If you find yourself confused because of too many yoga poses in different styles and you don’t know which one to choose for your practice then here is a concise description of each yoga style.
Yoga Poses For Everyone
You can follow the funny “Find Your Yoga” infographic (published by YogiTrail):
John friend started this Hatha based yoga school in 1997. He stresses ‘Universal Principles of Alignment” from not only a physical perspective but a spiritual one. You can find a great introduction with John Friend talking about ‘playing’ in yoga, here.
If you thought of Cirque Du Soleil, then you were right on. Aerial Yoga is also called anti-gravity yoga. It is practiced with silks, or dangling from ropes of hemp or other fibers. It allows you to complete open to the benevolence of gravity, and makes more difficult yoga like backbends and Hanumanasana (yogic splits) more approachable. It builds tremendous core strength, and, without a doubt, is one of the coolest looking types of yoga around.
Often practiced with a partner, acro yoga blends Thai massage, acrobatics and yoga for a divinely playful experience of how the body can open and dance in different postures, even when you are upside!
There are two types of Ashtanga, that which is practiced in the west and the traditional 8-limbed path as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. K. Pattabhi Jois has taught lots of people Ashtanga yoga in the West, which is closely matched to these ancient yogic principles. There are some very advanced yoga poses in this practice as you move through it, so it is a great type of yoga for those who want to test their outer limits.
This yoga is composed of 26 postures practiced in a heated room (to 104 degrees) with a certain level of humidity. It is a very intense practice, and you will sweat more than you ever thought possible in this style of yoga. The class is 90 minutes of pure postures to bring oxygen to the body. Benefits include better sleep, better mood, less stress, and definitely a better physique.
For those of you who think clothing should be purely optional. There is nude yoga. Many people feel that they can more completely connect with the earth and the elements when they don’t have clothing between themselves, the earth and the sky. There are also many Tantric yoga practices that can be done without clothing.
This school of yoga was begun in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon. The practice includes asanas, a vegetarian diet and a spiritual lifestyle. Sting and the model, Christy Turlington as well as a host of other celebrities have visited the Jivamukti schools of yoga.
Not exactly the same as Bikram yoga, hot yoga can be found at every temperature, from slightly warm to intensely hot.
Ha, and Tha are two Sanskrit words meaning Sun and Moon. The premise of Hatha yoga is to balance the sun and moon or female and masculine energies of the body through an eight-limbed path of yoga. An Indian named Swatmarama, a sage of the 15th century and writer of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is the for-father of this widely practiced style of yoga. It is meant to use postures or yoga asanas as well as pranayama and other exercises and cleansing practices as preparation for meditation and higher awareness.
B.K.S. Iyengar, of Light On Yoga fame, is the founder of Iyengar yoga. He was a sickly child that healed himself through yoga, first concentrating on the purely physical aspects of the practice (in his words, you can’t concentrate on enlightenment when you can’t even stand up straight), and later turning his attention to the more introspective practices like Dharana and Pratyahara.
Kundalini Yoga was made popular in the west by Yogi Bhajan, but has been around, arguably for centuries. This type of yoga concentrates primarily upon certain types of breathing exercises called pranayama, which are incorporated in to yoga asanas. The combined qualities of the two are called yoga kriyas. Kundalini yoga aims at awakening the latent kundalini Shakti, or subtle energy often held in Muladhara chakra or the etheric space between the perineum and anus, (also often referred to as purely sexual energy, although this is a misnomer) and directing up the seven chakras, to the crown. Here, at Sahasrara chakra, it is said that one can reach enlightenment. Kundalini yogis often wear white as a symbol of spiritual purity.
Power yoga is a purely westernized term for what is likely a variation of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, a more flow like series of postures, but without the rigidity of the order of asanas that is normally practiced in true Ashtanga yoga, which is named after the 8-limbed or eight-fold path of yoga as outlined by Patanjali. Power yoga, as its name implies, is the strength, building, sweat-inducing cousin of Ashtanga. It is not meant for beginner yogis, or those recovering from injury. Type A personalities – you’ll love this.
Prenatal yoga has swept the nation, and is even suggested to patients by OBGYNs and Obstetricians. Doulas and birthing coaches swear by it and many mothers with numerous birthing experiences harold yoga as their saving grace during labor and delivery, as well as the nine months of pregnancy leading up to the momentous occasion of giving birth. Prenatal yoga teaches women how to get in touch with and build strength in the PC muscles as well as how to breathe properly, a saving grace during intense contractions.
Restorative yoga is a calm, slow paced yoga class in which you will likely not practice more than a dozen asana in one one-hour period. Props such as blankets, bolsters and pillows are sued to gently support the body in modified yoga poses, that allow complete restoration on the body – this includes the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, nervous system and brain. In this deeply curative form of yoga, the overstressed and over-scheduled will find complete nirvana. It is like returning to the womb with the gentle guidance of an adept yoga instructor who teaches you how to really let go.
Also sometimes referred to as the royal path, Raja yoga is inclusive of every type of yoga, with the aim of reaching the royal path of higher awareness. Swami Vivekananda describes Raja Yoga as a way to calm the mind, “Every thought, feeling, perception, or memory you may have causes a modification, or ripple, in the mind. It distorts and colors the mental mirror. If you can restrain the mind from forming into modifications, there will be no distortion, and you will experience your true Self.”
Also sometimes called chair yoga, this class is meant for seniors with limited mobility or flexibility. While seniors can practice yoga all the way into their 90s and beyond, those who have aged in more traditional ways will find senior yoga to be just their speed.
Photo: Darko Sikman