Yoga Styles: A beginner’s guide to the 10 main Yoga types
What Is Yoga and why are there so many yoga styles?
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, meaning “to unite”. Yoga (which ranges through many different yoga styles) aims to create union and connection between body, mind and spirit, while also establishing a connection between individual self and the universal consciousness. This union tends to reduce ego-driven thoughts and behaviours, creating a sense of spiritual awakening.
The physical practice of Yoga has developed into a traditional path known as Hatha Yoga. This discipline includes physical postures, cleansing techniques, breathing exercises and more.
Out of Hatha Yoga many different types of practices have been developing throughout the history of Yoga. Each being slightly different in style and substance. With the many different styles and practices out there it can be hard to find the right one for you, from a high intensity vinyasa flow to the relaxing yoga nidra meditation the energy and intensity level ranges through the different yoga styles.
About of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is a style of Yoga which is all about mastering the body, this style of yoga is one of the most traditional forms which is practiced regularly in the west. The main text which Hatha Yoga is based around is Patanjil’s “Yoga Sutras” which is a series of 196 wise phrases written around 400AD.
The word Hatha is a combination of different Sanskrit words. Ha – meaning “Sun” and “Tha” meaning moon. These two words combined are an interpretation of the power and energy balance between the sun and the moon. Within a Hatha flow you can expect to unite these two energies.
What to expect in a Hatha Class?
A Hatha Yoga class normally goes on for 45 – 90 minutes, generally Hatha is a relaxing and gentle style of yoga which focuses on static poses yet can still be mentally and physically challenging. Hatha yoga can be a great style of yoga for beginners and people looking to wind down after a big day.
Your Hatha class will start with a gentle warm up, the teacher will then bring your attention to your breath which will guide you through the increasingly physical postures. These asanas or positions will stretch and strengthen your body.
Most classes will end with a short guided meditation. During this time you can reflect on the class. You will lie on your back or sit cross legged (Lotus Pose) during this portion of the class.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga:
About of Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa Yoga is a flow of movements or a string of postures which smoothly flow together when guided by your breath. The exciting part of Vinyasa is that no two classes are the same, this is unlike yoga styles such as Bikram Yoga or Ashtanga which have “fixed positions” that are practiced in every class in the same order.
What to expect in a Vinyasa Class?
Vinyasa has a flowing dance-like quality to it and after a class you can expect to have had a full body workout which has worked on both strengthening and lengthening your muscles to create stability and balance throughout your entire body.
Injuries from repetitive movement such as using a computer from an uncomfortable angle or clicking with a computer mouse are becoming more common in our digitalised world. The flowing and dynamic nature of Vinyasa actively protects your body against repetitive movement injuries by stabilizing and strengthening a wide range of muscles.
Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga:
About of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice developed in India in 700bc but could be even older. In the 1940s the technique was further developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who discovered that using mantras and other techniques during yogic sleep can have major energetic effects upon one’s body.
What to expect in a Yoga Nidra Class?
Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation also known as “yogic sleep”. It is practiced lying down or in another comfortable position with a teacher guiding the session. The practice brings our attention inwards, and we learn to move between different states of awareness. Our body will find equilibrium – the breath will slow, balance and become quiet, many subconscious aspects of our mind will reveal themselves, and we can fall into a state of deep and blissful awareness, internally and externally.
As we come into a restful state, we can bring our undivided attention to exactly what grasps our awareness and consciousness. We begin to feel a deeper and intangible feeling of wholeness and we become aware of our true nature.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra:
About of Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar Yoga is a popular style of yoga developed by B.K.S Iyengar. After contracting tuberculosis Iyengar looked for something that he could do to help recover, after trying many techniques and cures he started practicing yoga and found that it hughley helped and sped up his recovery time. In the 1960’s yoga started to gain popularity in Europe and America, from there Iyengar’s style of yoga took off in popularity.
Iyengar Yoga is a very meticulous style of yoga which focuses the attention to finding the proper/correct alignment within a pose. To help most studios will stock a large amount of blocks, Props, Straps and Bolsters. These pieces of equipment will help you into the correct posture along with guidance from the teacher.
