Here in the west, we usually think of yoga as this uniform practice of getting into different poses and strengthening your core in the process. If you are from certain religious persuasions, you might have even been warned not to dabble in this due to its ancestral origins. But did you know that there are actually many types of yoga?
To be honest, I did not know about this when I was a child. Only after I had exposure to some yoga practitioners was I made aware that there were different kinds, with different roots and different desired outcomes. Although it fascinated me, it never occurred to me to research it more- until now. After reading up on it I finally managed to find a source known as “mats mats mats” which covered it adequately.
Truth be told, some of them seem very similar and I still can’t really tell the difference between all of them. Nevertheless, I still have deep respect for yoga and the health benefits that go with it. Maybe you will be better at distinguishing different forms of yoga after you read this article. Here goes:
Ananda Yoga classes focus on gentle postures designed to move the energy up to the brain and prepare the body for meditation. Classes also focus on proper body alignment and controlled breathing.
Anusara Yoga is a relatively new form of yoga (1997), which pairs strict principles of alignment with a playful spirit. Postures can be challenging, but the real message of Anusara is to open your heart and strive to connect with the divine in yourself and others.
Ashtanga (or Astanga) Yoga:
Ashtanga (or Astanga) Yoga is the name given to the system of yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. This style of yoga is physically demanding as it involves synchronizing breathing with progressive and continuous series of postures-a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, flexibility, stamina, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Ashtanga is an athletic yoga practice and is not for beginners.
Bikram Yoga is the method of yoga that is a comprehensive workout that includes all the components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular flexibility and weight loss. The founder, Bikram Choudhury, was a gold medal Olympic weight lifter in 1963 and is a disciple of Bishnu Ghosh, brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, (Autobiography of a Yogi). One of the unusual but most beneficial aspects of Bikram’s yoga practice is the 95-105 degree temperature which promotes more flexibility, detoxification, and prevention of injuries. This is the only yoga style that specializes in using the heated environment.
Hatha is an easy-to-learn basic form of yoga that has become very popular in the United States. Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all Yoga styles. It incorporates Asanas (postures), Pranayama (regulated breathing), meditation (Dharana & Dhyana) and kundalini (Laya Yoga) into a complete system that can be used to achieve enlightenment or self-realization. It has become very popular in America as source of exercise and stress management. The ideal way to practice the Hatha Yoga poses (asanas) is to approach the practice session in a calm, meditative mood. Sit quietly for a few moments, then begin the series, slowly, with control and grace, being inwardly aware as the body performs the various poses selected for the practice session. Do not overdo the asanas or try to compete with others. Take it easy and enjoy.
Integral Yoga: This traditional type of yoga combines postures, breathing exercises, selfless service, meditation, chanting, prayer, and self-inquiry.
ISHTA: Developed by South African teacher Mani Finger and popularized in the States by his son Alan, ISHTA (Integral Science of Hatha and Tantric Arts) focuses on opening energy channels throughout the body with postures, visualizations, and meditation.
Iyengar Yoga, developed by yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar more than 60 years ago, promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance through coordinated breathing and poses that require precise body alignment. The poses are generally held longer than in other styles of yoga. In Iyengar, you slowly move into a pose, hold it for a minute or so, and then rest for a few breaths before stretching into another. Equipment like cushions, blankets, straps, and blocks to help the less flexible also distinguishes Iyengar from other types of yoga. Although Iyengar incorporates the traditional postures, or asanas, that make up the broader category of hatha yoga, the cushions and other props revolutionized yoga by enabling everyone — even the elderly, sick, and disabled — to practice. Because of its slow pace, attention to detail, and use of props, Iyengar yoga can be especially good if you’re recovering from an injury. Iyengar is still one of the most popular types of yoga taught today.
Developed in 1986 by Sharon Gannon and David Life, the Jivamukti Yoga method expresses the spiritual and ethical aspects of the practice of yoga that have been disregarded or devalued in contemporary times. It is a vigorous and challenging asana form with an emphasis on scriptural study, Sanskrit chanting, vegetarianism, non-violence, meditation, devotion to God and the role that music and listening play in the practice of yoga. Life and Gannon currently operate a popular yoga studio in New York City.
