I used to think that yoga was yoga, and that yoga was generally boring. I have a short attention span and had been doing yoga workouts that were slow moving and/or asked me to hold poses for what seemed like forever. Occasionally I got in a mood to practice yoga, but mostly I avoided it. Sometimes when a stretch/yoga day came up in a workout program I was doing, I downright dreaded it.
Then I tried Ho Ale Ke Kino, which I’ll post about in the future. While the type of yoga was not specified in the workout, it was more fluid than some of the yoga I had been doing, and I found it relaxing. Recently I have found myself enjoying the “Flow” workout from Les Mills Pump, which I’ll also post about in the future. Still, it wasn’t until I started participating in the various yoga challenges I’ve discussed here, many of which are hosted by yogis of the Ashtanga method, that I began to realize that there are many different styles of yoga. I have enjoyed some yoga before and have been enjoying these challenges. Perhaps I just haven’t found the right yoga method for myself yet.
So I began to read up on the various methods of yoga to help myself with choosing a yoga method to suit my personality and fitness goals. I’ll discuss seven of the yoga styles I’ve seen mentioned most often below, though there are many others. Sources are listed at the end of the post and numbered in the text. The order reflects the order I found the sources, not the order they appear in the text.
1. Hatha Yoga
This form of yoga, which originated in India in the 15th century, has a slow pace and focuses on breathing and meditation. Benefits include stress relief and improved breathing (1). A study in Psychosomatic Medicine indicated that women who perform Hatha yoga once or twice a week recover from stress twice as fast as women who don’t (4). This may be a good form for beginners as it is the style from which many modern styles are derived (5).
2. Vinyasa Yoga
Said to be a variety of Hatha, this method of yoga places the focus on a series of 12 poses called the Sun Salutation where yoga is matched to the breath (1). I had heard of the Sun Salutation before and was pretty sure I had done it a few times at various points in my life. Instructions for performing it can be found here. Benefits include strength and flexibility, toned abdominal muscles, reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes (3). Considering I already have hypertension to manage (which I’ll tell you about some time), this might be a good yoga method for me.
3. Ashtanga Yoga
This is a form of Vinyasa, which was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois (2). Some have said Ashtanga is a form of power yoga (1). However, it seems that power yoga is really a Western spin on Ashtanga, created by Bender Birch (6). Ashtanga is focused on eight metaphorical body limbs and has a fast pace (1). Practicing Ashtanga or power yoga can burn about 500 calories per hour (4). This is the form of yoga practiced by many of the yogis whose Instagram yoga challenges I’m participating in. You can read a more in depth discussion of Ashtanga by Sarah (one of the hosts of the JunieBeYou yoga challenge) including how it relates to her spirituality as a Christian (though it does not have to be a Christian practice) here
4. Iyengar Yoga
Invented by BKS Iyengar (8), this yoga sounds to me like Ashtanga-plus since it is said to incorporate everything from Ashtanga plus bodily alignment (1) although it was created as a blend of hatha, traditional Indian wrestling, and gymnastics (8). Yoga teachers in this method are trained in biomechanics and can teach people how to modify the poses to reduce risk of injury (4). Due to the focus on alignment, the poses are held for longer than in traditional classes (7). (Side note if you want to work on bodily alignment you may also want to check out Tai Cheng which is a Tai-Chi based workout).
5. Bikram Yoga
Probably better known as “hot yoga”, bikram is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room with a purpose of flushing out toxins and deep stretching (1). According to WebMD, those who have hypertension or diabetes should check with a doctor before doing this type of yoga (3) so that’s probably off my list of yogas that I’d want to do regularly.
6. Yin Yoga
Slow-paced with poses held for up to five minutes, this form of yoga is good at helping people recovering from pain and stress (4). The slow pace and long hold time is why I would probably stay away from this form of yoga except perhaps if I had a day where I particularly felt like having those things.
I can’t seem to find my way back to the site on which I first read about Jivamukti as a yoga practice for those who like movement as well as spiritual and philosophical teachings. But I found similar sentiments echoed on Yoga Journal in which it is discussed that Jivamukti combines an ashtanga background with ancient and modern spiritual teachings (6). Jivamukti has 6 tenets shasta (scripture), bhakti (devotion), ahimsa (kindness), nada (music), and dhyana (meditation) (7). Part of ahimsa is ethical vegetarianism (veganism), and I’m not sure if that’s something I’m ready for.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the methods of yoga I’ve come across. There are many others. I haven’t decided what method I will end up choosing, or if it will end up being one not on this list, but for now I’m having fun exploring. If you want to learn more about some of the yoga masters and lineages, check out the LightOnTheMasters Yoga Challenge, which started today with Iyengar and continues until the 21st.
Do you have a favorite method of yoga? Let me know in the comments below!
1 5 Different Types of Yoga–Which One Suits You Best? on Daily Cup of Yoga
2 My Christian Yoga Practice: Ashtanga on The Foxy Post
3 Which Style of Yoga is Best for You? on WebMD
4 Which Type of Yoga is Best for You? on Health.com
5 A Yoga Style for Every Fitness Personality on BestHealthMag.ca
6 Not All Yoga is Created Equal on YogaJournal.com
7 What is a Jivamukti Yoga Class? on JivamuktiYoga.com
8 Yoga Practices Personalized: 10 Yoga Styles to Choose From on MedicalDaily.com
9 Core Philosophy: Jivamukti Yoga on JivamuktiYoga.com