There are many types of Yoga and although they can be vastly different, they all strive towards the same goal: serenity in mind, body, and spirit.
The definition of Yoga from Wikipedia is:
Yoga is an old discipline from India. It is both spiritual and physical. Yoga uses breathing techniques, exercise, and meditation. It helps to improve heath and happiness. Yoga is the Sanskrit word for union (yoke). Patanjali was a pioneer of classical yoga. He defined Yoga as “the cessation of the modification of the mind” (stopping changing the mind).
The original forms of Yoga did not involve movements, yet instead they used stillness and meditation as a practice to join (yoke or create a union between) the mind and the body. Postures, also known as Asanas, are movements or exercises and usually flow together or might also be held for extended periods of time. All Yoga practices or types will involve some type of meditation and movements and each type uses different techniques to arrive at the same goal: peace or happiness.
The following is a list of ten different types of Yoga. Descriptions of each follow.
Hatha yoga is the most popular type of yoga according to Google search queries. This would make sense considering that it’s an umbrella term that refers to any type of yoga that teach postures. However, hatha yoga is typically used to describe a class that gives an introduction into basic yoga poses. It might move a bit slower, and most instructors will provide a variety of modifications to assist participants and lead them towards the final goal or shape of the Pose being taught. The emphasis and focus of this type of Yoga, is on the breath and learning how to get into and hold the Poses.
Ashtanga yoga is translated as “8-limbed yoga,” which highlights the belief that the path to enlightenment is attained through 8 spiritual practices: (1) moral codes, (2) self-purification and study, (3) posture, (4) breath control, (5) sense control, (6) concentration, (7) meditation, and (8) absorption into the universal. The typical Ashtanga routine is 5 sun salutation A’s, 5 sun salutation B’s, a standing sequence, seated postures, and a closing sequence. This type of Yoga is typically quite rigorous and will provide a potential for cardiovascular as well as muscular strength gains.
Kundalini yoga is a very spiritual type of yoga. It is derived from the Sanskrit word kundal, which translates to “coiled energy.” The idea is that we all have energy gathered at the base of the spine, and through Kundalini Yoga, we bring that energy up our spine through the seven chakras, and out the crown of our head. This occurs through rapid, repetitive movements, breathing and chanting. In the 20th century, Kundalini Yoga is a combination of Bhakti Yoga (devotion and chanting), Raja Yoga (meditation), and Shakti Yoga (the expression of power and energy). It may also include Hatha Yoga poses and techniques (such a bandha, pranayama and asana).
Hot yoga or Bikram yoga is one of the more challenging types of yoga. Studios are typically heated to 105º F with a humidity of 40%. It involves performing a series of 26 postures, repeated on both sides, over a 90-minute period. Water is a definite MUST for this type of class. Bikram Yoga is named after the person who originally sequenced the Poses in the order that they are in, yet many studios have a version of Hot Yoga that involves using a heated room to practice in – thus adding a cardiovascular component to the work out. These types of classes will induce a pool of sweat and might be conceived as uncomfortably hot for some people.
Vinyasa is translated as “breath-synchronized movement,” which does a great job of explaining what it is. You sync your breath with a series of poses. It’s sometimes refereed to as flow yoga because you smoothly flow from one exercise to the next. The breath is used as the connection of each pose. These classes usually vary each time, and while some of the poses might be the same from class to class, the order and type of poses changes which some believe help in creating a more balanced muscular body.
Iyengar yoga focuses on precise performance of poses and breath control, with mistakes actively corrected by instructors. The emphasis is on detail, precision and alignment and it typically involves the use of props like blocks and blankets to help with getting into and out of the poses.
Yin yoga is a slower brand of yoga where poses can be held for 5 minutes or longer. It’s great for beginners or if you’re more interested in the meditative aspects of yoga. Yin Yoga targets the deep connective tissues like the fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. Because it is slower and more meditative, it gives the student space to turn inward and slow down the mind as well as the body. The longer holds in each pose allows time for the stretch and length to these connective tissues and can add more range of motion in the joints and muscles.
If you’re looking for a more intense workout, power yoga is probably for you. It’s rooted in Ashtanga yoga but moves much faster than the average Ashtanga yoga class and is focused more on strength and cardio. This type of yoga is designed to specifically improve overall muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. The pose can be challenging and then you add on to that by moving quickly from one pose to the next.
Some of the different schools of yoga might be difficult for an observer to tell apart at first glance. But not aerial yoga. Aerial yoga or anti-gravity yoga combines yoga with pilates, dance and the use of a hammock to suspend your weight.
Sahaja yoga doesn’t involve any yoga poses. It focuses entirely on meditation to bring about a state of thoughtless awareness. While this might not sound very exciting, and it can be difficult to measure the effects of a form of exercise that doesn’t move your body much – you might be pleasantly surprised at how easing the mind and relaxing the body can add vitality and spark your attention span to a wider scope by sitting in stillness.
Depending on whether your goals are flexibility, cardio, strength and/or relaxation there’s a type of yoga that’s best fits your needs. So, decide which type of yoga will work best for you and give it a try! And if you don’t know where to start or which one to try, give them each a try or at least read up a bit more on the types of styles that sound appealing to where you are in your exercise needs and abilities and go from there.