Types of Yoga – The Ultimate Yoga Guide
Are you trying to find out which specific type of yoga will help you achieve the physical and/or spiritual results you want? When searching for a yoga class to attend, it helps to understand the types of yoga styles out there. In a way, it’s a bit like trying to find your ideal mate; you might have to date around a bit and do your research before you dive in. But once you find your perfect match, everything will fall into place. All you need to do is be open and willing to try. This guide to the different types of yoga might help you find your perfect match!
Please note that this guide is in no way claiming to be exhaustive or 100% accurate. There are many different definitions and explanations for every type of yoga. This is just one of many interpretations.
Hatha means sun-moon. These yoga sequences focus on alignment and breathing, allowing life force (prana) to flow naturally in the body and invigorate poses (asanas) in order to gently increase strength and range of movement. This slow paced stretching yoga comes with easy breathing exercises and often involves seated meditation (and in the case of Sivananda Hatha, complete savasana between poses). Doing so develops a sense of both awareness and stillness in the mind. The asanas enhance the flow of prana in the body while promoting a state of active meditation in the mind. Hatha Yoga sessions strive for a balance between movement and stillness. They typically begin with a short relaxation period with some breathing exercises (pranayama) and a deep relaxation period towards the end. If you’re searching for relaxation techniques and basic yoga poses, or you’re still in the transition of getting comfortable with the idea of yoga, this is a great class to start with.
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A complete body workout is what you’ll get with the series of exercises that comes with Power Yoga. Belonging to a more advanced skill level in types of yoga, these exercises flow from one pose to another wih each pose blending into the next pose without any pauses. The focus here is, of course, building strength in the abdominal muscles, but it also provides an intense cardiovascular workout.
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Also known as “the yoga of awareness,” this is one of the most spiritual types of yoga, and puts special focus on awakening your chakras, the points of energy found up and down your body. Kundalini Yoga emphasises meditation, breathing, and chanting. If you’re up for the physical and mental challenge, this class uses a prescribed series of poses that engages one’s sense of determination, holding simple poses for up to 10 minutes, and letting loose alternately. After this intense test of mind over matter, you’ll get the sense that the universe has opened up for you just a little bit more, and you’ll feel light and airy.
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This is one of the most popular types of yoga because of its vigorous and austere style that seems to attract people who like an element of strength in their practice. There are three set sequences of asanas, described in an ancient text called the Yoga Kurunta, each more challenging and demanding than the last. The asanas in each of the three series are meant to be practiced in a specific order and are linked together by vinyasas. With the Primary Series comprised of 75 poses, the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga include detoxifying and ensuring the smooth functioning of the body, realigning the spine, and building strength, stamina and flexibility, especially in the upper body and core.
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Vinyasa actually stands for “breath synchronized movement.” Here, breath is especially essential in linking asanas sequenced in a deliberate and special way. With this yoga, you flow from one pose to another on an exhale or an inhale. The movements of poses are fluid, oftentimes choreographed to focus on a particular intention (hip-openers or back bends, for instance). They do not follow a set sequence, but are organized by the instructor in a logical way to flow with your breathing and build on a theme. Vinyasa Yoga generates a lot of internal heat through the utilization of ujjayi breathing, which detoxifies and gradually opens up your body as you work your way toward deeper and more challenging asanas.
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Bikram Yoga / Hot Yoga
Bikram is a set sequence of 26 poses, held for a long time and usually done twice, practiced in at heated room set at around 36 to 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Farenheight). The heat warms up the muscles, ligaments and tendons, stretching them out to a greater degree, while maintaining safety. Moving from standing postures to forward and backward bends, you challenge the body while trying to keep your mind calm. By promoting profuse sweating, more toxins are cleared out of the body. It also helps build muscle and lose weight.
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The style of Iyengar Yoga put emphasis on alignment. Basically, Iyengar Yoga can be described as staying in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with a variation, such as a leg up. Even in seated poses, the alignment of the head, spine, hips, and feet are maintained to promote good practice, posture, and flow of energy. Unlike other types of yoga, Iyangar greatly encourages the use of props like pillows, blankets, blocks, chairs, and straps. This makes it a good entry point for beginners. Holding strenuous poses during this class will help increase flexibility and muscle strength. Iyengar Yoga is a great start for people who are overweight, ill, elderly, and those who are just not physically fit.
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Anusara is very popular in the U.S. perhaps because the classes are fun, positive, and lighthearted. The workout centers mainly on alignment, with a focus on the heart. Accompanying this is a strong philosophy that revolves around the concept of goodness in everything. Props help make the class accessible to people with different abilities in this especially welcoming environment. This is one of the types of yoga that easily attracts open-minded people who want to work on their spiritual and physical well being.
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This is one of the types of yoga that leans more towards adaptation. Unlike other yoga styles, Viniyoga is usually practiced one-on-one, just as yoga used to be practiced in ancient times. The yoga teacher works with the student individually so that each session is based on the student’s physical conditions (i.e. injuries, age, or illness). This practice makes yoga accesible to people who have physical limitations and can be very gentle and therapeutically beneficial.
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Jivamukti means “liberation while living.” As one of the modern types of yoga, Jivamukti Yoga is physically intense but invigorating, with each class revolving around a certain theme that can be discovered with the help of chanting, meditation, yoga script, pranayama, and music. It is a physically vigorous as well as intellectually stimulating practice that leads up to spiritual awareness. A great workout is always achieved in this class as well as a healthy dose of philosophy and chanting.
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The way Laughter Yoga America puts it, laughter yoga has a body-mind approach to laughter. One laughs not as a result of happiness, but as a cause of happiness. “Laughter Yoga…teaches you emotional resilience: how to make happiness a choice and not a consequence, and how to respond positively even in the face of adversity,” states their website.
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Similar to the Hatha yoga style, Kripalu is one of the more gentle types of yoga that comes with a compassionate approach while emphasizing meditation, spiritual transformation, and even physical healing of the self. It places a lot of focus on directing prana, or life force, through postures, breath and meditation. In this sense, it truly embodies the concept of yoga as meditation in motion. This type of yoga appeals to seniors and overweight people because of its individualized and gentle approach.
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Restorative Yoga is the same as other styles of yoga in that in also aims to teach students to relax and re-energize the mind, body, and spirit. However, the approach it uses is very distinct. Restorative Yoga poses are typically done with yoga props and accessories like yoga blocks, to provide support and make it easier for the students to do the different positions. It also uses music to give added calmness to the class, and contribute to the overall feeling of gentleness that Restorative Yoga emphasizes.
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Sivananda is one of the slower-paced styles of yoga that focuses more on meditation, breathing, and spirituality. The Sivananda yogic style is currently one of the biggest schools of yoga, and was introduced to the Western audience by Swami Vishnu-Devananda in 1957. The style is based on five branches of yoga philosophy: relaxation / meditation, diet, positive thinking, exercise, and proper breathing.
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Most people think yoga is simply a form of exercise and/or a fitness routine to increase flexibility. Swami Nirmanalanda Saraswati (also known as Rama Berch) showed us that yogic practice is so much more when she created the consciousness and healing-oriented Svaroopa program. Svaroopa translates to “the bliss of your own being,” and it aims to trigger the body’s natural healing capacity so we can maximize our physical functionality and potential.
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If you’re a long-time athlete with a history of injury, or if you’ve ever wanted to feel like a trapeze artist, Anti-Gravity Yoga is definitely worth a try. This new kind of yoga is just one of the many emerging branches of yoga that have developed lately. Anti-Gravity Yoga sets itself apart by literally letting you soar through your poses. Now how many other sports can say that?
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ISHTA is a style of yogic practice that stands for Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda. The development of this yogic style is credited to Alan Finger and his father, and ISHTA is said to be rooted in the teachings of Paramahansa Yoganda.
