken down.

 

Ashtanga Yoga

Following The Eight LImbs

Ashtanga yoga is a system of yoga recorded by the sage Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta, an ancient manuscript. The text of the Yoga Korunta was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900's by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927. Since 1948, Pattabhi Jois has been teaching Ashtanga yoga following the eight limbed path outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. For more information on the eight limbed path, see yoga lifestyle at www.lotuspetalyoga.com.

In Ashtanga yoga, asana or poses are grouped into six series. The Primary Series [Yoga Chikitsa] detoxifies and aligns the body, builds strength, flexibility and stamina. The series consists of about 75 poses beginning with sun salutations and moving on to standing poses, seated poses, inversions and backbends before relaxation.

The Intermediate Series [Nadi Shodhana] purifies the nervous system by opening and clearing the energy channels. It follows the same progression as the primary series but introduces new poses and variations.

The Advanced Series A, B, C, and D [Sthira Bhaga] integrate the strength and grace of the practice, requiring higher levels of flexibility and humility. Translated, Sthira Bhaga means divine stability. These series emphasize difficult arm balances and are only appropriate for extremely advanced students.

According to the practice, each level in the ashtanga series is to be fully developed before proceeding to the next, and the sequential order of asanas is to be meticulously followed. Poses in the latter series are not to be done until mastered as each posture is a preparation for the next, developing the strength and balance required to move further. Vinyasa using ujiayi (a form of yogic breath or pranayama) breathing is also followed while practicing ashtanga as is drishti (gaze).

BIkram Hot Yoga

Some Like it HOT

Perhaps you have heard of Bikram yoga as hot yoga and it is indeed hot. An official Bikram studio with official Bikram teachers will have the room temperature set at 105 degrees. As you can imagine, a vigorous yoga session at this temperature promotes profuse sweating which rids the body of toxins. It also makes the body very warm, and therefore more flexible.

Your first experience in a Bikram yoga class you may find a bit uncomforatble, indeed, I nearly passed out my first time. After a few sessions however, you do become accustomed to the heat and begin to reap the benefits. I even practiced Bikram yoga (with certain modifications to certain poses) all throughout my pregnancy.

Living yoga master Bikram Choudhury, born in 1946, is the Bikram Yoga innovator. His method of 'Hot Yoga' is a set series of 26 yoga poses, including two pranayama exercises, each of which is performed twice in a single 90 minute class. The twenty-six asana series is designed to scientifically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched. The twenty six postures are performed in the same order and held for a specific amount of time during each class. According to Bikram, the twenty-six posture exercises done in sequence he prescribed systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ and fiber, restoring all systems to healthy working order, just as nature intended. Proper weight, muscle tone, vibrant good health, and a sense of well-being will automatically follow.

Certain gyms, studios and classes may offer classes called 'Hot Yoga' and this does not mean they are Bikram yoga. Only those certified by Bikram himself at a certified Bikram yoga studio are permitted to use the Bikram name. It is still possible however to find 'Hot Yoga' classes that are pretty close if not exactly the same as a true Bikram class. Others may offer a 60 minute version of the class or classes in a heated room with additional postures.

Looking To Try A Bikram Hot Yoga Class? - Be prepared with these must have items:

yogitoes Yoga Mat Towel, Chinese Element Water, 68"
yogitoes Yoga Mat Towel, Chinese Element Water, 68"

If you are going to do Bikram yoga, you most certainly will be sweating! Yogitoes are a skidless towel you place over your yoga mat to prevent you from slipping due to all that sweat. A must have.

 
Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class (Second Edtion)
Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class (Second Edtion)

Included in this text are all of the 26 Bikram yoga poses found in a Bikram yoga class with detailed descriptions on each.

 

Anusara Yoga

Flowing With Grace

Anusara means 'flowing with grace' and was founded recently (1997) by American yogi John Friend.

