Originating in ancient India, Yoga can be thought of as a group of disciplines including mental, spiritual, and physical exercises. Yoga is thought to have dated back to the fifth centuries BC. One of the most well-known types of yoga is Hatha, and this has been documented since the 11th century. There are many yoga schools and other organisations which practice different schools of yoga. Yoga is normally practised in groups, although once you have mastered the moves and disciplines, there is no reason why you cannot practise in the comfort of your own home, on a beach, or out in the open countryside.
Ananda yoga can be described as an ‘inward yoga’ rather than an athletic practice. The discipline focuses on gentle postures which are designed to move energy to the brain and uplift the consciousness.
Ananda yogaraises your level of consciousness and harmonises body, mind and soul.
This style of yoga prepares the body for meditation and focus on correct body alignment and controlled breathing. The main goal of this discipline is to control the subtle energies, harmonise the body and uplift the mind.
This type of yoga also prepares the mind for deeper meditation and uplift the consciousness. To achieve this, the student will work with not only the body, but the inner faculties of both mind and heart.
The object is to awaken and experience the prana within oneself, particularly the energies of the chakras.
Exercise and stress relief – while they will be used in this discipline – are not the primary factors. Rather, the goal is to uplift the consciousness.
The unique feature of this particular discipline is the use of the silent affirmations whilst in asanas. This then becomes a means to feel more aware of the subtle energies which achieve inner contentment.
Who can do this? Anyone who has a genuine interest in the traditions of ancient yoga can do this. Even if you think you are too stiff or slow, you will benefit from this style. It is designed to calm the mind, bring harmony to body and soul, and equip you better to deal with daily stresses of life.
This is a relatively new form of yoga, dating back to 1997 and created by John Friend. This type of yoga is meant to be a way to open your heart and connect with the inner goodness in yourself and others.
It is a heart-felt and accepting form, which does not fit into the ‘cookie-cutter’ style. Students are meant to express themselves to their fullest ability through their poses.
Postures are still challenging and the discipline combines the strict principles of posture and alignment with the more relaxed side of the student.
The discipline believes that by using the physical practice of yoga, it will assist students to let their inner goodness shine through. The discipline is equally rigorous for the body and the mind.
Anasara yoga is based on the principle that all people are filled with intrinsic goodness, which will come through with this practice.
The class will normally start with a centering period, where devotional recognition of all the good things around are remembered.
Each asana is devoted to a separate theme of principles and poses, which gives the teacher time to devote to new students. Beginners will find that each class holds something new and different for them.
Teachers may use verbal cues and physical adjustments. Each pose is co-ordinated with breath and each posture is checked for correctness.
Props are sometimes used to help students achieve a better form of the pose.
Who can do this? Even though this is primarily done by beginners and first timers, it can be done by anyone, especially those who think they are not flexible enough to do poses. This is a perfect style to start a yoga practice.
This discipline was made popular in the early 1970’s by Pattabhi Jois. There are six established sequences, which are always followed in strict order.
Both the inhale and the exhale in ashtanga yogashould be steady and even. Try to keep them both the same length of time.
The exact poses are followed in the exact order every time. The sequences are numbers from one to six as the primary series, secondary series, third series etc. it is a rapidly moving discipline which flows from one move to the next with an inhale and an exhale.
The specific sequences ensure that this becomes a very rigorous session. This is a very hot and sweaty practice which is physically demanding.
The synchronising of breath, combined with the series of postures produces intense internal heat. Profuse sweating is to be expected. The purifying sweat detoxifies the muscles and organs, and results in improved circulation, stamina, and flexibility.
Other benefits are a strong body and a calm mind.
Who can do this? People who are well versed with yoga and who are more athletic will benefit. This discipline is not for beginners or anyone who is recovering from injuries.
This was developed about thirty years ago, by Bikram Choudhury. Classes are held in heated rooms. Often the temperatures are as high as 105 degrees with 40% humidity.
There are 26 poses in this discipline and each of them is repeated twice. The class always follows the same routine and series.
This is a very comprehensive style of yoga which includes all the components of a good fitness workout. Strength, endurance, cardiovascular and weight loss all combine in this practice.
This is a style of yoga which is carried out in a hot environment, and it is this high temperature which promotes flexibility and detoxification. The heat also ensures that injuries are minimum.
An interesting fact is that the founder Bikram Choudhury, was a Gold Medal Olympic weight lifter in 1963.
Who can do this? If you want to do yoga specifically for weight loss and fitness, then this is a good choice for you. Because of the 26 poses which are done twice, a certain level of fitness is needed before joining.
It may not be the style for you if you get dehydrated easily as some instructors do not allow students to drink during classes. You should also have some tolerance to higher levels of heat and humidity.
Hatha yoga is one of the original six movements, and one of the most popular styles in the western hemisphere. It combines all the other types of modern yoga and is a basic and classical approach to posture and breathing routines.
The wordhatha means force. It is this force which is relied on to lengthen the muscles and refresh the mind.
This is where most people start when they take up yoga as it is a gentle introduction to basic yoga postures. It is unusual to break out in a sweat as it is done in a comfortable temperature. The result is that the student leaves the class feeling looser and more relaxed.
Muscles feel longer and the mind refreshed. The aim is to achieve enlightenment and self- realization. It is also a very popular way to deal with stress management and is a good form of exercise.
The student should practice in a calm and meditative mood where they can sit quietly and start the series. Control and grace are important, as well as being aware of how the body performs various moves.
Moves may vary from one class to another and the student should not try to overdo things or compete with other students.
Who can do this? Anyone can do this. The requirements are a mat and motivation! The practice involves a series of postures which are designed to teach you to sit still for longer and thus prepare you for meditation.
This is very similar to Bikram yoga, with the main difference being in that the sequence is not performed the same every time. The room will be heated to anywhere between 85 – 105 degrees and sweating is a part of the routine.
Sweating helps rid the body of toxins, while the student works towards increasing strength and flexibility. Injuries are kept at a minimum because the body is warmed up before starting any moves.
The term ‘hot yoga’ refers to any yoga which is carried out in hot and humid conditions. Bikram, Forrest yoga, Power yoga and TriBalance yoga are all technically types of hot yoga, although they may all have their own individual sequences which they adhere to.
The temperatures are meant to replicate the natural temperatures and humidity conditions in India where they originated. TriBalance yoga is carried out in slightly warmer conditions than Bikram, but with less humidity.
Who can do this? Even athletes find that this is one of the hardest forms of yoga, so it is essential that you are well prepared before you try this class.
It is not for people who get hot very quickly, or for those that cannot tolerate high heat. You must make sure you will be able to rehydrate yourself during the class.
If you are not in tune with your body, so that you know if you should stop because you are not feeling well, then this class may not be for you. It is not a class where you set out to compete with another person.
This is an extremely hard class and should be researched before you start it. Try also summer yoga if you are looking for a natural variation.
This discipline is also sometimes known as supramental yoga. This is a very traditional type which combines posture, breathing, meditation, chanting, prayer and self-enquiry.
This type of yoga is calledintegral yogabecause the idea is that everything is integrated – body, mind and spirit.
The central thought in this type of yoga is that the Spirit manifests itself in a process called ‘Involution’, while forgetting its origins. It is the movement opposite to evolution, and is driven towards total manifestation of spirit.
The goal of Integral Yoga is to accept the spiritual unity behind every aspect of creation. The student then strives to live in harmony with all members of one universal family. This is accepted as the birth right of every individual.
To achieve this, the student focuses on keeping the body in optimum health and strength, having senses under control and a disciplined mind.
The mind should be clear and calm and as sharp as a razor. The will should be strong but pliable and the heart filled with unconditional love and peace.
The goal is for the life to be filled with Supreme Peace and Joy. Different branches of this discipline are Raja yoga, Japa yoga, Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Jnana yoga, where the ethical perfection of the mind is primary as this leads to a state of a superconscious mind.
Who can do this? Although the poses are challenging, they are not too physically demanding and you should not worry about alignment or flexibility. Students are encouraged to progress at their own pace. If you have time to learn and practice, then this will suit you very well.
This type of yoga was developed in South Africa by the teacher Mani Finger. His son subsequently went to the USA and introduced it there.
The discipline focuses on opening the energy channels of the body by using postures, meditation, and visualization. Ishta yoga is designed to improve strength and clarity of mind. Deeper spiritual practice integrated with the balancing of energies and nervous system ensures a heart centred approach to daily life.
