Styles of Yoga
Yoga is so much more than just beautiful asanas. It is a spiritual lifestyle with guiding lessons, principles, disciplines, and different styles to explore.
Yoga is meant to be studied and practiced throughout your entire life. It’s designed to be woven into the fabric of our daily activities, and of our souls.
Yoga allows people to come where they are, as they are. All styles of yoga allow for physical modifications, and that is only one small aspect of practicing yoga. Don’t let the asanas (poses) be intimidating. You’ll quickly learn that everyone is capable of practicing yoga.
All types of yoga have this in common: you’re focusing on connecting the mind, body, and spirit through the breath. Each breath correlates with each asana.
“Yoga” specifically means to yoke, which means to unite or bring together in Sanskrit.
This post will give you a basic understanding of six different styles of yoga. This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Just the most common, and the ones beginners are most likely to come across.
The very beginning of the Ashtanga primary series is the surya namaskar “A” and “B.” These are the two forms of sun salutations, intended to warm up the body.
Then you get into your standing series of poses. These poses range from beginner to advanced, so anyone can join this discipline.
Ashtanga yoga is the same set of asana over and over again. You build upon the series as you get stronger and more flexible. Then, you integrate the poses into your body.
The goal is to produce internal heat and physically challenge the body. This is the “traditional” style of yoga that first integrated the entirety of the yoga philosophy. Patanjali was the first to write down and systematize yoga, and he based his teachings on ashtanga.
Vinyasa is very free. You can really start the warm-up process in any way you want. The main differences are gonna be with how you structure the class and the flow.
For example, in Vinyasa, instead of starting out with the various sun salutations, you could start on the ground doing floor work for your abdominals to build the heat inside the body. You have the creative leeway to really flow with how you want to.
Vinyasa and ashtanga are very similar. They are both physically challenging, with an emphasis on linking the breath to the movement of the body. The “vinyasa” umbrella includes power/iron yoga, Baptiste flow, and any other style that is intended to work up a sweat.
Hatha is a step more free than ashtanga. You do have a little bit more leeway to be creative with the series of flow that you’re doing for that particular class. Hatha means “forceful” or “intense” in Sanskrit.
This is the style of yoga you’re most likely to encounter in the Western world. Technically not a “style” on its own, hatha yoga is used as a blanket term for the physical practice.
Potential yogis often enter the world of yoga through hatha practices. If it resonates, they’ll likely continue to more traditional yoga styles.
Hatha is a great place for beginners to start because it is reminiscent of pilates. You might feel more of a workout while doing hatha, while also getting tastes of the other principles of yoga. Including the holistic approach of integrating the mind, body, spirit, and breath.
Also known as hot yoga. Which is similar in flow style to Ashtanga, meaning there’s a specific set of asanas that you do. The room tends to be around 108 degrees fahrenheit as you move through twenty six postures over ninety minutes.
There is a strong focus on alignment and flow in Bikram yoga. The heat intensifies the movements and makes it easier to connect the mind, body, and spirit with the breath. This style of yoga is considered to be medicinal and therapeutic.
The intention with Bikram yoga is to challenge you physically, emotionally, and mentally. You probably won’t find many spiritual components in a Bikram class. But you’ll certainly exercise more than your body during it.
Yin yoga is a meditative style of yoga that is mostly on the ground. Each asana is held anywhere from 3-5 minutes, depending on the length of the whole class.
In yin, you find your “edge” of the pose and slowly stretch into a fuller expression of the pose while focusing on your breathing. Yin yoga gives you the opportunity to create a single pointed focus, which is one of the eight limbs of yoga.
This is my personal favorite style of yoga. I love how it perfectly encapsulates moving meditation. It can be as challenging or as relaxing as you’d like. This is a great way to improve your meditation practice and your flexibility.
Typically yin classes take place upon the floor. You’ll likely see bolsters, pillows, blankets, yoga blocks, and other props to help students be more comfortable in the poses.
Kundalini yoga is highly spiritual. It’s purpose is to access and integrate your life-force energy throughout your entire body. This style favors spirituality over physicality.
The asanas still exist and are practiced within Kundalini, but the emphasis is on spiritual awareness. This is taught through breathwork, mantras, rhythmic movements and high-vibe meditation.
It wasn’t until 1969 that Kundalini yoga was written down and pulled into the light for the mainstream. Even though it’s been practiced in secret for thousands of years. It’s relatively “new” nature is evidence of the mass spiritual awakening of the planet, known as Ascension.
When you’re practicing yoga, you’re churning the body with meditative movement, essentially clearing and cleansing your entire being. And it’s just this beautiful practice that a lot of people don’t realize when they first get into.
Then when they feel it in their body and their energetic centers, they’re like, “Holy, oh my goodness, this is something else!” Has this happened to you?
Yoga teaches us to love, to be grateful, to live beautifully, and to treat all other beings with kindness. Each spiritual soul is part of something bigger in our Universe, and yoga opens our eyes to this realization.
In short, yoga can be the ultimate guidebook to living a lovely and meaningful life. Much of this post was created from the brilliant words of Heather Alexander and Meagan McCrary.