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.
Yoga provides us with a space where we can recognize the highest in ourselves and each other. Through yoga we tune in to the body, the mind and the spirit, allowing the truth that lies within each of us to rise, be heard and seen. We find our greatest potential. I invite you to join me on this journey on my Yoga Burn review site, the possibilities are unlimited!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.