This is a question I get asked a LOT. There are so many different types of yoga and getting your head around them all can be tricky. It took me ages to be able to differentiate! Here I’m going to aim to go over the main types of yoga practiced as well as highlight what to look for when choosing a style yourself. So, here goes…
Hatha Yoga: Hatha is the most traditional form of yoga and is the basis for all asanas (poses), every other style of yoga has its roots in Hatha. The word Hatha is a basic translation of Balance. Ha-meaning Sun and Tha-meaning moon. The balance of night and day, yin and yang, masculine and feminine. If you have practiced any form of yoga-you have practiced Hatha.
Ashtanga: Ashtanga was developed in the 20th century in Mysore, India by Pattabhi Jois. It is a breath-led practice with a very specific series of asanas. Ashtanga begins with the Primary series and develops on to 2nd, 3rd, 4th series etc-each series involves more advanced asanas. Most people in their lifetime would never get beyond the 2nd series as it is said each series takes in the region of 10 years of a 6-day a week practice to master. It’s a physically demanding practice designed to build heat and energy in the body.
Bikram: Bikram is traditionally practiced in a heated room (35-42 degrees). It’s a fairly new style of yoga popularised in the 70s. Like ashtanga, it’s a specific set of 26 postures, always performed in the same sequence. It aims to get the spine moving in every direction and uses pranayama (breath practices) at the beginning and end of the practice.
Vinyasa Yoga: Vinyasa actually means to link the breath with the movement-however it has taken on several different interpretations in the yoga world. It generally would be a derivative of ashtanga yoga, without the rigidity of the specific sequence. It is usually a quick moving, dynamic, heat building sequence involving many sun salutations (vinyasas) to maintain heat in the body-thus working on the cardio-vascular system (ie. a ‘cardio’ workout). The sequence in this style varies and is determined by the teacher.
Yin Yoga: Yin yoga is a slow moving practice where we hold poses from anywhere from 45 seconds upwards. The benefit of staying in these passive poses for longer amounts of time is to allow the fascia around the muscles to release and to gain flexibility in the main joints of the body. This allows the body to open up more and enables the practitioner to gain more from their normal Hatha or Vinyasa practice.
Iyengar Yoga: This is a style of yoga developed by B.K.S Iyengar in the past century. In this practice, we use props to help safely align the body and avoid injury. Props such as blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets and even chairs are used. This practice has a strong focus on pranayama (breath) as well.
Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini is a practice led by movement and mantra aiming to release the kundalini energy in the body (believed to be held at the base of the spine). Kundalini is your true essence, your consciousness, your creative soul. These classes usually involve a lot of pranayama, mantra, meditation and asana.
What type of yoga is right for you?
You really need to ask yourself what it is you want to gain from your practice. Strength? Flexibility? Spiritual enlightenment? Of course every practice will offer all of the aforementioned-however, going through the above list it is clear which practices will aid with specific growth. Showing up to your chosen practice with dedication and regularity will ensure you reach whichever goals you have set out for yourself. Yoga is a very powerful journey, most of the time you will go into it with one aim and come out with something which you didn't necessarily seek out, but it sought you out! This is the nature of this incredible practice. If you engage in any of these practices for long enough, you will learn things about yourself you never knew. You will free up blockages in your body and you will access calm and strength both mentally and physically. So no matter which practice is for you (and it may take a bit of class hopping to figure that out) you will be sure to be brought on a journey of self discovery like never before.