Yoga is a beautiful experience. Aside from the fact that it helps in flexing the tensed muscles in your body, it also lets you look into the depths of your soul. It dates back to 5,000 years ago when it was accepted as a system of philosophies and practices from the Vedic system of the Indians.
From the Sanskrit word Yuj which means “yoke” or “union”, yoga aims to unite the body and soul through meditation. The first Indian that was known to specialize in yoga was named Pitanjali. He created a philosphical guidebook, Yoga Sutra, which is still widely applied to modern yoga. He stressed that yoga is composed of eight limbs: the yamas or restraints, the niyama or the positive duties and observances, the asana or posture, pranayama or the breathing techniques, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses, the dharana or concentration, dhyana or the flow of concentration, and the Samadhi or the state of enlightenment. However, nowadays, people are focusing more on the third limb which cleanse the body and provide strength and stamina to help during the longer period of meditation.
In yoga, the union of the body and the mind is extremely important. The continuous cultivation of this union eventually harmonizes the peacefulness within us and the clarity of mind.
Bhagavad Gita has once said that “Yoga is the journey of the self, through self, to the self.” What this generally means is that we use yoga to explore the deeper parts within us. Aside from that, yoga has a lot of benefits that could help in our overall well-being.
Types of Yoga
Over the past thousands of years, yoga has gone through a lot of changes and the traditional yoga has created branches of disciplines. A lot of people have founded other types of ways to practice yoga. With a lot of them to choose from, people interested in yoga may find it hard to choose one that would “fit” them. So, what are the different types of yoga?
- Hatha or Ananda
Hatha yoga is all about learning the basics of yoga. Mostly, hatha is the type of yoga that is practiced by most westerners. If a person is a beginner, hatha yoga is the most suitable yoga for them since it is slow-paced making it easier to imitate the movements.
The term “Hatha” is derived from two Sanskrit words: “Ha” means “Sun” while “tha” means “moon” which it represents the opposites in our lives. It is one of the old systems of yoga that encompasses the teaching of asanas or the postures and the pranayama or the breathing. This is essential in order to brace the body for deeper spiritual experiences and meditation.
- Restorative Yoga
If you’re looking to relieve stress, this type of yoga is the best way to go. Restorative yoga is the most effective way to release tension in the muscles allowing your body to experience a soothing way to relax and release the body of all the stresses in life. It is composed of five to six poses that is usually held for as long as 10 minutes. Some yoga postures are modified to be easier allowing the people to focus more on the relaxation. It also uses a variety of props such as blankets, bolsters, yoga blocks, or eye pillows that serve as support for some poses as well as materials that would help you sink deeper level of relaxation.
Restorative yoga is usually offered in gyms and studios during Fridays therefore allowing the people to release a week’s worth of tension.
- Vinyasa or Power Yoga
Vinyasa yoga is sometimes referred to as flow because of the smooth transition of the movements. Vinsaya in Sanskrit means “connection”.
This type of yoga is similar to hatha yoga in a way that it also practices the synchronization of the breathing and posture as they move along the different yoga poses. However, unlike hatha yoga that incorporates rests in between poses, vinyasa yoga strings poses together in a dance-like way. Every breath in vinyasa yoga acts as a support to move from one pose to the next.
Instructors also play music as well so as to make the atmosphere lively. Vinyasa yoga is perfect for people who are willing to extend beyond their limits.
- Prenatal Yoga
This type of yoga is perfect for expecting mothers. As your body goes through pregnancy, a lot of changes may happen. Prenatal yoga helps you navigate your body through these changes and at the same time helps prepare your body for childbirth. It offers a less strenuous poses for pregnant women that aids in increasing their strength and flexibility. It also uses props so as to help support the body through some poses. Prenatal yoga helps pregnant women practice the proper breathing in order for them to relax as they go through every stages of their pregnancy.
One of the many benefits of prenatal yoga is the reduced risk of preterm labor. Other benefits include improved sleep, lower back pain relief, and preventing intrauterine growth restriction which could have a significant effect on the growth of the fetus. Moreover, research has also shown that prenatal yoga could also help in reducing the risk of developing hypertension in pregnant women.
Ashtanga is a type of yoga that links breathing and movement to create an internal heat that is intended to cleanse and purify the body. It was founded by Pattabhi Jois. It is similar with vinyasa yoga. However, the former differs in a way that it is more highly structured than the latter. It is composed of a lot of series in which the yoga practitioner must follow before moving on to the next series of poses. In fact, Ashtanga yoga is the strenuous type leaving no part of the body unmoved which is why it’s also great for developing the core and toning the body.
The practice is demanding that requires achieving a specific position exactly as how it should be which is why if you have sensitive joints, this may not be the best yoga type for you. It can take years for an ashtanga yoga practitioner to move up a level.
Bikram is a type of yoga that is composed of 26 postures and 2 breathing techniques performed in 90 minutes within a heated room (about 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity). It is founded by Bikran Choudhury in the 1970s.
Bikram yoga allows the detoxification of the body through sweating. It’s also intended to relieve stress, and heal chronic pain such as arthritis, back pains, and aching joints. It is taught by highly trained Bikram instructors. These instructors, however, doesn’t demonstrate. Rather, they are trained to talk the students with the flow to encourage them to focus their thinking in the moment. The heat makes Bikram yoga a strenuous exercise which is why many yoga practitioners may become physically and mentally challenged by this activity.
- Hot Yoga
Hot yoga is a very similar type of yoga to Bikram. However, they are not one and the same. Although both are practiced in a heated room, they are a bit different from each other. The most noted difference between these two yoga types is the flow. While Bikram focus its practice on the 26 postures, the postures practiced by hot yoga may vary from studio to studio. Another difference is that Bikram is practiced in a much hotter studio compared to hot yoga. It is important, though, to consider any medical conditions first before deciding to participate in hot yoga as it may cause more harm than good.
The inyegar yoga focuses mostly on the anatomical aspect of the body and the alignment of each posture. To be specific it gives importance to three things: the alignment, sequencing, and timing.
The alignment is mostly directed to the body’s ability to maintain a pose without going over the limit of the body. