Yoga styles vary from flowing, moving forms that demand certain strength levels, to long, slow processes of holding postures steady for periods of time. All styles of yoga are beneficial, you must tune into your body and listen to its responses, to know if a yoga style is proper for you.
One of the most familiar yoga practices in the west. The word Hatha is derived from ‘Ha’ which means sun and “tha” which means ‘moon’. Hatha yoga describes practices used to balance sun and moon qualities – or in other words bring balance to the opposite polarities within you – the left and right brain, left and right sides of the body and active and passive approaches to the masculine and feminine.
There are many styles of Hatha, the four most recognized are: Iyengar, Ashtanga, Viniyoga and Anusara.
A system of Hatha yoga created by BKS Iyengar, that encourages precise physical alignment of each posture. In Iyengar class, props like blocks, straps and cushions are used. Usually a small number of postures are taught and breath work (pranayama) is not incorporated until much later.
Ashtanga means ‘eight limbed’ from Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. Vinyasa means ‘linked’.
Ashtanga vinyasa style was developed by Pattabhi Jois (born 1915) of Mysore, India. Students learn postures in order – there is a primary series and when this is learned there is a secondary series of additional postures. The postures are linked together to create a smooth, flowing sequence.
This type of yoga includes meditation through movement. It is best for people that are in good health and enjoy physical challenges. Classes may begin and end with group chanting.
The style was advocated by Prof. Krishnamacharya and his son, TKV Desikacher. In viniyoga, attention to breath takes precedence over a rigid adherence to form. Linking postures vinyasa-style (in a step by step process that emphasizes the breath initiating the movement) and adapting the yoga to the needs of the individual are characteristics of this style. This style is ideal for students that are recovering from an illness or injury.
‘Anusara’ means flowing with Grace, or following your heart. Developed by John Friend in 1997, Anusara integrates Universal Principles of Alignment, the celebration of the heart and balanced energetic action in the practice of yoga postures. In this unique form of Hatha yoga, each person is seen as equally diving in every part – body, mind and spirit, creating a healthy, balanced relationship with the supreme.
The name means ‘liberation while in the living body’. It is a modern yoga method, derived from ashtanga vinyasa by David Life and Sharon Gannon. It is a strong style with a flowing sequence of postures, chanting, breathing, meditation and spiritual teaching. It is a physically demanding form of yoga that is best for healthy people.
This style was developed by Bikram Choudbury, who was born in India (1948). The distinctive style of yoga takes place in a room that is heated to over 100 degrees. Students sweat while moving through a sequence of 26 postures. This style is best for students that are fit and in good health.
This style developed by Swami Sivananda was introduced in the west in the 1950’s. It features 12 basic postures along with variations. Students may learn chanting and spiritual teachings in conjunction with the postures.
This style of yoga was founded by Swami Stayananda Saraswati in Munger, Bihar India. Swami Stayananda Saraswati was a student of Swami Sivananda. Classes are similar to sivananda yoga and feature less physically demanding postures along with spiritual philosophical teachings. Bihar is often made available for children.