A Guide to the Most Common Styles of Yoga

What most people don’t realise when they first start yoga is that there are a variety of styles within the practice. Although it’s great to have so many types to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming at the beginning, so I have put together a guide for you to explain some some of most common styles and help you discover which one might be the best for you…

HATHA

Hatha, literally meaning “force” in Sanskrit, is the most traditional form of yoga. It is believed that ‘ha’ represents the sun and ‘tha’ represents the moon, therefore the practice of Hatha yoga aims to join, yoke, or balance these two energies, creating an equilibrium between body and mind.

These classes typically involve a set of physical postures and breathing techniques, practised more slowly and with more static posture holds than a more dynamic style (such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga).

Especially good for:

Learning the key principles of yoga and building the foundations of a good practice.

VINYASA

Probably the most popular style of yoga, Vinyasa focuses on the union of breath and movement through a sequence of postures that flow seamlessly from one to another, usually joined together by a ‘Sun Salutation’: a short series of set poses which are repeated at different points throughout the class.

Vinyasa is often said to be the most ‘dance-like’ style of yoga, incorporating coordination, balance and flexibility. Hot yoga is a usually a vinyasa class, practised in high temperatures.

Especially good for:

Opening up the body, lubricating joints and increasing flexibility of muscles.

JIVAMUKTI

Founded in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti means “liberation while living”. This is a vinyasa-based practice with themed classes, often including chanting, music, mantra, meditations and readings. Jivamukti teachers encourage students to apply yogic philosophy to their daily life.

Especially good for:

Creating a deeper understanding of the more spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga.

ASHTANGA 

A strong practice, similar to vinyasa but the key difference is in the sequencing. Ashtanga yoga consists of six set flows: primary, intermediate and four advanced. The idea is that the student must master the first series before moving onto the next; these classes are usually led by a teacher or practised as a Mysore style (i.e. each student works independently but in a group setting).

Especially good for: 

Creating a strong sense of discipline. Repeating the same sequence each time can also make it easier to notice progress within your practice.

POWER:

A more modern style of yoga, developed in the States in the late 1990s. Power is essentially a fitness-based vinyasa class, aiming to build strength in the body through a sequence of challenging postures. These poses are usually held for longer in comparison to more traditional styles, in order to encourage muscular endurance.

Especially good for:

Stamina, building full body strength and working up a sweat.

KUNDALINI

This is a unique practice, very different to the more traditional styles of yoga. The term ‘Kundalini’ literally means “a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine”, which is usually conceptualised as a coiled up serpent.  The intention behind the practice therefore, is to awaken the serpent (i.e. energy) and encourage it to move up the body, clearing any blockages along the way.

Kundalini classes use a combination of asana (postures) usually practised one at a time rather than as a flow, pranayama (breathwork), bandhas (body locks), mantras, chants and meditation.

RESTORATIVE / YIN:

This style of yoga aims to calm the body, breath and mind by slowly moving through a series of gentle stretches. By holding each pose for a longer period of time (this could be anything from 30 seconds to 5 minutes), the muscles get a chance to relax deeply, creating more space in the body. Restorative or yin classes are often in the evening in order to help people unwind and prepare the body and mind for sleep.

Especially good for:

Stress relief and releasing muscle tension

IYENGAR

Developed and popularized by B.K.S. Iyengar, this style heavily focuses on finding the proper alignment in every pose. These classes won’t usually build up a sweat, but can still be physically and mentally challenging. Props, such as blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps, are an important part of Iyengar yoga.

Especially good for:

Those recovering from injury

ANTIGRAVITY

Antigravity, another more modern style, is a hybrid of different disciplines including yoga, pilates, calisthenics and aerial-acrobatics. It is performed in silk hammocks which hang from the ceiling which help to make otherwise challenging postures, such as inversions, easier.

Especially good for:

Releasing tension/compression of the spine (and having fun!)

 

 

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