Different types of yoga. What to expect?
Read and explore different types of yoga and discover the style that syncs with your energy vibration… Through this article, I wish to cover as many types of yoga as possible and I promise to keep updating the list as and when I come to know of a new style of yoga.
Listed are a few of these styles of yoga, please chose your preference depending on whether you want a physically demanding class or an easy, relaxing or a meditative class. Happy practicing!
A word of advice – I am using the term yoga loosely for asana, yogic movements, pranayama and related activities. Chose your type…
1. Hatha Yoga
Yoga styles like Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Sivananda etc. all are classified as Hatha style. Hatha practice includes asana along with six Shat Karmas (physical and mental purifying techniques), mudras, bandhas (energy releasing techniques) and pranayama (breath liberation).
What to expect: Hatha, ha the esoteric sun, and tha the moon, balancing practice involves basic postures, breathing techniques, relaxation techniques and meditation (may involve chanting). Class often begins by chanting syllable Om, then move into series of postures and finishes on floor in supine position (shavasan) for 5-15 minutes.
Uses: Designed to align and calm body, mind and spirit, helps to develop flexibility and balance. Beginners to Experts.
2. Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa in Sanskrit denotes connection. It links movement with breath control, creating flowing postures that transit from one to next. Each movement corresponds with either inhalation or exhalation. It trains the mind, how to take care of yourself.
What to expect: In Vinyasa yoga you will move through a few sun salutation, warrior poses, balancing poses, back bends and seated stretches and finishes with shavasan for final relaxation.
Uses: Vinyasa flow is ideal for weight loss, improves strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. It burns seven calories per minute according to a study published in journal medicine and science in sports and exercise.
Ideal for: Ex athletes, fitness minded people.
3. Iyengar Yoga
Developed by Master BKS Iyengar in 1930, Iyengar yoga promotes strength, flexibility, endurance and balance through body alignment attained by coordinated breathing and yoga postures. Iyenger yoga believes in the philosophy that correct body alignment reaps maximum benefits and prevents injuries.
What to expect: In Iyengar yoga you slowly move into one posture, hold it for few breaths then slowly and smoothly flows into other posture (allows you to prefect your position and you are less likely to strain).
Uses: Iyengar yoga helps to build strength, mobility, stability, joint proprioception and can be therapeutic for special conditions.
Ideal for: With slow pace and addition of props like cushions, blankets, straps, blocks iyyengar yoga is ideal for even those recovering from injuries, elderly, sick and differently able.
4. Bikram Yoga
Founded by Bikram Choudhury in 1970, also popularly known as hot yoga. In bikram yoga, studios are heated to a sauna like temperature of 104f with 40% humidity. ”The heat loosens your muscles , increasing your ability to stretch” says Raffael Pacitti, owner of Bikram yoga Manhattan in New York.
What to expect: Each class is a series of 26 poses, practiced twice in a strict sequential order, incorporated with two sessions of breath work. These special postures systematically challenge the entire body- the organs, veins, ligaments, muscles and internal body organs.
Uses: Bikram yoga focuses at all components of fitness i.e. muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance and weight loss. Working out under high temperature also helps in detoxification and prevention of injuries.
Ideal for: Building more flexibility.
5. Jivanmukti Yoga
A physical and intellectually stimulating method, Jivanmukti yoga incorporates chanting, meditation, pranayam, vegetarianism, nonviolence and music into vigorously flowing asanas. it was founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon. Jivanmukti yoga believes in the five central elements…
- Nada (music)
- Bhakti (devotion)
- Shastra (scripture)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Ahimsa (non-voilence)
What to expect: Classes usually starts with a life lesson, chanting and breath work followed by flowing vinyasa sequences and ends with relaxation and meditation. Jivanmukti yoga offers spiritual and meditative elements along with physical benefits, translating the true meaning of yoga.
Uses: Overall fitness, relaxation, liberation while living.
Ideal for: Seasoned practitioners.
6. Ashtanga Yoga
Developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga literally means eight limbed yoga, it refers to eight limbs as mentioned by patanjali in yoga sutra, which includes…
- Moral and ethical guidelines
- Breath work
- Sense withdrawal
The practice involves synchronising breath work with progressive and continuous predefined series of postures performed to produce internal heat designed to purify body.
