By Ann Pizer, About.com Guide
There are many different styles of yoga being taught and practiced today and it can be tough for a beginners to figure out the differences. Although almost all of these styles are based on the same physical postures (called poses), each has a particular emphasis. This quick guide to the most popular types of yoga will help you figure out which class is right for you.
Hatha is a very general term that can encompass many of the physical types of yoga. If a class is described as Hatha style, it is probably going to be slow-paced and gentle and provide a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.
Like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes. Vinyasa, which means breath-synchronized movement, tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called Sun Salutations, in which movement is matched to the breath. A Vinyasa class will typically start with a number of Sun Salutations to warm up the body for more intense stretching that’s done at the end of class.
Ashtanga, which means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order. Ashtanga practice is very physically demanding because of the constant movement from one pose to the next. In yoga terminology, this movement is called flow. Ashtanga is also the inspiration for what is often called Power Yoga. If a class is described as Power Yoga, it will be based on the flowing style of Ashtanga, but not necessarily keep strictly to the set Ashtanga series of poses.
Based on the teachings of the yogi B.K.S Iyengar, this style of practice is most concerned with bodily alignment. In yoga, the word alignment is used to describe the precise way in which your body should be positioned in each pose in order to obtain the maximum benefits and avoid injury. Iyengar practice usually emphasizes holding poses over long periods versus moving quickly from one pose to the next (flow). Also, Iyengar practice encourages the use ofprops, such as yoga blankets, blocks and straps, in order to bring the body into alignment.
The emphasis in Kundalini is on the breath in conjunction with physical movement, with the purpose of freeing energy in the lower body and allowing it to move upwards. All asanapractices make use of controlling the breath. But in Kundalini, the exploration of the effects of the breath (also called prana, meaning energy) on the postures is essential.
Pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, this style is more generally referred to as Hot Yoga. It is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room, which allows for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 poses, but not all hot classes make use of this series.
Viniyoga is all about adaptation. Viniyoga is based on the guru/student model, in which an experienced teacher works individually with each student, making a personalized yoga program for them based on such factors as health, age, and physical condition, including past or current injuries. T.K.V. Desikachar is the world’s foremost Viniyoga authority, while Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, is the most prominent American proponent of Desikachar’s method.
Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara combines a strong emphasis on physical alignment with a positive philosophy derived from Tantra. The philosophy’s premise is belief in the intrinsic goodness of all beings. Anusara classes are usually light-hearted and accessible to students of differing abilities. Poses are taught in a way that opens the heart, both physically and mentally, and props are often used.
This style of yoga emerged from one of New York’s best-known yoga studios. Jivamukti founders David Life and Sharon Gannon take inspiration from Ashtanga yoga and emphasize chanting, meditation, and spiritual teachings. They have trained many teachers who have brought this style of yoga to studios and gyms, predominantly in the U.S. These classes are physically intense and often include some chanting.
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and gaining popularity around the U.S., Forrest Yoga is the method taught by Ana Forrest. The performance of vigorous asana sequences is intended to strengthen and purify the body and release pent-up emotions and pain so that healing can begin. Expect an intense workout with an emphasis on abdominal strengthening and deep breathing.
The name Kripalu is associated both with a style of hatha yoga and a yoga and wellness center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Both were founded by yoga guru Amrit Desai, who came to the United States from India in 1960. Kripalu is a yoga practice with a compassionate approach and emphasis on meditation, physical healing and spiritual transformation that overflows into daily life. Kripalu also focuses on looking inward and moving at your own pace.
Integral yoga follows the teachings of Sri Swami Sachidananda, who came to the U.S. in the 1960s and eventually founded many Integral Yoga Institutes and the famed Yogaville Ashram in Virginia. Integral is a gentle hatha practice, and classes often also include breathing exercises, chanting, kriyas, and meditation.
Moksha Hot Yoga was founded in Toronto, Canada in 2004 by yoga teachers Ted Grant and Jessica Robertson. Though a relative newcomer, Moksha has quickly gained popularity as over 30 affiliated studios have since opened worldwide, including in Canada, the United States, Switzerland, and the Caribbean. A set series of about 40 poses done in a hot room, Moksha Yoga is designed to be both accessible and challenging, supporting life-long health.
In restorative yoga, props are used for support the body so that you can hold poses for longer, allowing you to open your body through passive stretching. Restorative postures are usually adapted from supine or seated yoga poses with the addition of blocks, bolsters, and blankets to eliminate unnecessary straining.
The first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center was founded in 1959 by Swami Vishnu-devananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda. There are now close to 80 locations worldwide, including several ashram retreats. Sivananda yoga is based upon five principles:
1. Proper exercise (Asana, focusing on 12 poses in particular)
2. Proper breathing (Pranayama)
3. Proper relaxation (Savasana)
4. Proper diet (Vegetarian)
5. Positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (Dhyana)
In Yin Yoga, poses are held for several minutes at a time in order to the stretch the connective tissue around the joints. Yin Yoga directly addresses the demands that sitting still in one position for a long time, as in meditation, places on the body by focusing on stretching connective tissue instead of muscle.