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“Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness”, or simply Ananda Yoga, is a style of yoga that equally combines Hatha Yoga (or the art of doing asanas or poses) and the traditional, meditational, and philosophical teachings of yoga. And even though the emphasis of Ananda Yoga is on the spiritual essence of yogic practice, the asanas still form a huge part of its overall practice.
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The founding or initial development of Yin yoga (originally called Taoist yoga) is attributed to Paulie Zink, who first started doing yoga when he was 14 and has numerous achievements in competitive Martial Arts under his (black) belt. This yogic style was further developed by Paul Grilley, stressing the importance of muscle temperature and static stretching, or the duration for which asanas are held.
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Many people today choose to learn and do yoga as a form of fitness workout, or a means to lose weight. However, there are also lots of people who recognize the benefits that yoga brings not just to the body, but also to the mind and spirit. If you want to get a more mental and spiritual experience, Integral Yoga is one of the types of yoga you should consider.
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Some people prefer working out alone because they are better able to focus and concentrate. But there are also quite a number of people who much prefer working out with a friend to help stay motivated and feel less intimated when learning new fitness methods like yoga. There are even certain types of yoga classes that are tailored specifically for doing yoga poses in pairs.
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Tantra Yoga is commonly associated with sexual practices and the Kama Sutra. However, did you know that the term “Tantra” actually means “expansion”? More specifically, the expansion of the mind. Tantra Yoga has little to do with blunt sex. It’s a spiritual practice that aims to align a persons soul or spirit with his or her body and it’s absolutely worth checking out.
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Prenatal Yoga / Yoga for Pregnancy
Staying healthy and in shape are some of the best things an expectant mother can do for her baby-to-be. Both can be achieved with the help of a few prenatal yoga exercises. This safe exercise regimen lets moms-to-be go through a much smoother pregnancy, helping them stave off the many aches and pains associated with the process.
Read more about Prenatal Yoga:
- What Is Prenatal Yoga?
- Benefits of Prenatal Yoga
- Prenatal Yoga Poses
- Prenatal Yoga Safety Precautions
While of course, we adults are able to find ways to effectively de-stress, kids are less capable of finding ways to help them cope better with the challenges they face and the changes they are going through. This is where yoga for kids comes in. The idea of teaching yoga to kids is getting more and more attention as parents and facilitators are starting to see that yoga does indeed have a lot of benefits for kids.
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Baby Yoga doesn’t seem to be as familiar a term as yoga itself, but more and more parents are seeing the benefits of yoga as a form of exercise that can help them bond with their little one while promoting the development of their babies’ gross and fine motor skills. This practice comes with many physiological benefits. It also improves social interactions among new parents and their babies.
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Executing yoga postures on a flat, static surface is challenging enough. Why do it on a moving object afloat on water? One reason: it is a load of fun. Sure, you may spend less time holding your poses than wading in the water, getting back on your Paddleboard, but once you get the hang of it just imagine your sense of accomplishment–and the fun you’ll start having while you’re at it.
Now here’s an option that give you an excuse you to stay in the water. In Water Yoga, you don’t have to worry so much about the pull of gravity, which allows you to exert yourself in ways that challenges you beyond your ability, but also gives you room to tumble around in the water and enjoy its cool temperature. Think of it as a yoga class-cum-water spa retreat. We just may go on one ourselves.
Partner yoga has its benefits, but this particular type of partner yoga also has its thrill. In Acro Yoga, you get to do your poses while being held up by a friend i.e. partner. It’s an interesting, challenging workout that’s sure to connect you both on a level of mutual zen – a great, productive way to bond with your yoga pal!
Unlike any other types of yoga, Raja is known as ‘The King of Yoga’ or ‘Royal Yoga’ and is more of a meditation. Its basic philosophy is to direct life force and bring the emotion and mind into complete balance and harmony. To make it less complicated, Raja Yoga promoted meditation and devotion in order to control and balance the mind.