Ishta is designed to bring and see consciousness in everything, and every living being, thus living life to the fullest potential. The discipline is based on the fact that when you study yourself, and then know yourself completely, you will find the path through life that works for you.
Through the practice of Ishta, the student will often hear their calling and know the right path to follow. It is an integration of asanas, breath, meditation, and techniques.
Who can do this? For anyone wanting a more holistic experience, this is the right type for you. Ishta goes a step further than other types in that it strives to give students a balanced and more integrated understanding of practices and traditions of ancient India.
This type of yoga often makes use of equipment to assist in getting the body into the perfect position. Such things as blocks, straps and incline boards are used. Because of this, it is suitable for all ages and abilities as the equipment is meant to allow precise alignment.
Named after B.K.S. Iyengar, thisform of yogaplaces emphasis on precision and detail in every movement and pose.
The sequencing is very meticulous and attention is paid at all times, to correct posture in poses. This is not an energetic class so the heart rate will not get up, but it is a physically and mentally challenging type of yoga.
It was developed more than 60 years ago, and was designed to promote strength, flexibility and balance. Co-ordinated breathing is stressed along with poses that need precise body positioning. In this discipline, you will move slowly into the required pose and then hold it for a minute or more, rest for a few breaths and then move to another pose.
Everything is done in a slow and smooth manner. Because of the use of things like blankets, this is also suitable for elderly and disabled people.
Who can do this? Anyone can do this, even elderly, sick, or disabled people because of the use of equipment which aids proper alignment. Even people who are recovering from injuries may benefit.
Do not think that it is an easy style! The use of equipment is not designed for ease, but rather to increase the accuracy to perform different poses.
Most classes have a theme, whether it is Sanskrit chanting, music or references to ancient writings. The direct translation of Jivamukti is ‘liberation while living’.
It is a very physical and limit pushing discipline. You will also find that it is an intellectually stimulating style.
Founded in 1986 by Sharon Gannon and David Life, this is vigorous and challenging with emphasis on devotion to God, non-violence and music playing a big part.
This type of yoga expresses the spiritual and ethical aspects of yoga which may have fallen by the way in other forms.
Who can do this? Anyone who wants to explore the more meditational and spiritual side of yoga will find this fulfilling. People with a good sense of curiosity and appreciation for the traditions of yoga will benefit from this.
If you prefer not to adhere to the more physical styles of yoga, then this is worth checking out.
Self-empowerment and personal growth are the aims of kripalu yoga and the practice teaches the student to learn more about their inner self.
This discipline teaches you three parts, namely how to know, accept and then learn from your body. It is also known as the ‘yoga of consciousness’ because the first section is where you find your how your body works for different poses.
After you have discovered that, you then move on to postures which are held for extended times. When those have been accomplished, you move on to meditation.
You will then find a spontaneous flow to your movements by letting your body become the teacher. This style is gentle and introspective.
Kripalu urges the students to explore any emotional and spiritual blockages they may have.
Precise alignment is not the prime focus with this style, and goal orientated striving is not encouraged. Rather, there is a focus on exploring the bodies’ abilities, and developing inner awareness.
Who can do this? Anyone who wants to learn more about the inner body, and who is prepared to listen to their own body will find this suitable. As with other forms of yoga, poses, breathing and meditation is all equally important with this discipline.
Kripalu teaches that the body is the centre of your being, and therefore the teacher from whom you learn. Once you have learned to accept this, then you will find that your body is your best teacher.
This discipline is made up of constantly moving poses which are invigorating and fluid. The fluidity of the movements is designed to release energy in the body. Just like the energy which is stored in a sleeping serpent, waiting to be awakened, so this style aims to awaken the energy in your body.
This is a physically and mentally challenging style and is different from other classes. Repetitive exercises are performed with intense breath work, and sometimes combined with chanting or meditation.
The aim of this style is to untap the latent energy within and bring you to a higher level of awareness. The class focuses on using the energy which is stored at the base of the spine, drawing it up and out.
The sessions are both passive and aggressive and may be challenging to a beginner. Focus is however placed on doing things to your own level and not trying to keep up with others in the class. The student will learn correct posture based movements and meditation techniques.
