Understanding the Different Types of Yoga

Yoga has become an increasingly popular way for people to build strength, flexibility and confidence. What started as meditative positions practiced by religious Buddhists and Hindus more than 5000 years ago has evolved into a physical and mental discipline practiced in gyms, yoga studios and living rooms all over the world.

There are seven major branches of yoga performed throughout the world as a form of exercise. If you’re interested in this ancient practice then it’s a good idea to explore one or two types of yoga to find the one your prefer.

Use this simple comparison of the yoga types to help narrow down the choices you’ll find in fitness magazines, gym schedules and home fitness instructional DVDs. Then try yoga and see for yourself why people return to this type of fitness over and over again.

Types of Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is characterized by its intense workouts, which cause participants to synchronize breath with the movement into and out of a series of yoga positions or postures. Typically, those practicing Ashtanga Yoga sweat profusely – this is thought to rid the muscles and organs of toxins. They build upon each series of postures, which do not change from class to class.

Bikram Yoga is also known as hot yoga, since it is typically performed in a room heated to more than 95 degrees and a high humidity. Again, the sessions are designed for profuse sweating in an attempt to detoxify the body. It is also believed that the body becomes more flexible at this level of heat, assisting participants through the 26 postures that are stressed in Bikram yoga.

Iyengar Yoga focuses on holding correct postures, emphasizing the use of physical props or tools, like blocks, resistance bands and buckles. These tools are used as aids to help beginning students achieve some positions and experience how correct postures feel, so they may more easily understand the importance of technique, sequence and timing.

Hatha Yoga is the most popular form of yoga taught in the west, despite the fact that it was created with the belief that through physical practice, mental and spiritual balance could be achieved. While Hatha does include postures and breathing into its rotation, meditation is also emphasized. The subtle balancing of body and mind is the focus of Hatha yoga. Both Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga are derived from Hatha.

Kundalini Yoga seeks to create a communication between the body and the mind through techniques focusing on the spine and the organs that release hormones. The postures, chants, breathing practices and meditation exercises are designed to awaken the “kundalini,” known as the unlimited potential that lives inside each person.

Power Yoga is a fitness-oriented take on Ashtanga Yoga. The primary difference is that Power Yoga does not rely on a series of set poses, meaning classes don’t necessarily build upon one another. However, both Power Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga emphasize power and flexibility as a means to achieve greater fitness of the body.

Vinyasa Yoga is a shoot-off of Ashtanga Yoga. It does not have the focus on sets of unchanging yoga positions, but instead shows how many postures can be connected through correct movement and breathing techniques. This yoga branch is sometimes called Vinyasa Flow because of the way positions are made to flow together.

Hopefully this brief primer to the different types of yoga available will inspire you to try it yourself and see which yogic practice best fits into your healthy lifestyle. Be sure to check out our yoga positions for beginners article as well.

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