Types of yoga

Types of yoga


choosing the right type of yoga for you

The myriad benefits of yoga are only slightly more numerous than the myths that pervade this classic form of fitness, namely: it’s only for girls, or hippies that are into incense and chanting; it’s practiced in either smelly, stiflingly hot studios, or very slowly among the over 65s; and, most ill-informed of all, it’s a pursuit only for the flexible. The truth is there are more yoga styles than ever before – some steadfastly true to their ancient routes, others modernised and modified, but all devised to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and develop strength, balance and flexibility. Find the right yoga vacation for you and you’ll get to know your cat pose from your cobra in no time.
Hatha

Hatha is to yoga what beer is to alcohol: the lighter, less tough one you try before moving on to the hard stuff. Which is to take absolutely nothing away from hatha (or indeed beer), which remains a very popular and effective yoga style, it’s just that what hatha means in yoga speak is the physical practice of yoga poses – the asanas – so it’s really an element of all yoga styles. Today, hatha refers to a more basic, gentle class of slow-paced stretching and simple breathing exercises with no flow between them.
Iyengar

Iyengar and ashtanga yoga come from the same distinguished provenance and were both developed by teachers taught by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, widely regarded as the ‘father of modern yoga’. Iyengar is all about alignment and though you’ll do fewer poses in a session, the emphasis falls on exploring the subtle tweaks and twists required to grasp each one perfectly, so it’s brilliant for beginners. The aim is to get a firm grasp of the placement and fundamental structure of each individual pose and often, props, such as belts, block and pillows are used to help aspiring yogis find their feet, and to minimise the risk of injury.
Anusara
Anusara yoga was only created in 1997 and is a distinctly modern style, but one that is built upon the foundations of hatha, a much older and historical discipline with which it shares basic elements such as a focus on the traditional ‘asana’ - poses. Otherwise, anusara deals with goals of self-esteem, self-empowerment and general stress reduction, and aims to establish a positive mind-body connection through a series of yoga poses combined with chanting and centering meditation.

Sivananda
Based on the teachings of Hindu spiritual teacher, Swami Sivananda, this style of yoga is more to do with spirituality than exercise. It was devised to preserve the health and general wellness of the practitioner and is based upon five fundamental yoga principles: proper exercise (12 asana poses), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (vegetarian) and positive thinking (vedanta) and meditation (dhyana). A typical 90-minute class combines the 12 core poses with Sanskrit chanting, breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation.
Ashtanga

K. Pattabhi Jois, the founder of ashtanga yoga famously said: “Practice, and all is coming,” which pretty much sums up ashtanga, an athletic and more challenging style of yoga where students learn a series of poses and practice to the rhythm of their own breath while a teacher adjusts and advices until that practice is smooth, uninterrupted and able to be done at a steady pace. The philosophy is that the yogi will learn to rise above mistakes and setbacks and that this skill will spill out into all aspects of life.
Vinyasa flow

If a yoga style has the word ‘flow’ succeeding its name, it means that it’s taught in sequences that flow from one pose to the next without teachers stopping to chat about the finer points of each pose. Influenced by ashtanga, vinyasa is without question yoga, but it’s definitely a workout too and the name ‘vinyasa’ is often used as an umbrella term to differentiate this. If you’re new to yoga and your fitness is a bit rusty, you’ll definitely feel it and you may be out of your depth as it’s a vigorous style designed to condition the whole body as well as the mind; probably a good idea to attend a few classes and get a feel for the basics before embarking on an entire trip.
Yin
As much a way to get to grips with the basics of meditation and stilling the mind as it is a workout for the hips, pelvis and lower back, yin yoga finds its roots in the Taoist tradition and concentrates on seated postures. Poses can be held for up to 10 minutes and the aim is to develop both flexibility and the ability to just let it go – ideal for people who really suffer from stress and for sport Billys whose joints are tense and overworked.
Bikram

Interesting Bikram yoga fact no. 1: every class you go to, anywhere in the world, follows the same sequence of 26 poses. Interesting Bikram yoga fact no. 2: the sweat-fest that is Bikram was devised long before clever marketers rebranded it ‘hot yoga’ and was in fact the early 1970s brainchild of eponymous yogi, Bikram Choudhury. Bikram put together the 26 strengthening and stretching poses to target the muscles as well as flush the body’s organs of toxins and the style is practiced in a room heated to 40.5°C and 40 percent humidity to help release the toxins on their pesky way.
Hot yoga

An oft-repeated myth is that Bikram yoga and hot yoga are the same thing. They’re both hot; in fact, hot yoga as its name would suggest is staggeringly hot with a minimum room temp of 40.5°C and a maximum of 47.2°C, but the key difference is that, unlike Bikram, in a hot yoga session you don’t repeat the same sequence of postures, so it’s ideal for those of you that get bored with repetition. The intense heat in a hot yoga studio means that your body needs less of a warm-up and you’re less likely to sustain injury and muscle damage. You’ll also undergo a seriously sweaty outpouring of toxins, leaving you glowing.
Nicole Stone, from our supplier, Yoga Breaks, shares her opinion on the different types of yoga: “All styles of yoga are based upon a form called Hatha yoga, so even if you end up going on an ashtanga, shivananda, or an Iyengar vacation, they are all based on Hatha yoga which is great because it means no matter what vacation you choose you will recognise a lot of the postures even if you only ever attended one class. We teach and lots of Hatha yoga because everyone tends to feel comfortable with that and we also teach a style called Vinyasa flow, which is Hatha yoga, but requires linking a series of poses together using your breath so you build a sequence of postures - it helps the person practicing yoga become more flexible and more meditative with their practice because there are no interruptions.”
Photo credits: [Topbox: Matthew Ragan] [hatha: GoToVan] [Iyengar: ann harkness] [ashtanga: The Yoga People] [vinyasa: The Yoga People] [Sivananda: indri] [bikram: digboston] [hot yoga: rufai ajala] [yin: Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta]
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