Anusara is a hatha based practice that also incorporates a vinyasa style flow. Emphasis is on heart opening through backbending and correct physical alignment. Each anusara class follows a theme determined by the instructor and it is hoped that the lessons learned in each yoga class will be brought to daily life. Each anusara class begins with an invocation/centering as a devotional recognition of the grace-bestowing power of universal spirit within and around us.

The practice of anusara yoga can be broadly categorized into three parts: attitude, alignment, and action.

Attitude, according to John Friend, is the "power of the heart as the force behind every action or expression in an asana." It is "the aspiration to reawaken to our divine nature, and the celebration of life."

Alignment, is the "mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected." Alignment includes:

* Opening to Grace

* Inner Spiral

* Outer Spiral

* Organic Energy

(For more details on these, connect to the link below)

The concept of Action is related to the body. Action, is the "natural flow of energy in the body, which provides both stability and joyful freedom."

According to anusara, the highest expression of a yoga posture occurs when the body is aligned, the action is strong and balanced, and the attitude is spiritually pure and powerful.

Kundalini Yoga

Untap The Energy

Kundalini yoga is an ancient form of yoga however it is one of the newest forms of yoga to be practiced in the west. It was brought to the west by yogi Bhajan in 1969.

Kundalini is untapped energy which starts at the base of the spine and rises up through the body. As it is drawn up, each of the seven chakras is fully awakened. Full enlightenment occurs when this energy reaches the Crown Chakra. Kundalini energy is represented by a snake coiled at the base of the spine. Literally, 'kundalini' in Sanskrit is 'That which is coiled.' Sanskrit kund, "to burn"; kunda, "to coil or to spiral". The serpent is considered to be female, coiled up three and a half times, with its mouth engulfing the base of the Sushumna Nadi. The Sushumna Nadi connects the base chakra to the crown chakra. A Nadi is a channel for the flow of consciousnes. According to the tantras there are 72,000 or more such channels or networks through which the stimuli flow like an electric current from one point to another.

Each Kundalini Yoga series is done in conjunction with a specific breath that intensifies the effects of the poses with the purpose of freeing energy in the lower body, Sushumna Nadi, and allowing it to move upwards. Kundalini sequences are called kirvas. Kirvas are exercises and breathing techniques intended to purify and cleanse the body's energy channels. For instance, one kriya is to rapidly pump the stomach muscles in and out as if breathing but without taking a breath.

Kundalini is one of the more spiritual types of yoga. It goes beyond the physical performance of poses with its emphasis on breathing, meditation, and chanting. However, the Kundalini sequences are very physically intense. This type of yoga appeals to those who are up for both mental and physical challenges.

A Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life
A Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life

Featuring one thought for each day of the year, along with a suggested practice, these brief, powerful insights reflect the author's knowledge of classic yoga philosophy and years of experience. Humorous, inspiring, and surprisingly down-to-earth, they guide seekers both on and off the yoga mat. These aphorisms address love, asana, fear, trust, expectations, pranayama, suffering, laughter, presence, the Yoga Sutra, and much more.

 
Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice
Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice

Follow the author as she navigates the eight limbs of yoga, using the Yoga Sutras and insight meditation as her compass. She shows each limb at work in her relationships, music, asana, meditation, and even in writing this book.

 

The Sound of OM

OM. You chant the sound at the start of many yoga classes, you hear the sound and see the symbol associated with yoga practice, but what exactly does it mean? Why is it chanted? And what is the correct way to annunciate the sound?

Often you will here om referred to as a sound that all things naturally vibrate or resonate to, a universal sound. There is harmony, peace and bliss in this simple but deeply philosophical sound.

The ancient mantra om is actually composed of three units, a, u, m. When chanting om, each of the three units is to be verbalized and held of an equal length of time. The a resonates from the belly, the u from the heart center and the m from the nasal passages. The final m sound is a nasalized echo of the sound m. These three units are symbolically related to several important triads: the three states of consciousness which are waking, dreaming and sleeping, the three worlds of earth, atmosphere, and heaven; the three major Hindu gods, Brahm, Vishnu, and Aiva; and the three sacred Vedic scriptures, Ag, Yajur, and ma. Thus Om mystically embodies the essence of the entire universe.