Who can do this? Anyone seeking more than the ‘normal’ yoga workout, this suits people looking for a more spiritual practice.
The emphasis is on more internal studies such as spiritual energy and meditation.
Beginners and newbies to yoga may find the poses difficult at first, but focus is on doing only as much as you can.
This discipline is not for the fainthearted! It is also known as ‘yoga with brawn’, it is a discipline which combines strength, stretching and meditative breathing, with poses which resemble a good workout.
An offshoot of ashtanga yoga, power yoga is a fitness based style designed to build up internal heat.
Such moves as push-ups and headstands, toe touches and side bends form part of the class. While these will have you sweating, the class goes further and asks that you do them at a faster pace than you normally would!
There is no pausing between poses as you would find in other classes. Rather, you move flowingly from one pose to the next, making it similar to an intense aerobic workout. It is a sweat producing, muscle building type of yoga.
This style builds up internal heat, increases stamina, strength, and flexibility. Sequences are individually designed by teachers, so will vary from class to class, with students synchronising their breathing to the pace of the moves.
Who can do this? A certain amount of physical fitness is essential before starting one of these classes. It is not suitable for people with breathing problems such as Asthma as there is no stop between poses.
It is very suited to students who want to increase stamina, strength, and flexibility.
This discipline is specifically designed for expectant mothers. It is a tailormade program to help women through all stages of pregnancy.
Also suitable for getting back into shape after the birth, this style will keep muscles strong throughout the pregnancy, and then ensure that they return to normal afterwards.
Emphasis is placed on supporting the mother-to-be emotionally and physically, emphasising breathing techniques and stamina. Pelvic floor exercises form a great part of these classes, along with core strength.
This style prepares the expectant mom mentally for the birth. It is a great way to relax and also to stay fit.
- Improved sleep
- Stress reduction
- Increased strength needed for the birth
- Muscle strengthening
- v Increased stamina
- Focused breathing
A class will typically start with breathing exercises, before moving on to gentle stretching, posture work, cool down and relaxation. Props such as blankets and pillows are often used to provide support for backs and stomachs.
Who can do this? Any mom-to-be who has had approval from her health care provider may do these classes. They may be done right up to labour starts, or the mom feels it is the right time to stop.
This may also be done after the birth – again with health care provider approval – to strengthen stomach and back muscles and return them to pre-pregnancy conditions.
This discipline focuses more on relaxation than work. The classes are made up of just four or five poses and props such as pillows and blankets are used as aids to assist in the relaxation technique.
Typically the session will be formed of only five or six poses which are held. Props may be uses to allow the student to relax properly.
Some people feel that they are not doing much work in this class, and that is the point of this particular style.
The slow-moving approach gives people time to feel deeper relaxation. The poses are held for 5 minutes or more each time and may include twists, forward folds and gentle back bends.
Props are used so that the student can feel the benefits without the exertion. It is the action of allowing the muscles to relax passively.
Restorative yoga is a perfect way to promote relaxation and soothe frayed nerves. Most students find that a good class of restorative yoga is far better than a nap!
Who can do this? Anyone can do this! Great for people who have a hard time slowing down after a hard day. Good for people who suffer from Insomnia and anxiety. This is also good for athletes on their recover days.
This discipline is based on five principles of life, namely correct breathing, relaxation, good diet, exercise, and positive thinking.
The sessions consist of the same 12 basic moves, or variations of them. They start with the sun salutation and end with the corpse pose.
It is a traditional style of yoga which believes that the five aspects make up a good and wholesome lifestyle.
It is similar to Integral yoga in that it combines postures, dietary restrictions, scriptura, study and meditation. It focuses on the health and well-being of the student.
This discipline believes that the body decreases the chance of disease by cultivating a healthy lifestyle.
Classes revolve around frequent relaxation and full yogic breathing.
Who can do this? People of all levels can do this style because the pace is very mellow. Not only will you learn breathing exercises but also get to practice many hours of chanting.
If you want a form of yoga that focuses on a good stretching routine, then this might not be the class for you as minimal time is spent in this area.
This discipline seeks to create a closer bond between couples. They stress connection and awareness between couples, while creating a deeper spiritual bond.
This is a very ancient practice which combines energy lock and energy centre so that you build strength, clarity, and happiness into everyday life.
