Hatha yoga, Kundalini yoga, Ashtanga yoga.... there are so many types that you sometimes don't know where to begin. You may be wondering what type of yoga is for you, but you can rest assured that there’s a practice suited to everyone.
When I began my yoga journey years ago, I didn't know where to start, so I attended a Bikram class. Bikram is known for its set asanas (postures) in a sauna-like room. It left me feeling completely detoxed, both mentally and physically.
But on different days, I feel like different yoga. If I'm recovering from an injury, Iyengar is the best type of yoga to immerse myself in — to stretch, strengthen and nurture my body back to optimal health.
If you're searching for your path to inner peace and self-fulfillment, look no further than yoga and explore the best fit for you. Here is an overview of five popular styles.
Hatha yoga is considered the mother of all yoga and refers to any practice that guides you through a series of asanas. By its nature, it is gentle, basic, slower-paced yoga with minimal flows between poses, making it an ideal form for beginners. While you may not leave sweating, you’ll likely lift your mat feeling longer, looser and more relaxed.
In Sanskrit, ha means “sun” and tha means “moon.” This form of yoga, by its very name, encourages us to explore the balance within ourselves and others, and to raise consciousness. It’s also a powerful way to self-transformation, bringing attention to the even flow of breath and alignment of the spine so energy can flow freely. (Continue reading for The History of Hatha Yoga.)
Kundalini yoga, also known as the "yoga of awareness," focuses on awakening kundalini energy, portrayed as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine, through meditation, pranayama, chanting and asanas. Similar to Hatha, it aims to balance the body while harnessing the energy of the mind and emotions. Kundalini yoga is a powerful, yet easy, way to transform your conditioned way of thinking and unlock your soul’s greatest potential. (For more information, continue reading in Kriyas, Kundalini and You.)
Whether you’re embarking on your yoga journey for the first time or you're deep in your practice, Ashtanga might be a good fit for you. As one of the most commonly practiced forms of yoga, Ashtanga is known for calming and nurturing the mind and body.
Based on ancient yoga teachings from Mysore, India, this form of yoga was founded by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and migrated to the Western world in the 1970s. (Learn more about The Founder of Ashtanga Yoga.) Mysore practice is very much at the heart of Ashtanga and allows students to
develop at their own pace while receiving one-on-one instruction in a
group setting. While beginners might have a shorter practice,
experienced yogis will likely have more asanas that they’ve been building on for years.
Like many other genres, it follows a specific series of asanas that are deeply rooted to vinyasa. Each sequence starts with Sun Salutations, then flows through standing and seated postures before finishing with rest and relaxation.
For detail-oriented yogis who are precise and meticulous in their practice, Iyengar might be the style to explore. With its frequent use of props, such as blocks, blankets and straps, the focus of Iyengar is to explore the correct alignment of each posture while deepening the mind-body connection.
How does incorporating a block into your practice urge you to challenge your body? The next time you flow, place a block between your thighs and be conscious of how it alters the way you move.
Although this style is not as physically intense as Bikram or Ashtanga, Iyengar can help soothe an injury or chronic condition while increasing flexibility.
If you like the heat, Bikram, a popular school of yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury, might be the type of yoga you’ve been seeking. The structure of Bikram classes are always similar, following a sequence of 26 endurance-focused asanas over the course of 90 minutes. Yogis in a Bikram class will always begin with pranayama breathing and conclude with kapalabhati breathing, with plenty of postures in between.
Bikram rooms are heated to 40° C (104° F) with a humidity of 40% to mimic the sticky climate of India. Because of this, stay in tune with your body throughout your practice and drink plenty of water to avoid potential dehydration. You can always take a moment in child’s pose or savasana if the heat is too intense.
Bikram yoga is a physically demanding and rigorous form of yoga, but the benefits of increased endurance and flexibility are well worth it. It will leave you feeling recharged, refreshed and less burdened by toxins. Choudhury even claims that the unique series of postures reclaimed his own health.
A New Day
Yoga comes in all shapes and sizes, and you're likely to find the type that's best suited to you with a bit of education and exploration. If you like variety, you can always incorporate different types of yoga on different days of the week, too. There's no better way to expand your practice while reaping the benefits for the mind, body and soul. What type of yoga will you choose today?