You have probably heard about yoga quite a bit already. You may have heard that it helps to relax and is very healthy for the body and mind. Even doctors who come from a scientific background already recommend the practice, even though it is based on principles quite far from science (nowadays the benefits are also scientifically proven). So you decided to try it to see for yourself, but how do you choose which type of yoga to go to?
We have prepared here a breakdown of the different types of yoga and what you can expect from each type so that you can choose easily.
The original style of yoga from which the different styles came from.
Ha- represents the sun (which represents the masculine aspect of life- doing, entrepreneurship, leading, giving)
Ta- represents the moon (which represents the feminine aspect of life- intuition, listening, empathy, receiving)
The essence of the practice is the connection of the two.
According to the philosophy of yoga, each of us, men and women alike, has both energies and through practice we can find a balance between the two. The balance between effort and ease.
In a Hatha class, you can expect physical poses held for a relatively long stay and transitions from pose to pose, not quite in a fluid manner but with an emphasis and a place for each pose on its own. This is alongside breathing exercises and meditation. The practice is physical and requires effort, it strengthens and stretches the body and mind.
This style is very accessible to people who are just starting out because there is a slow transition from pose to pose that allows you to learn the correct alignment of the body in the poses.
A method developed by a teacher named Krishna Macharya and distributed by his student Patabi Jois. The word Ashtanga refers to the eight parts of the yoga practice (more details in this article – link).
In the Ashtanga practice there are four series of set exercises in a certain order. According to tradition, the student must start with the first series and only when he/she is able to perform all the poses correctly, the student may progress and move on to practice the second series and so on.
It is a physically and mentally challenging practice that lasts between an hour and a half and two hours and is suitable for those who like repetition that allows for focused advancement.
A stream within Ashtanga named after a region in India called Mysore. The Mysore practice is a Ashtanga practice without the guidance of a teacher, but of going over the positions of the fixed series independently. In a studio class, there usually is a teacher in the room who helps those who need, and there is also a printout of the order of the poses for reference.
The meaning of the word Vinyasa is to consciously flow between movements. There are many variations to this practice that depend on the teacher and their background, but in general you can expect a class of flowing movement with an emphasis on the balance between effort and ease. Breathing is an important part of all yoga practices, but in this style it can be said that its uniqueness is that the breath leads the movement. You can expect that each lesson will look differently from the previous one and the level of difficulty will change as well.
A variation of Vinyasa but this is a highly intense and challenging class.
A practice that is the exact opposite of the practices we have talked about until now. The name comes from the Chinese symbol of yin-yang which symbolizes the opposites that complement each other. Hatha/ashtanga/vinyasa are considered yang practices. The Yin practice is a slow practice of stretching close to the floor. In this practice, one stays for several minutes in each position, supported by various props in order to stay comfortably during the practice. This is a meditative practice mainly because one spends a few minutes (2-15 minutes) in each pose. This can be challenging because when there are no outside distractions, the head starts working. More importantly, it can be said that it is a very relaxing practice that brings inner peace and relaxation to the body’s nervous system because of the long stays and the emphasis on breathing.
Similar to Yin, this is a calm and slow practice, but here it is not about stretching, but about passively placing the body into supported poses with the use of various props. This is in order to allow a meditative state. It is a practice of rest, a state of relaxation for the body that enables a state of relaxation in the mind.
Iyengar Yoga, named after its inventor, B. K. S. Iyengar, is a stream of yoga that places great emphasis on the correct alignment of the body within each pose. In this practice, there is a lot of use of accessories such as chairs, straps, blocks, etc., in order to make sure that the body is correctly aligned in each pose. This precision allows for prevention of injuries and is suitable for people with various injuries or pains in the body who need to be more careful when practicing yoga. This practice is designed to bring safety to the practitioner and according to the method – only when one achieves stability in the pose, can they go deeper into it. In this practice, each position stands on its own and only when it is finished, will they move to the next position.
Kundalini yoga, also known as the yoga of awareness, is a stream of yoga that became very popular because of a teacher named Yogi Bhajan. This practice incorporates meditation, sound vibration (mantra), breathing exercises, visualization and more. The word kundalini refers to a type of energy that yogis believe exists in our bodies. This energy sits at the base of the spine and according to tradition, during the practice this energy awakens and begins to rise in a spiral up the spine, through the chakras, towards the crown chakra at the top of the head. This energy awakens the chakras and ultimately leads to spiritual awakening.
This practice places great emphasis on the spiritual and energetic practice. It is very strenuous and mainly designed to build the energy in the body. Here you can expect exercises that require very high mental endurance because during the practice one has to hold challenging positions or exercises for a long periods of time.
Acro yoga is a practice that combines yoga and acrobatics. It is an exercise that involves a couple or a group of people, when there is at least one person who is in the air and makes shapes with the help of his partners. Usually there will be one person as the base, one who ‘flies’ and one who guards. This practice helps build strength, flexibility and balance and is also a lot of fun 🙂
A practice created by the teacher Dharma Mitra. The word Dharma refers to our path in life, our karmic track, our purpose in the world. This practice is considered an evolution of Hatha yoga with an emphasis on the eight parts that make up yoga (see article with detailed link). With special emphasis on the first two parts, Yama and Niyama, also known as the code of ethics of yoga, that is, how I behave with the world and how I behave with myself.
This style is considered graceful and challenging. It is a flow between poses designed to build Prana energy (life force), strengthen, relax, stretch and more.
Hot yoga – Bikram –
Bikram Yoga is a type of yoga that was popularized by a person named Bikram Choudhury, but is based on the study done by B.C. Ghosh. In this style, a fixed series of 26 postures is practiced in a room heated to 41 degrees Celsius to recreate the climate in India, where the method was created. You can expect physically challenging poses and breathing exercises.
Today, after numerous accusations against Bikram of sexual harassment, many studios have replaced the class name with 24-2 or simply hot yoga.
There are also regular Hatha or Vinyasa classes in warm rooms.
A type of yoga that treats therapeutically the physical and mental aspects of each person. Although all aspects of the yoga practice are designed to improve our mental and physical state, in yoga therapy specific practices can be used to treat medical conditions ranging from physical problems such as herniated discs to mental problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder. This practice has been tested in several medical studies and is highly recommended by doctors to treat ailments in a holistic and less intrusive way than in Western medicine.
Over the years, more and more types of yoga are created in the world. These are the most basic types.
My recommendation – if you tried one type and you didn’t really feel a connection, try another type or a different teacher. It’s like friendship, not every person you will have a connection with and that’s okay 🙂 If it doesn’t work, try another type, and you’ll surely find the one.
Another important point is that it takes a few times until you feel comfortable in the practice. Go to at least five classes before you make a decision if it’s for you or not 🙂