Kali Ray TriYoga:
A series of flowing, dancelike movements was developed by Kali Ray in 1980. The practice also incorporates pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation. Kali Ray runs the TriYoga Center in Santa Cruz, California.
Kripalu is called the yoga of consciousness. This gentle, introspective practice urges practitioners to hold poses to explore and release emotional and spiritual blockages. Goal-oriented striving is discouraged and precise alignment is not as important as in some other traditions. There are three stages in Kripalu yoga. Stage One focuses on learning the postures and exploring your bodies abilities. Stage Two involves holding the postures for an extended time, developing concentration and inner awareness. Stage Three is like a meditation in motion in which the movement from one posture to another arises unconsciously and spontaneously.
Kundalini practice concentrates on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward. In addition to postures, a typical class will also include chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises.
Power Yoga is essentially yoga with brawn. It’s the American interpretation of ashtanga yoga, a discipline that combines stretching, strength training, and meditative breathing. But power yoga takes ashtanga one step further. Many of the poses (also called postures or their Sanskrit name, asanas) resemble basic calisthenics — push-ups and handstands, toe touches and side bends — but the key to power yoga’s sweat-producing, muscle-building power is the pace. Instead of pausing between poses as you would in traditional yoga, each move flows into the next, making it an intense aerobic workout.
In a restorative yoga class you’ll spend long periods of time lying on blocks, blankets and yoga bolsters – passively allowing muscles to relax.
Like Integral Yoga, this traditional type of yoga combines postures, breathing, dietary restrictions, chanting, scriptural study, and meditation. The popular TV yoga teacher Lilias got her start practicing Sivananda Yoga.
New students find this a very approachable style, often beginning in chair poses that are comfortable. Promotes healing and transformation.
This is commonly used as a therapeutic practice for people who have suffered injuries or are recovering from surgery. It is a gentle, healing practice that is tailored to each person’s body type and needs as they grow and change.
Focuses on coordination of breath and movement and it is a very physically active form of yoga. It began with Krishnamacharya who later passed it on to Pattabhi Jois.
White Lotus Yoga:
This is a modified Ashtanga practice developed by Ganga White which is combined with breathwork and meditation.
Sometimes referred to as yoga for the joints, not the muscles, it directs the stimulation normally created by the asana into areas deeper than the superficial or muscular tissues. Yin Yoga works the connective tissues of the ligaments, fascia, joints and bones. A significant characteristic is the long held, passive nature of the postures. While initially this style of yoga may seem boring, passive, or “soft,” it can be quite challenging due to the long duration of the postures, which can last from five to twenty minutes.
Yoga Bandas Buyas Fromas Granitus Fitinus:
This is the best type of yoga out there, and can be described as a specific type of yoga consisting of weight training exercises with yoga bands. It is unique and only performed at Granite Fitness as part of the Travel Fitness Solution program or the Yoga Bands program and used with the Visual Workout Masterclass. (ps, if you haven’t realised already, this last point was my lame attempt at humour, lol)
So, how did you go? Did it make your head spin yet? Well, personally I have only tried about two different types of yoga. It was great, and I definitely wouldn’t mind trying out a few more. However, I think I’ll stick to gym routines for now. Once again, thanks to MatsMatsMats for allowing us to publish their article in part and share their expertise on yoga with you.
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Mark is an all-rounded guy with dreams, aspirations, and a desire to be a better version of himself. Having conquered obesity, he set-up Granite Fitness to help regular people get in shape and stay healthy. Mark spends his days helping distressed Uni students through difficult situations and studying Christian counselling. He spends his spare time freelancing and running a series of online stores known as the Granite Network with his business partner Atanas. Connect @ http://au.linkedin.com/in/marksptan and check out their other online operations @ http://www.granitework.org