What to expect: In a class you will rapidly move from one pose to another with synchronise breath work. You will move through four phases…
- Opening phase
- One of six “series”
- Back bending
Uses: Sweating through postures you will work on your circulation, flexibility, stamina, muscular strength and endurance and calm mind.
Ideal for: Ex athletes, Seasoned practitioners.
7. Kundalini Yoga
Originated from tantric tradition, back in eight century, Kundilini yoga is a perfect blend of physical and spiritual practices. It incorporates movement, dynamic breath control, meditation and chanting of mantras. It aims to develop spiritual awareness by freeing kundalini potentiality that is believed to be coiled in the base of human consciousness and drawing it upwards towards the seven chakras.
What to expect: Each session is made up of 50% exercise, 20% breath work, 20 % meditation and 10% relaxation, says Hari Nam Singh Khalsa, director of yogaheaven.com.
Uses: Increases consciousness and build physical vitality.
Ideal for: Those who seek more spiritual experience.
8. Art of living
Brainchild of Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, Art of living is a discipline, which emerges from the various elements of ancient yoga that unites body, mind and soul through simple and effective postures and breathing techniques. It includes all the substantial points of gyan, bhakti, karma and raja yog.
What to expect: Art of Living places more emphasis to meditation to explore the hidden elements of human existence.
Uses: It has brought about remarkable life style changes and eradicates many chronic illnesses of practitioners. One can attains happier living, reduce anxiety and increase tolerance
Ideal for: Everyone whether old or young, fit or frail can practice Art of Living with ease.
9. Isha Yoga
Initiated by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Isha Yoga is a practice to promote inner chemistry, which accelerates the releasing of physical, mental and emotional blocks for production of thoughtful intimacy, clarity and inexhaustible energy.
What to expect: Class flows from meditation and transmission of the sacred Shambhavi Mahamudra to breathing techniques. Thereafter participants take up samyama meditation, which provides impeccable possibility to free oneself from bonds of karma.
Uses: Isha yoga for children 7-14 years is designed to improve concentration, memory, health and wellbeing. Also one can find relief from several chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, migraines and emotional disturbances.
Ideal for: Children, young, old, , fit or frail can practice Isha Yoga.
10. Sivananda Yoga
The practice consists of performing following steps…
- Proper breathing- methods commonly used are clavicular, thoracic , abdominal breathing and pranayama (kapalbhati and anuloma viloma)
- Asanas: focused on spine health, its strength and flexibility
- Relaxation: for rejuvenation of nervous system
- Healthy diet
Uses: Sivananda practice helps relieve arthritis, heart blockage, depression, asthma, sinusitis, stress, diabetes, hypertension etc.
Note: Kapalbhati is not recommended during menstruation in women, for persons suffering from hypertension or any other heart disease. Besides, anuloma viloma is not recommended for pregnant and menstruating women.
Ideal for: Children, young and old persons. Sivananda Yoga is the right mix of Yin and Yang flow.
11. Krishnamacharya Yoga
Krishnamacharya style is taught taking into consideration the needs of each individual, their physical, mental, emotional, psychological state, lifestyle, spiritual path and outlook. Because of this personalisation they can share their problems, blockages and diseases in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. One-to-one contact is necessary in Krishnamacharya style. It includes…
- Mantra and vedic chanting
- Bandhas (specific locks that can release block energy)
- Dhyanam (meditation)
- Nyasa (placements)
- Ahara (diet)
- Vihara (lifestyle)
Uses: Prevention of illness and injury, increase flexibility and strength, Krishnamacharya style helps in overcoming physical or emotional trauma, increase energy and vitality.
Ideal for: This yoga form can be practiced by everyone irrespective of age, gender, believer of any system, culture or background.
12. Anusara Yoga
Anusara Yoga is a modified version of traditional Hatha yog founded by John Friend in 1997. It consists of three parts which are also called three ‘A’s i.e. attitude (aspires divine power and celebrate life), alignment (awareness about the integration of various body parts) and action (energy flow in body to ensure stability). The focal point of practice lies in the “universal principles of alignment”, which underlies all of the asanas.
What to expect: Expect the teachers to help you hold some key poses for a longer time synchronised with breath work and followed by relaxation/ meditation. There are 250 yoga postures, but there is no set postural routine. Teachers don’t fix poses in terms of alignment, but instruct the proper usage of principles and allow each individual to develop their own.
