Doing Yoga of any kind is beneficial. Is there any one type of Yoga that can claim to be superior to all others? I believe there answer to this is no. Think of Yoga as food – for the body, mind and spirit. We each like different food…we each have different reactions to various foods as well. What I would find satisfying and fulfilling for lunch may make you cringe in fear.
In the same way, I think it necessary to explore at least a few of the various Yoga offerings you have access to in your area, and find out which one is best for you. Pretend you are hunting for a new favourite restaurant – one you will frequent as often as possible to feed yourself with the best of food. Even if you are planning take-out (doing Yoga at home), it is always wise to sample a few of the “entrees” in various teaching styles before settling on one yourself. I personally practice at home, but still attend a class once every month or six weeks for guidance, advice and posture checks. Anyone else feeling like takeout Chinese right about now? I am!
No matter what your choice may be, Yoga is available almost everywhere; from recreation centers, public facilities, clubs, studios, at home, on DVD…you name it. Listed below with short descriptions are the major Yoga teaching styles. I hope the information may at least give you some indication as to what style of Yoga may be best for you.
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This term is often used incorrectly as Hatha Yoga can incorporate a variety of styles. You may usually count on this style of Yoga to be slow-paced and serene as opposed to overly active.
If you suffer from intense pain in joints or have reached an age where you require a more gentle Yoga approach, Integral yoga may be for you. Also a type of Hatha Yoga; classes include chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises (Pranayama).
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Vinyasa is another general term that encompasses many different types of classes. Classes in Vinyasa Yoga often focus around more active poses based on a series known as Sun Salutations and are usually more vigorous. These poses are performed in synchronization with the breath and are generally followed up by more intense stretching towards class end.
Iyengar Yoga is based on the teachings of the yogi B.K.S. Iyengar and is one of my personal favourites as it combines attention to body alignment with holding poses over long periods. This allows the practitioner to advance at her or his own pace – e.g. gradually working your way up from only holding a pose for a few seconds to a minute or more. Alignment in yoga terms refers to the precise positioning of your body to achieve the maximum benefit while reducing any risks of injury. Iyengar Yoga encourages prop use such as blankets, straps, etc. to gain the necessary alignment for some asanas. Breathing or practicing Pranayama after Yoga and at other times of the day is also encouraged.
Ashtanga Yoga (or a variant called Power yoga)
Ashtanga Yoga is a very fast-paced and intense style of Yoga. If a class is described as a power yoga class, it will be loosely based on Ashtanga Yoga and yet may follow different poses. Ashtanga Yoga relies on a set series of poses which are performed in the same order and without rest. This constant movement is known as “flow” in Yoga terms and is quite demanding physically.
Otherwise known as hot yoga, Bikram Yoga is practiced in a high temperature environment, usually 35 to 38 degrees Celsius. According to Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, the high temperature allows for lubrication and loosening of tight muscles as well as sweating out toxins from the body. Bikram Yoga traditionally relies on twenty-six poses, although not all hot yoga classes may use the same.
Moksha Hot Yoga
Ted Grant and Jessica Robertson pioneered Moksha Yoga in Toronto, Canada in 2004. Similar to Bikram Hot Yoga, a series of poses designed to be challenging yet accessible for those with physical difficulties is performed in a hot environment.
Kripalu Yoga was developed by yoga guru Amrit Desai, who came to the United States from India in 1960. Kripalu Yoga is a type of Hatha Yoga with emphasis on extending your practice into your everyday life. Through awakening higher awareness, meditation, and physical healing, Kripalu strives to move students towards a holistically whole state.
A very ‘Buddhist’ Yoga, Anusara is based on the belief of the inherent goodness of all of nature and adds to this a strong emphasis on alignment. With a positive philosophy based on Tantra, Anusara Yoga classes are usually very open and relaxed, offering instruction for students with varying abilities. As with Iyengar Yoga, props are often used, and poses are taught in such a way as to open the emotional and physical heart center in order to help heal and free the mind.
As a practitioner of Kundalini Yoga, I can tell you it is a fairly strenuous workout with attention on breathing, breath control, mudras, and your spiritual third eye. Kundalini yoga places great emphasis on the breath in rhythm with physical movement in order to free Kundalini energy and allow it to rise up your body. Understanding the effects of the breath or prana (life energy) is an integral part of Kundalini Yoga and is present in many of the asanas.
Jivamukti Yoga was founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon. This is a particularly beautiful and interesting style of Yoga with emphasis on meditation, chanting, and spiritual teachings. Jivamukti Yoga is quite challenging physically and finds its roots in Ashtanga Yoga. David and Sharon have an interesting website which you may visit at http://www.jivamuktiyoga.com.
Sivananda Yoga is based on five principles; proper exercise through performing Asanas, proper breathing, relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. Teachers of Sivananda Yoga usually advocate a strict vegetarian, if not vegan, diet.
Ana Forrest teaches this method at her yoga center in Santa Monica, California. Forrest Yoga is very intense physically and is designed to strengthen the body and release hidden emotional damage and pain so that deeper healing may begin. Emphasis is placed on developing a strong core through abdominal exercises and controlled deep breathing.
There are many other types of yoga and subcategories as well, but the majority of all are in some way based on these “umbrella’ styles. Of note are Laughter Yoga (see article here), Christian Yoga, and Jewish Yoga. I sincerely hope this information will lead you in a positive direction when it comes time for you to consider Yoga as a form of physical activity that will benefit your mind, emotions and spirit as well.
P.S. Pass the eggrolls!