Welcome to Yoga Week at Fitblogger! Be sure to also check out the great yoga week giveaways.
If you’re new to yoga, or even if you’ve been at it awhile, something you learn pretty quickly is that YOGA is a big word. It’s sort of like labeling something generically as say, FOOD.
And just like food, not all yoga fits everyone’s personality, preferences, goals and lifestyle so it’s important to learn about the different types, try out varying styles and find something that fits you.
Yoga Types 101
Below you’ll find the main types of yoga and a brief description of each. There are 100’s of unique variations and names out there but this will give you a great overview and help you narrow down a style that might be right for you. All styles are listed in alphabetical order and are classified as either vigorous or relaxing and restorative.
Ashtanga means 8 limbs in Sanskrit and refers to the 8 limbs of yoga as detailed in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. In practice, Ashtanga yoga follows a series of 75 postures in a specific order that takes approximately 2 hours to complete depending on your experience. Sun salutations begin the series but you will also perform, backbends, inversions, as well as standing and seated postures.
With the pre-prescribed posture order, Ashtanga lends itself to a self directed practice once you are familiar with the movements. Classes can be found with a teacher directing the movements, classes where everyone goes at their own pace and of course you can also do the practice at home.
Power Yoga is the western offshoot of Ashtanga yoga but does not follow the same prescribed series of movements. Power yoga classes can vary widely from teacher to teacher but are usually aimed at people who are relatively fit and don’t want as much chanting and meditation in their practice.
Anusara is a type of Hatha yoga and was created by John Friend in 1997 and means “flowing with heart, flowing with nature and flowing with grace.” As the name implies, Anusara was founded on the principle that there is good in all things and focuses on the the celebration of the heart.
In a class, the teachers create the posture order although they chose from over 250 individual postures as outlined by the syllabus of the creator that cover all the major postural yoga classifications: standing poses, backbends, forward bends, twists, hand-balances, inversions, and restoratives. Individual postural expression is encouraged while the teachers will encourage appropriate alignment as detailed by the 3 A’s of Alignment: Attitude, Alignment and Action.
Developed by Bikram Choudhury from Hatha Yoga, Bikram Yoga works every muscle, vein, tendon and ligament of the body, both individually and together and is often referred to as Hot Yoga. It’s true that Bikram yoga will always be hot, but hot yoga isn’t always Bikram :) Fun fact: Bikram studios are called, “torture chambers” and studios are heated to a balmy 105F for the sessions.
Each Bikram Yoga class follows a set sequence of 26 different postures, which are performed twice each along with “breathe of fire.” The rationale behind the heated room is to increase flexibility, improve circulation and sweat out toxins. The entire series takes approximately 90 minutes to complete.
Developed by Ana Forrest, Forest Yoga involves vigorous asana sequences to strengthen and purify the body and release pent-up emotions and pain so that healing can begin.
Poses are similar to other forms of yoga but poses are held for longer periods of time to aid the goal of internal reflection and emotional healing. There are also elements of dance and aerobic style movements that help make this a vigorous workout along with an emphasis on core strengthening and deep breathing.
Hatha actually describes any of the physical movements of yoga, so technically all forms of yoga are hatha yoga. If you run across a Hatha Yoga class at your local gym or yoga studio they tend to be intro type classes that are more relaxing but they really can be anything. Be sure to ask what sorts of poses are done to ensure you’re signing up for what you want to do.
A combination of various other yoga types Integral Yoga involves, hatha yoga, with meditation, mantras, selfless service, a devotion to a greater divine being and study of self-awareness. The postures are a path to deeper relaxation and self-awareness.
Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, Iyengar is a non-flowing type of yoga, meaning that participants do not move with their breathe as they would in Anusara, Bikram and other types of yoga. Postures are held for an extended period of time and concentration is on perfecting the postures.
This form of yoga is great for beginners if you find that moving with your breathe is too vigorous for you. The movements are slower but the emphasis helps foster muscular strength endurance and flexibility.
The use of yoga props popular today, such as straps and blocks originated with Iyengar yoga.
A contemporary yoga style, created by David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1984, means, “liberation while living.” Jivamukti yoga incorporates elements of Ashtanga yoga while incorporating spiritual awareness and chanting. The classes are an intense workout and contrary to Iyengar Yoga, a Jivamukti practice has postures that follow the breath.
One of the most spiritual types of yoga, Kundalini focuses on freeing untapped energy and awakening the 7 chakras of the body. The practice focuses on moving this energy from the lower body, upwards and is accomplished through breathing in a prescribed manner, either with the movements or in a certain way while holding poses. A class may also involve, mediation, chanting and singing.
Developed in 2004 by Canadians Ted Grant and Jessica Robertson, Moksha is a form of hot yoga, involving a series of 40 poses done in sequence. The pose series starts with corpse pose, progresses to intention setting for the session, standing postures, a seated series and ends with corpse pose (Savasana) once again.
In addition to the yoga classes, all Moksha studios are expected to adhere to a set of environmental guidelines that cover everything from their building materials to how the studio is cleaned.
Just as it sounds, restorative yoga is a relaxing session aimed at opening the body through passive stretching. Props and accessories are used to assist postures which can be held over 10 minutes at a time. A restorative practice can be a great complement to a more physical yoga practice or other intense fitness pursuits.
Is all about adaptation. Viniyoga is based on the idea that yoga is not a one size all and the only way to truly practice it properly is to have a teacher guide a student individually. Depending on a student’s needs postures, meditation, breathing practices and chanting may be involved in a class. Since classes are built around the student, if you require specialized attention due to a physical limitation or just would really like one on one instruction, this type of yoga may be for you.
Meaning “breath synchronized movement,” Vinyasa yoga can be used to describe various forms of yoga that “flow.” Given this great variation, there is no set sequence or set of poses so the class structure will be determined by the teacher.
Vinyasa can also refer to a series of 3 poses that are part of the sun salutation: plank, chaturanga and upward dog.
In this day and age, everyone has a website and yoga varieties are no exception. If you want to find out more about any type of yoga before undertaking a class, check out their official website, read more about the history of that particular practice and see if it fits your philosophy too.