The world of modern day yoga has grown by leaps and bounds from its ancient origins. Whereas the physical postures that we call Hatha yoga today used to be just a small part of the entire yoga tradition, now there are a myriad of physical styles of yoga – all of which fall under the umbrella we call Hatha. Let’s take a look at the most popular styles of yoga currently available to us. (Learn more in The History of Hatha Yoga.)
The Ashtanga yoga system was made popular by the beloved teacher, Pattabhi Jois. Although Pattabhi passed away in 2009, his legend lives on in the Ashtanga yoga system, which is one of the most physically challenging of them all. This is the type of yoga to go to if you want an intense workout, as well as a very regulated set of asanas. Despite the fact that the Ashtanga yoga sequences are always the same, they get harder and harder as you move through the levels, keeping the practice forever new and challenging. This style of yoga takes discipline, but the rewards are many.
Jivamukti yoga finds its origin in the Ashtanga style, but with other elements mixed in. This style –invented by partners, David Life and Sharon Gannon – is rigorous like Ashtanga, but with the added practices of chanting, meditation and spiritual teachings. It’s physically challenging and spiritually rich – perfect for the modern-day yogi seeking a great workout paired with soulful inspiration.
Viniyoga is a style of yoga that finds its origins in the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar (his son). A Viniyoga class is often taught privately, with a sequence tailored to fit the needs of the student based on age, physical condition and current overall level of well-being. It focuses upon the movement of the spine as well as the movement of the breath.
Iyengar yoga was made popular by B.K.S. Iyengar, a guru from Pune, India. This style is largely alignment-based, and makes use of various yoga props such as blocks, straps and blankets. Great attention is given to the details of each asana as the poses are held for longer periods of time than in an Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga class. It’s considered to be the ballet of yoga and is the perfect yoga for those who need therapeutic asanas for various health conditions.
Anusara yoga is a style popularized by modern day yoga teacher, John Friend. It revolves around the philosophy of Tantra, as well as the opening of the heart. Similar in ways to Iyengar yoga, Anusara is an alignment-based system, with an emphasis on therapeutic yoga asanas. It is characterized by uplifting philosophy interwoven in the teachings, and is a perfect style for any level of yogi.
Kundalini yoga is a spiritually rigorous yoga practice with a focus on breath work, chanting and kriyas, which are repetitive and often fast-paced movements. The aim of Kundalini yoga is to unleash the kundalini energy which lies dormant at the base of the spine. Attention to breath control as well as the bandhas are a huge aspect of this style of yoga. Kundalini yoga is a powerful practice and should be done with the guidance of an experienced teacher. (Learn more in Kriyas, Kundlini and You.)
Hatha yoga consists of asanas ideal for the beginner student. Poses are typically gentle with a moderate amount of flow. The pace is slower than most forms of yoga and the practice accessible to people of all ages and levels of fitness. Hatha yoga is all about balancing the solar and lunar energies within each and every one of us.
Vinyasa yoga is currently one of the most popular forms of yoga. It consists of linking the breath with the asana, in a fluid and dance-like sequence. It is also suitable for all levels – depending upon the particular class. Most classes begin with the flowing movements of Sun Salutations and then move on to integrate other asanas. This style of yoga is a wonderful way to embody fluidity as it links the breath to the asana movements, which is especially helpful for beginners.
Sivananda yoga is a more traditional form of yoga that focuses on the following principles: a sequence of 12 asanas, pranayama, relaxation, yogic philosophy, meditation and a vegetarian diet. (Learn more about why A Plant-Based Diet Makes Better Yogis.) Although it is a disciplined style, it is still accessible to most levels.
Bikram yoga is that style of yoga also known as Hot yoga. It’s done in a room heated between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which gets the muscles, ligaments and tendons to loosen up. This is one of the most vigorous forms of yoga and not for the faint of heart.
Yin yoga is a type of restorative yoga practice based on the traditional Daoist philosophy of yin and yang energies. The aim of the practice it to evoke the calming effects of yin energy, allowing the body to fall into a natural state of equilibrium and relaxation. During a Yin yoga class, each asana is held for a long period of time, typically three to five minutes or longer. The goal is to reduce muscular engagement and target connective tissues instead. This leads to an overall deeper stretch and increased relaxation. Yin yoga is accessible to yogis of all levels of physical fitness. (Read more on The Benefits of Yin Yoga.)
Forrest yoga – created by yogini, Ana Forrest – is another highly physical practice. Its primary aim is to promote deep physical and emotional healing, with an emphasis on deep abdominal breath work to help stoke the fires within while cleansing and purifying the entire mind-body connection. (Read more in Mind-Body Health and Happiness.)