Being an Indian, I was aware of the few main types of yoga being practiced in India since thousands of years, but recently I realized that the original type of yoga has been diversified to offer various sub-divisions of yoga in the modern world. So my curiosity forced me to dig into the different types of yoga and their benefits that are offered today. They are mostly 7 main types of yoga that are widely popular.
1. Bikram Yoga
Bikram yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhary and each of the 26 posture sequences have been selected from Hatha Yoga by him only. According to Bikram, who claims that “this yoga is worse than cocaine because you can get rid of cocaine, but once you get used to this yoga, you can’t stop. Because nothing in this world makes you feel better than this form of yoga“. Bikram yoga is the most original type of hot yoga that must be performed in a heat controlled room (temperature up to 105 degree Fahrenheit) which is referred to as torture chambers by Bikram within a period of 90 minutes. This form of yoga is based on the principle of endurance and when you conquer that, your self-confidence is highly increased. If you are planning to take a class on Bikram yoga, don’t look upto your instructor to show you the moves. The instructor will instead just talk to you and they will expect you to follow the directions as this is where your focus comes into play and also goes with Bikram’s saying that whoever attends this form of yoga “should forget who they are”.
Benefits: Bikram yoga promotes optimum functionality of the overall health, it takes care of each part of the body, starting from the cells to internal organs, veins, ligaments and muscles. Because the poses are performed in the heat, this induces the body to sweat and warm up, that is why, Bikram yoga detoxifies the body.This form of yoga is based on the principle of endurance and when your conquer that, your self-confidence is highly increased. This is also a great way to burn calories hence it is very effective for weight loss. The similarity features with other forms of yoga, is that it also reduces stress levels and helps tone the muscles.
2. Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar yoga was named after B.K.S Iyengar who first discovered it. It is a form of yoga that has been directly derived from Hatha yoga. Iyengar yoga focuses on the precision and alignment of the poses while holding the poses for a longer period of time. When stability has been attained in the pose, then it is easier to uncover the depth of the pose by holding the pose and focusing on the breath. Iyengar yoga uses prop, such as blocks, blankets, chair and straps to tailor poses based on individual needs, this make it easier for anyone whether beginner or advanced to achieve stability in the pose. This idea of props also makes this form of yoga accessible and greatly beneficial to all age groups and all levels of yogis which would otherwise only be possible with several years of practice.
Benefits: Iyengar yoga is specially beneficial for those who have had physical injuries or aches such as back pain as this form of yoga helps to smoothly recover and develop strength and mobility in the body. However it can be practiced by anyone and is beneficial for everyone to fight against most ailments. Other benefits of Iyengar yoga are relief from stress, it boosts energy and stamina, increases focus, improves posture and tones the muscles.
3. Hatha Yoga
The term Hatha yoga is broad because all of the yoga practices fall under this category, so you name any kind of yoga such as power, vinyasa, iyengar, anusara, bikram, ashtanga are all forms of Hatha yoga. . The sanskrit word hatha means force which meant that after practicing this challenging form of yoga outcomes are forced to happen. In the modern world today hatha yoga has been modified and means gentle, its offering also varies from one studio to another based on what suits each teacher. But in general you can expect pranayamas and basic moves without any sequencing while ending the classes with meditation. This form of yoga introduces you to yoga and allows you to attain flexibility and strength while making yourself comfortable to the world of yoga. Hatha yoga mostly focuses on calming the mind.
Benefits: Hatha yoga is mainly based on focusing on your breathing which promotes increased oxygen intake to the body and hence fights against stress. This also prevents your mind from wandering and to focus on the present which is wonderful time of relaxation. It is also known to lower blood pressure levels and promote better sleep.