What to expect in a Iyengar class?
Iyengar yoga is one of the yoga styles which is very static and focused on alignment over flow and movement, don’t expect to break a sweat in this class. During the class you will practice a wide range of different asanas which will change week to week or class to class. These asanas can be seated, lying or standing, most asanas will be demonstrated by a teacher first. Working with yoga props is a unique experience where the body can be in relaxation and action at the same time.
Iyengar yoga may not get you sweating but never underestimate the physical and mental difficulty of holding an asana in a perfect position. Most poses will be designed to build stamina, strength, and flexibility throughout your body. Make sure to be aware of your position and how your body feels throughout the class.
Savasana will always end an Iyengar class. In this moment you can let your body relax and rest, let your awareness go inwards and focus on creating rhythm in your breathing.
Benefits of Iyengar Yoga:
About of Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Yoga is a style of yoga developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and T. Krishnamacharya in the early 20th century. Originally the style was derived from ancient Hatha yoga text, the “Yoga Korunta”. In Sanskrit means “Eight Limbed Path”, these limbs refer to certain asanas that must be mastered before the preceding asanas can also be mastered
Ashtanga yoga is one for the yoga styles which practices the same postures in the same order, this is known as a series. Teachers of this style encourage students to memorise the series and practice six days a week.
In total there are 6 Ashtanga series, the primary series known as “Yoga Chikitsa” which means “Yoga Therapy” is intended to realign the spine, build strength flexibility and stamina and upmost detoxify the body. This yoga style is not for the faint hearted, the primary series will take up to 2 hours and consists of 75 poses. This series will begin with Sun salutations then work up to inversion and backbends.
After mastering the Primary series the Intermediate or second series will be introduced. This series called “Nadi Shodana” is aimed to purify the nervous system and strengthen energy channels. This series will follow the primary series and add an additional 40 postures to practice.
Beyond the intermediate series there are 4 advanced series called Sthira Bhaga, which means “Divine Stability”. Originally there were only 2 advanced series but to make it more accessible to more students it was subdivided into 4. These series are only practiced by a handful of people in the world and take many years to reach, they require copious amounts of strength, flexibility and stamina, not only physically but mentally.
Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga:
About of Yin Yoga
Yin yoga was developed in ancient China and Taiwan where Taoist priests taught these techniques to Kung Fu students.
In the 1970s Yin yoga was developed further by Pauline Zink who was a Kung Fu practitioner and Taoist teacher and further refined and distributed by Paul Grilliey and his wife Suzee who made it accessible to the masses.
Yin yoga targets the deep fascia networks in our body as well as opening, stretching and stabilising the joins, bones and ligaments throughout our body. Yin works by using passive, longer held poses which gives us the chance to relax into the position allowing the stretch to work deeper.
What to expect in a Yin Yoga class?
After creating your space in the class the teacher will lead you through a series of long held, passive sitting poses which will pay attention to the; thighs, spine, hamstrings, hips. Most poses will be held between 3 – 5 minutes or even longer, the teacher will recommend using bolsters and blocks to support your body within the pose and allow you to truly relax and let go.
All poses in a Yin class will be passive, the only movement will be transitioning between postures, this is a great class to stretch, relax and recover from a big week.
Benefits of Yin Yoga:
About of Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga can also be called “Rest and Digest Yoga” which first originated from the teachings of B.K.S Iyengar in Pune, India (yes the founder of Iyengar yoga). The core of this flow is to create full body relaxation and cleanse/free your thoughts and mind. This style of yoga can be a great way to create space and destress during an intense week.
Most asanas in a restorative class will be very simple and can be held for up to 20 minutes so many classes only consist of 4 – 6 asanas. To keep the body relaxed and warm a prop, bolster and blanket will be provided, this allows the body to relax into the asana and gives energetic space for the mind to be free.
What to expect in a Restorative Yoga class?
