Styles of Yoga
Yoga Alliance is the only professional organization that embraces all traditions and styles of yoga. Given the wide variety of yoga styles, it can be very confusing to determine what style and teacher is right for you or your facility. It can help to have a basic understanding of the characteristics shared by most yoga styles.
Beyond the asana
Yoga is more than simple exercise. It may include postures (asanas), energy and breath control (pranayama), meditation, music, philosophy and other approaches. While many people equate the word Hatha with a particular style of yoga, the word actually refers to the physical aspect of yoga – to the asana and pranayama practices.
Classes described as Hatha yoga usually include asanas as well as other teachings. There is a tremendous variety of ways Hatha yoga can be practiced and taught. Common names you may encounter include Ananda, Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, Integral, Kripalu, Kundalini, Power, Sivananda and Vinyasa. Each style has unique characteristics.
Meditation is important to all styles and traditions of yoga but is often the least understood aspect of yoga. The art and science of transcending one’s thoughts and liberating the mind, meditation may involve simple breath awareness, chanting or movement. For some, it is the heart of the practice, for others it is integrated with the asanas, often at the beginning and the end of the class.
People come to yoga for a wide variety of reasons -- fitness, stress management, relief from physical or emotional pain. Regardless of their motivation, most credit yoga’s meditative component with allowing them to reach a deeper, more spiritual place in their lives.
Common styles of yoga
Yoga Alliance can help you determine what style of yoga would work best for you or your facility. The following are some common styles of yoga:
- Gentle yoga: Gentle yoga can be as dynamic as some of the more vibrant styles, yet is gentle on the body. Classes are often multi-level and do not assume prior yoga experience. They include breathing techniques, warm-ups and basic postures to increase mind-body connection, self-awareness and self-confidence.
- Yoga flows: Yoga flows are more invigorating. Postures are linked in a flow and provide some aerobic components while also improving strength and coordination. The classes assume a participant begins with a certain degree of strength and endurance.
- Power yoga: This dynamic yoga style includes specific sequences designed to build strength and stamina. These classes are often recommended for people with some familiarity of the basic postures.
- Fitness yoga: Fitness Yoga is a newer expression designed to incorporate traditional yoga postures in a form common to most fitness clubs. Students warm up, practice more strenuous postures and then cool down. They tone the body, especially the core, and increase flexibility, balance and mind-body awareness.
- Specialty yoga: Yoga can also be customized for the special needs of a broad spectrum of groups including expectant mothers, seniors and children, as well as for those battling life-threatening diseases or debilitating chronic conditions. Specialized training is important for teachers who work with these groups.
- Spiritually-oriented yoga: Originally, Hatha yoga was primarily a tool for spiritual growth as well as for physical well-being. Modern styles that emphasize the spiritual dimension of yoga practice tend to involve slower movement and often include meditation practice.
- Therapeutic yoga: Yoga therapy is the adaptation and application of yoga practices and techniques to help those facing health challenges manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality and improve attitude.