There are many different styles of yoga. When I began practicing, I knew very little about them. There was a yoga studio near to me with a class at a time that worked in my schedule, so I decided to give it a try. The teacher taught in such a way that I saw immediate improvement in some hip and SI joint pain that I was having.
Frankly, I didn’t care about what style of yoga she had studied. I knew nothing about the different styles of yoga, so it didn’t matter to me what she had studied. However, as I wanted to learn more about why the things she was doing were so effective in relieving my pain, I became curious.
I asked her for a recommendation of where I could go to study to learn some of the things she knows. As luck would have it, she had just developed a teacher training program. Curious, I signed up.
At this point, I still had no idea what style yoga she taught. In teacher training, I learned that she was an Anusara-trained Hatha teacher.
Different Styles of Yoga
Anusara yoga was developed by John Friend in 1997. Gaiam.com said, “Based on the belief that we’re all filled with an intrinsic goodness, Anusara seeks to use the physical practice of yoga to help students open their hearts, experience grace, and let their inner goodness shine through.” Anusara is a physical practice that is alignment based. Unfortunately, due to inappropriate activities by the leadership, Anusara (by itself) is no longer offered as a certification. Fortunately, its teachings are offered in a school under Hatha yoga.
Ashtanga is based on ancient yoga teachings, but it was popularized and brought to the West by Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. There are 6 established sequences of poses. You complete the first sequence, then the second, and so on. The order of the sequences or the postures within the sequence does not change. Ever. Ashtangis move rapidly, using breath to flow from one pose to the next.
Bikram yoga was invented by Bikram Choudhury. In a Bikram yoga, get ready to sweat. The room can be heated up to 105 degrees. A class will contain a specific series of 26 postures, done twice. Part of what characterizes Bikram is the specific sequence, which must be done a specific way. If it is not done that specific way in that specific sequence, it is Hot Yoga.
Hatha yoga is a rather generic term that indicates a yoga class that teaches physical postures. Most studios in the West offer Hatha yoga. Frequently, it is gentle and described as a beginner’s approach to yoga. A Hatha class typically has a classical approach to yogic breathing exercises and postures.
Hot Yoga is what you get when Bikram-trained individuals tried to change the sequence of the exact way to do the 26 basic poses. When people tried to add their own touches to their classes, they were no longer able to call themselves “Bikram yoga.” So, they call themselves Hot Yoga.
B.K.S. Iyengar developed a style of yoga and named it after himself. You will probably need props when you practice this style of yoga. Blocks, straps, bolsters, and other popular yoga equipment will probably come in to play as you correctly position yourself during your practice. Alignment and precise sequencing are the defining characteristics of this type of yoga.
Kundalini yoga is based on the idea that there is female energy coiled at the base of the spine like a snake. The point of Kundalini is to wake the snake. Lisa Fierer says, “Kundalini Yoga is a blend of Bhakti Yoga (the yogic practice of devotion and chanting), Raja Yoga (the practice of mediation/mental and physical control) and Shakti Yoga, (for the expression of power and energy). A well-taught Kundalini Yoga class leaves you feeling like you’ve gone to therapy, had an awesome workout in the gym, made it to your yoga mat and enjoyed a fun singing session with friends. The purpose of Kundalini Yoga is to provide a modality by which people can achieve their maximum creative potential, free themselves from Karma (the lasting effects of past actions) and realize their life purpose.”
Vinyasa yoga can be rather athletic and rapid. Movements are fluid from pose to pose. Frequently, music is playing to help keep things moving. Your sequence will vary each class, depending on what your instructor has planned.
Of all the different styles of yoga, Kundalini is the one that I know the least. Here is a nice, short 10 minute Kundalini workout. This should give you an idea about what you might expect in a class.
Here is a video of a morning Kundalini routine.
What style of yoga do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below.
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