Yoga is an important component of my healthy lifestyle. For me, a balanced healthy diet is about more than just what I eat and includes all aspects of my life. If you are interested in giving yoga a try, keep in mind that yoga, like healthy eating, is not one size fits all. There are many different styles of hatha yoga being taught today from slow, gentle, and alignment-focused to fast, flowing, and athletically-challenging with everything in between. Some styles of yoga consist of doing the same series or sequence of postures every time; others offer classes that are always different.
It may take a little searching to find the type of yoga and teaching style that is best for you. Here’s an introduction to some of the more common styles of hatha yoga to help you get started.
Anusara is a Sanskrit (Ancient Indian) word that means ‘flowing with grace.’ This relatively new style of hatha yoga focuses on attitude, alignment, and action. It’s designed to be spiritually inspiring while focusing on proper biomechanics to keep you safe. Classes tend to include lots of flowery language (such as ‘melt your heart with gratitude’), attention to alignment detail, and demonstrations of how to properly execute poses. While some may not be comfortable with the use of Sanskrit language and flowery metaphors, many find it motivating and uplifting. The focus on body alignment, proper body mechanics, and doing poses safely has allowed me to keep myself safe in a variety of other types of yoga classes.
Ashtanga yoga is a vigorous athletic style of hatha yoga that consists of set series of postures of increasing difficulty done in a fast paced flowing manner. This type of yoga is probably best suited for fit individuals looking for a rigorous, challenging workout. Power yoga is derived from Ashtanga.
An athletic type of yoga where a set sequence of 26 poses is performed in an intensely heated and humidified room. Teachers often challenge you to push yourself harder and harder. Bikram yoga provides a vigorous, intense, sweaty workout for those looking for a challenge.
Iyengar yoga is another one of the types of yoga that emphasizes precise muscular and skeletal alignment. Lots of yoga gear and props are used — like blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters to help you modify the poses to meet your abilities. This is one of the yoga styles perfect for those who love precision and detail and is widely taught throughout the US. It provides a good foundation and is appropriate for all ages and abilities.
Kripalu yoga is referred to as yoga of consciousness. This yoga style puts great emphasis on proper breath, alignment, coordinating breath and movement, and “honoring the wisdom of the body.” You are encouraged to work according to the limits of your individual flexibility and strength.
Kundalini yoga combines yoga poses, breathing exercises, meditation and chanting with the intention of awakening your kundalini or serpent power that is believed to lie dormant at the base of your spine. There is a lot more focus on breathing exercises and less attention to postural alignment detail than with some other forms of hatha yoga.
Viniyoga is a gentle form of hatha yoga that emphasizes function over form with lots of attention on coordinating movement with breath. Poses are often modified to accommodate your individual needs and physical limitations. Many Viniyoga teachers also provide yoga therapy in which individualized yoga programs to help heal injuries and illnesses are prescribed.
‘Flow Yoga’ or vinyasa hatha yoga offers a lot of variations. It is usually fast paced and challenging with lots of music and creativity in sequencing of the yoga poses with focus on connecting movement with breath. Vinyasa or ‘flow’ classes are very popular on yoga studio class schedules at the moment. These aren’t the best classes for beginners since some familiarity with poses is required.
Yogafit is one of the styles of yoga often offered in gyms and health clubs. Yogafit classes follow the standard fitness class structure of warm-up, workout and cool down. Many Yogafit teachers are also certified as group fitness instructor and/or personal trainers. Yogafit classes are designed to offer a fitness-based, accessible, user-friendly approach to yoga, free of sanskrit terms and chanting, but may be too vigorous if you are suffering from serious health concerns.