Yoga Styles | A Short Overview
There are many different types of yoga being taught and practiced today and it can be tough for a beginners to figure out the differences. Although almost all of these styles are based on the same physical postures -asana. Here is a short overview on some of the most popular yoga styles.
Hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), and sequences of asanas. Hatha is also translated as ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon.” This refers to the balance of masculine aspects—active, hot, sun—and feminine aspects—receptive, cool, moon—within all of us.
If a class is described as Hatha style, it is used as a term to describe a slow-paced and gentle yoga class which provides a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.
Ashtanga, which means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, is an intense style of yoga. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order.
Ashtanga yoga taught one-to-one in a group setting is called Mysore style. Students turn up at any time within a set time frame to do their own practice as taught by their teacher. This is the safest and most traditional. Way to learn yoga. You go at your own pace, on your own breath.
Like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes. It is influenced by ashtanga yoga. Vinyasa, which means breath-synchronized movement, tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses, in which movement is matched to the breath. Vinyasa is also called Flow, in reference to the continuous movement from one posture the the next.
Based on the teachings of the yogi B.K.S Iyengar, this style of practice is most concerned with bodily alignment.
Iyengar practice usually emphasizes holding poses over long periods versus moving quickly from one pose to the next (flow). Also, Iyengar practice encourages the use ofprops, such as yoga blankets, blocks and straps, in order to bring the body into alignment.
The emphasis in Kundalini is on the breath in conjunction with physical movement, with the purpose of freeing energy in the lower body and allowing it to move upwards. Allasana practices make use of controlling the breath, but in Kundalini, the exploration of the effects of the breath (also called prana, meaning energy) on the postures is essential.. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing, and chanting, as well as yoga postures.
Pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, this style is more generally referred to as Hot Yoga. It is practiced in a heated room, which allows for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 poses, but not all hot classes make use of this series.
Yin yoga comes from the Taoist tradition and focuses on passive, seated postures that target the connective tissues in the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Poses are held for anywhere between one and 10 minutes. The aim is to increase flexibility and encourage a feeling of release and letting go. It is a wonderful way to learn the basics of meditation and stilling the mind. As such, it is ideal for athletic types who need to release tension in overworked joints, and it is also good for those who need to relax.
Restorative yoga is all about healing the mind and body through simple poses often held for as long as 20 minutes, with the help of props such as bolsters, pillows and straps. It is similar to yin yoga, but with less emphasis on flexibility and more on relaxing.