— and why intuition and self consciousness forms an important part in it
In these days it can be quite a challenge find the right class on the schedule of a yoga studio. So many different style names. The good old time’s over, that we could choose between the classy four: Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar. Today we find ourselves in a jungle of different yoga styles: Anusara, Jivamukti, Prana Flow, Sivananda, Yin, Kundalini…
Thanks god that I didn’t need to get along with all that when I started my classes in Seville. It was quite easy: Hatha Yoga or Kundalini Yoga — different teachers. In Seville people usually keep it simple. Later during my YTTC I understood that the classes I took where a variation of different styles. So I actually enjoyed elements of almost all classic yoga types. A little bit of everything. But when your studio is more explicit, I will help you in this post how to get along the jungle. Here I leave you 14 yoga styles explained, that might bring some light at the end of the tunnel.
14 most popular Yoga styles
This is quite a newcomer in the yoga jungle, found by the american John Friend in 1997. Anusara derives from Hatha Yoga, the tantric philosophy of non duality and the belief of an intrinsic goodness in everyone. With a focus on heart openers, anusara proposes to open our heart to the experience of grace and union. Especially the three A’s of Anusara Yoga seem very interesting to me.
2. Ashtanga (Vinyasa)
Traditionally taught in Mysore Style, it consists in six series of postures founded by K. Pattabhi Jois (!don’t confuse with Ashtanga Yoga, the eightfold path). It’s a physically demanding and rigorous yoga style. The student has to follow strictly the sequence of the practiced serie — same postures, same order, again and again. In traditional schools in Mysore the student is not allowed to pass to the next posture without performing well the previous. It’s characterized as well through its dynamic flows and a lot of jumps. This style is for advanced practitioners with well prepared and strong bodies. Even though, therapeutically it’s not considered as the healthiest style. Especially through a lot of jumping, the spine can be slowly damaged. A lot of Ashtanga teachers have problems with their spine after practicing for years and years.
Let’s do yoga in a Sauna. Scary? That’s how we can imagine Bikram Yoga. You do 26 poses during 90 minutes in an artificially heated room — at 40 °C (104 °F). Let’s sweat.
That’s where nearly all other styles come from, especially from what we know in the West. Thanks to the tantric movement in India, the body was included in the Yoga Practice and Hatha Yoga as we know it today was born. A traditional yoga class would follow a cosmological order, almost as a baby starts to come down the earth.
Developed by Sri Swami Satchidananda in 1966. His aim was to provide a yoga suitable of the integration of yoga teachings into the everyday life, work and relationships, leading to a more peaceful and tolerant world.integralyogaofnewyork.org.
Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar. Another yoga style strongly focused on body strength. Use of props as chairs, blocks, belts, supporting the student to get into the pose. Often used to adapt a therapeutic practice, focused on right alignment and certain problems (e.g. column, knees)
Sharon Gannon and David Life founded this modern style integrating dynamic asana flows and spiritual development. In a class you will meet vinyasa sequences along with modern music as well as chanting, Pranayama techniques, yogic scriptures and meditation. The couple from New York based the philosophy of Jivamukti Yoga on 5 tenants (https://www.jivamuktiyoga.com/core-philosophy): Ahimsa, Bhakti, Dhyana, Nada, Shastra.
To awaken the dormant kundalini energy by intensive asanas and breathing exercises. Especially the fire breath (Kapalabhati) is used a lot together with intense movements to activate the inner energy. But ask yourself first: Are you ready for this experience?
It’s the most famous of Yoganandas developments. Combines physical and breathing exercises, as well as meditation and spiritual education. Kriyas are usually a cleansing practice.
Consists of a few passive poses, hold during approx. 20min. By using bolsters, blankets, blocks the body gets the sufficient support to be able to relax and enter in a profound rest, without doing any effort. It’s a rejuvenating practice. Not to confuse with Yin Yoga.
This practice is based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda. Especially the Rishikesh sequence of 12 Hatha Yoga asanas is famous. Sivananda Yoga emphasizes on yogic breathing and proper relaxation, positive thinking and meditation. sivananda.org.
A more therapeutic style, taught by Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V. Desikachar, which focuses on the individual needs combining Hatha Yoga Asanas and Patanjalis philosophy. Appropriate for everyone, especially for people with health issues.
Vinyasa means that you practice a certain sequence of asanas, going out from one and into another without interruption, just like a flow. So you never stop. We find vinyasa flows in a lot of other types, e.g.: Ashtanga Vinyasa, Jivamukti, and Prana Flow Yoga founded by Shiva Rea. Basically any practice where asana is connected with another asana, forming a sequence can be referred to as a Vinyasa Flow.
Focusing on the female (Yin) aspects like passivity, letting go, in your yin practice you can surrender and let go of thoughts or control while breathing out. Often confused with restorative yoga because of it’s slow practice and passive poses. Though in yin yoga there’s a lot going on during the practice. Holding passive poses for long (min. 3 minutes) focuses on the connective tissues. The blood is able to reach parts of the body, where it’s not able to reach in a fast yang practice. My yoga practiced isn’t complete without Yin!
Try different yoga styles and find out which is yours
Yoga is 99% Practice & 1% theory.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
So far, these are the 14 main styles to know. But of course they are just part of a long, continuously growing list. However, I want to state that none of these styles can teach you what you are looking for. That’s within yourself. But they can be your companion and personal guide on the way to self understanding and healing. And nothing goes over experience. Of course, you can (and should) try out different styles, observe how they feel and develop your own practice. Yoga knows no limits! My personal yoga practice is changing everyday, just as I do all my life.