Hatha Yoga

The Original Yoga

Hatha yoga is a form of yoga first introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a yogic sage in the 15th century in India. Usually when people refer to 'yoga' this is the form they are referring to. Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced yoga and one of the most popular kinds of yoga. Several other styles of yoga including Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga all originated from the Hatha style.

The word "hatha" comes from the Sanskrit terms "ha" meaning "sun" and "tha" meaning "moon". Thus, Hatha Yoga is known as the branch of Yoga that unites pairs of opposites referring to the positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents in the system. It concentrates on the third (Asana) and fourth (Pranayama) steps in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.

Hatha yoga has sometimes been referred to as the yoga of willpower as just doing it strengthens your will, an attribute of the mind. Holding the postures longer than in other forms of yoga allows you to experience being able to do more than expected. This builds confidence and self esteem fostering a more positive mind. In addition, Hatha yoga allows you to become more relaxed in an otherwise stressful situation such as a difficult asana.

Hatha yoga also includes many relaxation exercises which open energy channels allowing the spiritual energy to flow freely. In addition, it can also help you cope with stress, relieve tension, and deal with anxiety and depression. More importantly, it will help you put your mind in a focused state to prepare for Meditation and, eventually, the search for enlightenment.

Thanks for Stopping By! - All comments welcome

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    • pjsart profile image

      pjsart 3 years ago

      I enjoyed seeing your break down of the different types of Yoga. I found it very interesting. Please come by and visit my new lens: https://hubpages.com/health/teaching-yoga-and-medi...

    • Northbright profile image

      Norbert Isles 5 years ago from Philippines

      Great len on the practice of yoga.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love vinyasa yoga to get rid of those toxins..

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I never realized how confused I was about all the types of yoga! This is a great lens for straightening that out. Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I never realized how confused I was about all the types of yoga! This is a great lens for straightening that out. Thank you!

    • jenms lm profile image

      jenms lm 6 years ago

      Nice lens! I have done Hatha and Kundalini yoga. I love it.

    • Christene-S profile image

      Christene-S 7 years ago

      Yoga totally intimidates me. Balance and flexibility are not my strong suits. Ha. My daughter loves it though. She started in preschool :)

    • LotusMalas profile image

      LotusMalas 7 years ago

      Very information - great layout! Excellent lens on yoga!

    • profile image

      roysumit 7 years ago

      Thanks for compiling all the different styles of yoga in this lens. Yoga is mostly known to all of us but many of us do not know about the different styles, which you have beautifully explained here. Once again thanks for sharing.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Another great yoga lens.

      Thanks for adding this to http://www.squidoo.com/rocketmoms-healthy-living-g...

    • profile image

      Cherie-Jeanette 8 years ago

      Nice lens!! Very thorough, you may want to check out some free yoga videos! and give me some feedback on choosing which are the best ones to keep up or support!! If you ever have time, I'd appreciate it!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      great page..really explains the different types of yoga which I was confused about and I love the pictures too. nice information, thanks.

    • SaraMu LM profile image

      SaraMu LM 8 years ago

      Wonderful lens. One I was hoping to find since I've never really known the difference between yoga styles.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hey, great lens - I think I found it just in time because I want to get into the groove soon. I used to do Yoga everyday some years ago and just stopped because life got in the way, I guess. I've made some significant lifestyle changes have started getting back into it, so to speak. This will go in my favourites and lensrolling into one of my health-related lenses...thank you for this beautifully done lens!

    • papawu profile image

      papawu 8 years ago

      I have always found yoga interesting, but I think I would probably end up breaking my back or something.:) I do practice a bit of TaiChi and I studied martial arts for many years, but unfortunately it has been as many years since I have been flexible and limber enough to contort my body in any fashion. Wonderfully done lens though with 5 stars from me.