The discipline tries to harness the five forces of Shakti, which is the female deity which stands for creativity and change. Once these levels have been attained, it is possible to face the world with more confidence and peacefulness.
Tantric yoga focuses on how the many benefits can be achieved through sexual acts. While some people may not be happy with the suggestion of attaining spiritual healing through a sexual act, this is the core of the tantric style of yoga. It is designed to promote awareness and comfort with one’s own body.
Who can do this? Anyone who is in a relationship can take part in this. It is designed to strengthen and nurture couples in their feelings towards each other and to the rest of the world.
TriYoga places the emphasis on the trinity of posture, breath and focus.
This was first introduced to western culture in 1980 by Kali Ray. Classes will be made up of flowing dancelike sequences which incorporate breathing exercises and meditation.
TriYoga unites breath with flowing and sustained postures. The movements are gentle and wavelike, with students choosing to remain at the Basic level or progress to Level 1 and further levels. The basic stage consists of 108 posture sequences.
As a student progresses they develop a precise natural alignment, strength, and flexibility. As the student progresses they will be able to endure longer times and have a more rhythmic breath.
Continued practice makes the mind and body a perfect instrument for meditation.
Who can do this? If you think that because you have tight muscles and joints, you will not be able to do this, think again. This style of yoga gently stretches and strengthens the body. This is also done by very young children and the classes can be modified to the needs of the students.
This discipline focuses on students learning to adapt poses to their own body needs. This style will never attempt to push a student further than they can move.
The goals are to warm up and contract muscles before stretching them. It is a highly individualised practise which deals with each student being different.
The act of warming up before stretching means that there is less chance of injury happening. This is very often used by people who have recently had surgery.
It is a very gentle and healing type of yoga which will be tailored to the individual as they age and grow.
Who can do this? Anyone can do this, although it is often uses for people who have suffered injuries or had surgery, because it is so gentle and adaptive to needs which chance over time.
This is a very athletic type of yoga. It has been adapted from the traditional yoga style in the late 1980’s. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘power yoga’.
Called Vinyasa because of thesmooth way the poses run together, this form is one of the most well-known and popular styles.
The classes do not stick to the same poses so the style largely depends on the teacher. The classes are known for fluid movements, and movement-intense sessions. Often there will be lively music to keep the flow going smoothly from pose to pose.
This style focuses on the co-ordination of breath and movement, and is a very physical form. No two classes are the same, and no two teachers are the same.
Who can do this? If you hate routine but want a good workout, then this may be suitable for you. It will test your physical limits, while giving you an interesting and different class every time.
This is also known as ‘taoist yoga’. It is a quiet and meditative style. It is a passive style, rather than aggressive. This means that in poses, the student is meant to relax and let gravity do the work. Yin yoga looks at lengthening the connective tissues.
Some people think of this style as yoga for the joints as that is what it focuses on. Although it is classed as ‘soft’ yoga it can be challenging due to the long periods of time for some postures, which can last up to 20 minutes.
The classes are designed to help you sit for longer periods of time, and in more meditative positions. The style tries to stretch the tissue around joints such as knees, pelvis, and spine.
This type of yoga works on calming and balancing the mind and body.
It is quite the opposite to Ashtanga. The practice tries to deepen your tissue elasticity and thus restore length and flexibility. Props are often used so that the body can release into the correct posture while still lengthening the tissues. It has great restorative powers.
Who can do this? This style is best for people who have difficulty unwinding after a stressful job. It is not recommended for people who are too flexible as it is possible to overdo some of the poses.
It is ideal for people who are not very flexible. It is also recommended for people who have any sort of connective tissue problems.
The amount of different types of yoga can be mind boggling to a beginner. Question about whether you are too stiff to take part, or too old, or even too young may all enter your mind.
Yoga is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ practice. There is a discipline which suits every single person, no matter the shape, size, or age of the body. It is important that you do your research, find a style that you think will work, and then join a class, where you can be taught correctly.
An 80 year old person will have different yoga needs to a 20 year old, and someone who is very strong will be different to a smaller person.
One thing you may be sure of is that you will be able to find a style and discipline that suits your own personal needs, and once you have found it, you will be able to enjoy your yoga sessions to the full!