Uses: Improve strength, flexibility, heals injuries faster, heart and mind becomes resilient, happy and peaceful.
Ideal for: Any one at any level of ability can practice this form due to this styles universal principles of alignment.
13. Acro Yoga
Developed by Jenny Sauer- Kleein and Jason Nemer in 2003, this is a form of partner yoga. It brings together yog asana, acrobatics and Thai massage. It has two types of practice:
Solar acrobatic practice: These are powerful, technical and playful such as lifting and supporting your partner.
Lunar practice: Includes Thai massage elements.
What to expect: Session starts with solo work, and then two partners come in practice. One person (base) will lift the other person (flyer) and the third person is there to support or assist.
Uses: Acro Yoga helps improves strength especially in core, arms and legs, improved circulation, empowerment and confidence, lunar practice relieves muscle strains, muscle tension and calms mind.
14. Bihar School of Yoga
Bihar School of Yoga was founded by Satyananda Saraswati in Bihar in 1963. This form is different from the physical acclimatized yoga and deals with the whole being of a person. Bihar School practice does not place main focus on asana but focuses on micro postures, pranayama, cleansing methods, mind focusing pratyahara and meditation from the beginning.
What to expect: Class consists of asana, pranayam, mudra and bandhak followed by yog nidra with little meditation.
Uses: Very effective for stress management, purification of blood from toxins, removing of blockages in Pranic energy channels, reduces anxiety, depression, and hyperactive disorders.
Ideal for: It is an ideal style of yoga for beginners as it begins very gently and utilises the knowledge of breathing from the start due to which one feels relaxed from the beginning itself.
15. Kripalu Yoga
Founded by Amrit Desai in 1965, Kripalu Yoga is similar to the gentle style of Hatha practice. Individualized poses are taught depending on individual’s strength and capability.
What to expect: Class usually begins with pranayama; gentle stretches and followed by asana practice and ends with relaxation. For beginners poses are held for a short time and eventually hold time increases and thereafter includes flow. Teachers end the class by saying jai bhagwan.
Uses: It relieves stress, increases affability, serene the mind. Improves flexibility and strength, improves digestion and relaxes nervous system.
Ideal for: Suitable for all age groups and abilities as it is a slow practice.
16. Laughter yoga
Brainchild of Indian physician Madan Kataria, Laughter Yoga promotes the use of laughter as the core of its philosophy. It can be practiced alone, with a partner but ideally with a large group.
What to expect: Session starts with warm up exercises which involves clapping and harmonizing movements, then start laughter with lion posture. In doing so you will feel stretch in your facial muscles and also in your tongue and throat. It is then associated with deep breathing exercise.
You can also chant mantra or prayer as you inhale or exhale. Your main aim is to laugh, regardless to what your mind has to say and laugh for no reason continuously until it becomes real.
Uses: Reduces stress, makes you look younger, boost immunity, control heart diseases, depression, anxiety and panic attack. Laughter yoga is a natural painkiller.
17. Chakra Yoga
This mindfulness practice includes less motion, and more mind focusing exercises. There are seven key points (chakra) and their manifestation in the body, which are considered to be torrent of energy. Chakra Yog is purely a mind-body routine.
Uses: It strengthens liver, pancreas, kidneys, muscles of hand and feet, vertebral column and increases oxygen intake capacity. Very helpful in treating diabetes, asthma, constipation, and diabetes
Ideal for: Anyone and everyone.
18. Restorative Yoga
Most of Restorative Yoga practices are based on teachings of BKS Iyengar. It involves only 5-6 poses held for 5 minutes or more and supported by props, allows you to completely relax and rest. It includes light twists, seated forward bends, and gentle back bends passively allows muscles to relax.
19. Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga, as the name suggests, is a low paced practice, focuses on lengthening of connective tissue. Yin poses are passive; it makes use of lots of props, usually performed with temp. 80-90f. Yin practice was developed by Paulie Zink. The Yin poses are maintained for about 3-5 minutes, which put stress on fascia and connective tissue, which enhances circulation and increases flexibility.
Among all the different styles of yoga, I, personally, prefer yin yoga due to its meditative healing properties.
This overview of basic principles and practice of different types and styles helps you find a practice best suited to you, and for those who already practice certain types, it inspires you to practice some other styles. Happy practicing!
Different studios offer free trial classes on types of yoga they propagate. I would advise you to attend a trial class, free or paid, wherever possible.