4. Restorative Yoga
When life is on the surge with the most hectic day and the mind is battling with thoughts, you can expect to elude with restorative yoga to moments of deep relaxation and joy.This style of yoga has been inspired by Iyengar yoga which also involve the use of props such as blankets, straps, bolster, blocks. Restorative yoga is a slow-paced yoga that includes only few 5-6 poses, and each pose is held for an extended period of time up to 10 minutes with the help of props. The practice mostly include poses that involve lying on your spine or belly and practicing meditation. A student is not encouraged to force themselves into uncomfortable positions. While holding a pose, one must feel most comfortable and it has been noticed that some people even fall asleep. Restorative yoga is a practice of focusing on breath that allows us to quiet the mind and release the stress. When the mind starts to wander, simply divert its attention to the breath again.
Benefits: Though you might feel that you are not doing a lot of activity during restorative yoga but that is the best part of it. We do not often get time to unwind our bodies to move from a stressful life to a space for ourselves , but this form of yoga provides us that perfect environment. After restorative yoga, you will notice improved sleep as the gentle stretching with the deep breathing not only relaxes the muscles but also the brain. The gentle stretching for extended period of time also improves flexibility and reduce muscle aches. It also prevents and reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome, that is responsible for heart disease.
5. Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa yoga originally derived from hatha yoga is based on the sequence of poses that are linked to one another while placing an emphasis on the breath to relate to the movement. This type of yoga is often better for intermediate or advanced level of yogis as it is face-paced and challenging. It depends a lot on the teacher as to how they incorporate vinyasa style, a instructor may simply throw down a challenge which could be fun for some or simply detach the others from the focus. What kind of sequence is maintained and for how long also depends on the teacher, for example students who are enjoying the transition from one pose to pose may just go off beat when the teacher introduces something new which breaks the sequence. Srivasta Ramaswavi author of The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga and a legendary yoga teacher adds that “ these days, in many places, many great souls who teach yoga do so without the vinyasas. They merely stretch or contract the limbs and proclaim that they are practicing yoga…” This form of yoga is so diverse that no class will ever be repetitive, every class will be different from the other.
Benefits: The best thing about vinyasa yoga is its fun as it creates more curiosity about whats up next which gets you rolling from one movement to another. As the poses are smoothly transitioned to another, they create more flexibility and lesser chances of injury as compared to more intensive forms of yoga like the Bikram. Like all other forms of yoga, it adds strength to the muscles, induces the body to develop correct form of breathing which also means decrease in stress, helps the body get rid of toxins and helps with weight loss as it a great cardio exercise.
6. Kundalini Yoga
In the ancient times Kundalini yoga has been considered as one of the most spiritual form of yoga that creates inner awareness. Kundalini yoga was first introduced by Yogi Bhajan to the western culture. Prior to its introduction in the west, in India this powerful knowledge was secretly delivered from a master to his favourite disciple in a secretive manner. So without the help of Yogi Bhajan, today this form of yoga would have been a secret, hidden under the indian values and tradition. The sanskrit words kundalini means circle, traditionally it related to arousing the spiritual energy that was located in the spine. Once this energy in the spine is awakened, it moves throughout the body; it connects the mind, body and soul and lead to miracles such as self-discovery, happiness, and healthy body. It changes an individual perception about oneself, as with the realization of inner-self he/she is able to filter out his/her sub-conscious mind. In a kundalini yoga class you can expect yoga postures, mantra chanting, meditation and pranayamas.
Benefits: Kundalini yoga leads to positivity which acts as a barrier to negativity. It is a way to naturally heal the body through deep relaxation of the mind and body. Its helps you connect better with yourself to find more peace within yourself . It helps strengthen the nervous system. It also helps an individual treat the bad habits within oneself such as drugs and smoking.
7. Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a fast-paced form of yoga that is practiced in a heated room with temperature between 80 and 90 degree. Ashtanga yoga synchronizes the breathing with the movements.This type of yoga is meant for advanced level of yogis or somebody that likes high-intensity workout. It has a few sequence of poses and those poses are repeated in every class which allows you to master it and practice at home.
Benefits: It adds strength and flexibility to the body. Because you work so fast from one pose to another, it is very effective in shedding pounds. Just like Bikram yoga it is performed in a heated environment which helps flux out the toxins from our body.
So now back to you, what style of yoga do you prefer? or have you tried any of the styles? You can leave your comments below and I will be pleased to get back to you as soon as I can.