Understanding Different Styles of Yoga


I love learning from all different styles of yoga and creating my own practice based on my needs.

Yoga has evolved over thousands of years into what it is today. At its core, yoga maintains its foundational principals and philosophy that have been passed down over the years. Today there are many types of yoga that all have these common ground principals structured into their style of practice.


People from different backgrounds, cultures, and interests seek out yoga for a variety of reasons. For example, some students may prefer the spiritual aspect of yoga while others prefer the physical. Similarly, some students may prefer a more calming yoga practice, while others prefer a more rigorous one. All these differences are what truly make yoga such a beautiful and unique practice - giving everyone an opportunity to experience it in their own special way.


While it’s not important to be a master of all styles of yoga - it is important to understand and be aware of their differences and choose the style that fits you best.


Let's explore the different styles of yoga and their benefits.


ASHTANGA YOGA


Benefits: Increases muscles strength, flexibility, stamina, concentration, and mental clarity.


Ashtanga is rigorous style of yoga with a specific sequence of poses meant to challenge the mind, body, and soul. Ashtanga Yoga is designed to purify the body and cultivate a deeper connection to the self through asana practice.


Ashtanga Yoga classes are usually high energy and physically challenging. The classes are always sequenced the same, with poses following in the same order. The focus of Ashtanga classes is linking every single movement in the class with breath.

In Ashtanga classes, students must master 5 asana series. The first series consists of 10 sun salutations, a series of standing poses, inversions, and finally seated postures. Ashtanga classes are technically a sub-category of Vinyasa Yoga style. Ashtanga classes follow a similar sequence flow to a Vinyasa style class - with the only difference being that Ashtanga is much more rigorous and follows a stricter class sequence.


HATHA YOGA


Benefits Increases strength, balance, flexibility, concentration, and bone density. Promotes calm and inner peace.


A class that is titled 'Hatha' is usually a gentle level class with basic yoga asanas.


Through breathing exercises in combination with physical poses, Hatha yoga seeks to cleanse and connect the mind and body. Pranayama and the asanas are the most widely recognized parts of Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is rooted in more deeper practices; including yogic lifestyle, meditation, and yogic philosophy.


In Hatha Yoga's original philosophies, pranayama and asanas were meant to achieve a meditative state of oneness with the self. It was also meant to achieve oneness with a higher power; high consciousness, God, or the Universe.


HOT YOGA + BIKRAM YOGA


Benefits Regulates metabolism. Increases flexibility, immunity, and strength. Promotes detoxification of the body.


Bikram Yoga is a branded form of yoga that includes a 26 basic pose sequence; with each pose done twice. Bikram Yoga classes are always sequenced the exact same way for every class.

Hot yoga, another version of the branded 'Bikram' classes, has been adopted by other yoga studios in the West.


Bikram and Hot Yoga classes are performed in a room with a sauna-like environment. The temperature in these classes is turned up to around 40 degrees Celsius or up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga classes both use heat to aid in loosening stiff joints and strengthening muscles. The flow like sequence of the classes help to promote detoxification of the body through sweating.


Hot yoga will typically follow a Vinyasa style flow with high energy. Bikram Yoga classes will typically follow a preset of a 26 pose sequence done twice in one class.


TIP: Make sure to stay hydrated during and after class!!


KUNDALINI YOGA


Benefits Increased relaxation, flexibility, and mental clarity. Promotes calm and inner peace.


Kundalini Yoga is rooted in Hatha Yoga and is commonly recognized for its spiritual benefits. Kundalini presents the imagery of a snake coiled at the base of the spine which represents raw untapped energy in our bodies. This imagery of a coiled snake comes from Hindu philosophy and is first mentioned in the Upanishads. The objective of this practice is to ‘uncoil’ and activate untapped energy through a series of poses, pranayama, sounds, and meditation.

In Kundalini Yoga, there's usually a specific focus on meditative yoga poses that relate to the core and lower back. The asanas are also structured in 'kriyas". Kriyas are a set of asanas, pranayama, and mantras connected in a set order to achieve a higher state of consciousness and inner peace. A Kundalini Yoga class is typically structured in the following order; a warm up, kriya (a series of asanas, breathing, and sounds), relaxation, and meditation. Classes are typically opened and closed with a mantra.

IYENGAR YOGA


Benefits Increases muscular strength, flexibility, stamina, concentration, and mental clarity.


Iyengar Yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the key influential figures of yoga during the 20th century. Iyengar Yoga classes focus on proper alignment and the precise use of teaching cues and language to achieve alignment. The classes focus on a progressive philosophy that includes basic beginner foundations in early classes. These beginner foundation classes later build upon more advanced classes as students progress in their practice.


Iyengar classes also focus on the use of props to perfect alignment for each pose. In Iyengar classes, blankets, straps, blocks, chairs and other props are used frequently to help students understand key alignment principles for poses and for adjusting poses. Iyengar classes are usually slower pace with the poses being held for longer periods of time.

RESTORATIVE YOGA


Benefits Increases muscular strength, flexibility, stamina, concentration, and mental clarity.


Restorative yoga classes focus on a slow-paced style originally developed for students recovering from an illness or injury. Restorative yoga is also considered an ideal balance to hectic and stressful modern lifestyles.


Restorative yoga classes are very calm and slow-paced. These classes focus on the use of props to achieve restorative poses that calm and promote healing in the body. A restorative yoga class will usually include only 5-8 poses that are held for longer periods of time; up to five minutes or longer. The purpose of these classes is to relax and rest. The poses involved are calming and require minimal effort.


VINYASA YOGA


Benefits Increased muscle strength, flexibility, cardiovascular function, respiratory capacity, and improved bone density.

Vinyasa Yoga is a ‘flow’ between poses. Vinyasa classes also include breathing techniques that focus on the transition of the flow between poses. In Vinyasa, the synchronization of the breath and movement is an important part of the practice.

Vinyasa maintains a flexible approach to the practice of yoga with a more creative class sequence. Vinyasa, often referred to as ‘Vinyasa Flow’, focuses on the transition between poses. It also maintains a more rapid flow of movement through different postures. The structure of Vinyasa flow will vary greatly from class to class since the definition of the style is so broad. Due its faster class pace, many people are drawn to Vinyasa classes for its fitness applications.


YIN YOGA


Benefits Increased flexibility, circulation, and concentration. Improves mobility in the body and joints. Improves the health of tissues, fascia, and joints. Decreases anxiety and stress.


The name Yin Yoga is rooted in Taoist philosophy from the Yin-Yang symbol which represents the feminine side. Yin Yoga is often a great compliment to high energy yang style classes that are most commonly seen in today's Western yoga classes.

Yin Yoga provides a slower and more meditative style of yoga. In Yin, different poses are held for longer periods of time for a deeper stretch. In these classes, a pose is usually held for 1-2 minutes, but can sometimes be held for up to 5 minutes in duration. The purpose of holding poses for long periods of time is to target the deeper tissues in our body; our connective tissue, ligaments, joints, and fascia. In Yin Yoga philosophy, it’s believed that by releasing our tissues in this way, we can improve and remove blocked Chi or energy in our body. Another benefit of Yin Yoga is that a static pose is a safer way to apply stress to the joints.


What's your favorite style, or one you'd like to try? Let me know in the comments below, or message me HERE with any questions.


Namaste,

Michaela