Many restorative yoga classes will have the lights of the room very low, the class may also start in shavanasa to set the mood and intention for the rest of the class. As the class progresses; blocks, bolsters and blankets will be provided to support your body and keep you warm though the long (up to 20 minute) asana holds. As restorative yoga focuses on the mind, the asanas will be very gentle and low impact. If you are looking to reduce stress and relax the mind and body this yoga style might be for you.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga:
About of Prenatal Yoga or Post Natal
An Indian Yoga teacher called Krishnamacharya announced that certain yoga asanas are suitable and beneficial for pregnant women. These asanas can be used to strengthen the pelvic muscles, stretch and upmost connect with your baby. As you go through the Trimesters your yoga style and intensity will need to adapt.
During the first Trimester you may feel lacking in energy, nauseous and without drive to partake in physical activity. The best advice is to listen to your body and don’t fight what it is saying. Partaking in meditation and gentle pranayama can be a good way to continue practicing yoga at this stage.
In the second and third trimester you may find that you have more energy and are noticing physical changes to your body. Certain poses will be more difficult and sometimes not healthy for your current state. During this time Prenatal yoga can play a role with continuing yoga. During a prenatal flow you will be guided through a safe flow that focuses on the needs of your body at that specific time.
There are a few yoga styles for different stages of pregnancy including after child birth where Post Natal yoga can help you recover and re-strengthen from child birth while also connecting with your baby
What to expect in a Pre-Natal or Post Natal class?
During a Prenatal class you can expect a combination of elements which will help you connect with your child and support a healthy and happy child birth.
Breathing, Bringing attention to the breath. Learning breathing techniques can help reduce pain and shortness of the breath associated with childbirth.
Postures, Props, Blankets and bolsters will be used to aid with these postures to provide support and comfort. These asanas will help with strengthening and stretching vital muscles associated with childbirth.
Loosening the body, Stretching gently can ease up tight muscles and joints and keep you moving through each stage of pregnancy .
Benefits of Post-Natal Yoga:
About of Anusara Yoga
Anusara yoga meaning “Flowing with grace”, is a one of the modern yoga styles developed by John Friend. Growing up John practiced traditional Hatha yoga based on Swami Satchidananda’s seminal book “ Integral Yoga Hatha”. In 1997 John created the style Anusara yoga which is based around the idea of finding your own alignment and center.
Many Anusara teachers will borrow elements from Vinyasa, holding some key poses for a long period and others for shorter. Anusara is a style that supports any level of ability with over 250 possible poses but with no set series or posural routines.
What to expect in a Anusara Class?
Very traditional Anuasra classes will start with chanting the Anusara Invocation, followed by a flow that opens your heart physically and mentally. It is not uncommon to laugh in a class. Anusara teachers are well educated in the principles of alignment and can help you to practice safely. You will finish the class with Savasana followed by chanting the Mantra Om.
Benefits of Anusara Yoga:
About of Anusara Yoga
Juvamukti was created in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Ganon. Jivamuki shares a lot in common with a Vinyasa flow while being also mixed with Hindu teachings. Many Jivamukit devotees follow a strict vegetarian diet and philosophy. Spiritually plays a large roll in Jivamukti, the flow revolves around the 5 tenets:
The studying of the ancient texts which include chanting of Sanskrit mantras.
The growth of a sound body and mind though deep listening; this can be included in classes by using music, spoken word, the teachers voice or even silence
Which is also known as meditation, during this moment you are to watch your own mind think and create stillness.
Understanding that god and self realization is the goal of all yoga practices. You can acknowledge this through chanting and setting an intention.
A lifestyle which is void of all animal products (veganism) or promotes emphasizing ethical vegetarianism and animal rights.
What to expect in a Jivamukti Class?
A jivamukti class will include an intense vinyasa style flow, with hands-on adjustments from the teacher. Expect each of the 5 tenets to play a role in the class in some way. Most classes will go for between 60 – 90 minutes and are open to all levels. All classes will end with a moment of meditation and pranayama.
So now what?
There are still many other different yoga styles that have not been mentioned on this list. If you are starting out with yoga hopefully you are one step closed to joining a class. The best way to start is just to start, pick a class, see if you like it and continue from there. We hope to flow with you soon
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