A Guide to 8 Yoga Styles

by Reija Sillanpaa about a month ago in yoga

Find Your Inner Yogi

A Guide to 8 Yoga Styles

Want to find your inner yogi but not sure where to start? With so many types of yoga out there, it can be difficult to find the one to suit you. Read on to find a guide to eight popular types of yoga.

Hatha Yoga

The word hatha is made of two parts: ha and tha. The first, ha, represents the masculine sun and the second part, tha, the feminine moon. Hatha is actually a general category and most types of yoga come under its umbrella. The term hatha simply refers to the practice of yoga postures. However, being slower in pace and involving more static poses, Hatha yoga is often considered a gentler practice than, for example, ashtanga or vinyasa and therefore more suitable for beginners.

A typical hatha yoga class will involve a set of asanas (yoga postures) combined with pranayama (breathing techniques). Hatha yoga is designed to align and calm your mind, body, and spirit. It can also prepare your mind and body for deeper practices such as meditation.

Vinyasa

Vinyasa yoga is sometimes referred to as flow yoga because the poses run smoothly from one to another. Movement and breath are coordinated and the movement between poses is faster than in classes described as hatha yoga. Because the pace is faster, classes often involve increasing body heat.

The term vinyasa can also describe a specific sequence of poses and that is why you are likely to hear it used in other types of yoga classes, too. The sequence referred to includes chataranga, upward-facing dog and downward-facing dog. The set of sequences can vary from class to class. However, most classes will include sun salutations.

Ashtanga

Traditionally, ashtanga yoga comprises six series of asanas, which increase in difficulty as you progress. The creator of ashtanga is K. Pattabhi Jois. He developed the style during the 20th century, and it is often promoted as a modern form of classical Indian yoga. It is energetic and synchronises breath and movement, which can be done quickly to increase heart rate, thus giving practitioners a cardio workout whilst increasing focus.

There are two different styles of ashtanga classes. In Mysore style classes, a teacher will lead the class and everyone will work through the same sequence together. In self led classes, students are expected to memorise a series of poses and practise in a room with others. In these lessons, the teacher is there to guide and assist in postures. There are five ashtanga asana series and students must learn and master each of them in the first series before moving on to the next series. Unlike vinyasa classes where there is some variation, ashtanga classes always have the same postures in the same order. Because it is physically demanding and therefore often not considered suitable for beginners.

Bikram

Bikram Choudhury developed this style of yoga and it became popular in the 1970s. The classes are held in rooms that are heated to 41℃ (105 ℉). Bikram certified-instructors lead the students through 26 poses which always follow the same sequence.

According to the official website for Bikram yoga, you will sweat out toxins when exercising in a heated room. The increased temperature also helps to stretch muscles and improve circulation. The classes are very low impact which means they are a good option for anyone with sore joints. They can also help with chronic pain such as arthritis, knee injuries and back problems. However, there is only limited research on whether yoga performed in a heated room has more benefits than regular yoga.

Iyengar

B.K.S. Iyengar developed and named this style of yoga and it emphasises detail, precision and alignment. The practice focuses on your breath control and posture and is excellent for building strength and flexibility.

Teachers of iyengar yoga are well qualified to help each student find their own level for each pose. Props are often used in iyengar classes to make the poses more accessible to all levels of students. Because there is a lot of emphasis on postural alignment, it can be good for anyone with postural or structural problems. The classes focus on quality of movement rather than quantity and encourage safety throughout practice. In iyengar classes, each teacher has the freedom to select the series of postures they will teach to a specific class making the classes more varied than ashtanga or Bikram classes.

Kundalini

A kundalini yoga lesson incorporates movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation, and chanting. It is a blend of spiritual and physical practices and aims to increase consciousness and build physical vitality.

Kundalini is often referred to as energy that lies dormant but can be activated through the practice of yoga. The energy is channelled through chakras (centres of spiritual power in the human body). One of the main goals for practitioners of kundalini yoga is to develop the intuitive mind. The practice aims to create greater peace, relaxation and satisfaction with creativity, work and relationships. Practitioners of kundalini say that it can help you become the best possible you. It is considered the mother of all yogas being the oldest form of traditional yoga. Kundalini yoga works with the glandular system, stimulates the brain and strengthens the nervous and immune systems. Typical classes include breathwork together with a series of exercises and deep meditation.

Yin

This is a slow-paced yoga where the asanas are held for longer. The classes will stretch the body and can help calm the mind. For those who already lead an active life, it can complement it by offering a slower practice than some other types of yoga.

The practice of yin is about finding stillness in the movements. The classes are equally suitable for beginners and more experienced yogis. The postures, when held for longer, target the deep connective tissues of the body. The connective tissues respond better to slow and steady movement, which is the longer holds for each pose. The poses can help remove blockages and balance the internal organs and systems. While in a posture, the aim is to relax in order to soften the muscle. Many of the postures target the hips, the pelvis and the lower spine. It can provide an excellent remedy to the busy, modern lifestyle.

Restorative

This style of yoga is all about opening your body through stretching and slowing down. Props are used to facilitate the postures and support the body rather to allow full relaxation in each pose. It is similar to yin as the poses are held for a long time. However, restorative yoga focuses on restoring the body whereas yin works with the connective tissue. Restorative yoga is also a more meditative practice and encourages the release of the mind as well as the body tension. Furthermore, in yin the stretches are active while the goal in restorative yoga is to relax completely in each posture.

A typical restorative yoga class usually includes only a handful of poses which are held for five to ten minutes. The poses include light twists, supported backbends, and seated forward folds. There should be no pain or strain while you are in a posture. Restorative yoga can reduce stress because relaxing into the poses stimulates the parasympathetic system. This system increases blood flow to your organs and for slowing down the rate of your heartbeat and breathing.

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So go ahead, give yoga a go. And why not try mixing different styles to get the maximum benefits from your yoga practice?

yoga
Reija Sillanpaa
Reija Sillanpaa
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Reija Sillanpaa

Cancer diagnosis in March 2019 made me re-evaluate my life and helped me to rediscover my love for writing. I write fiction as well as factual articles on topics that interest me such as health, food and the environment.

IG: @r_s_sillanpaa

See all posts by Reija Sillanpaa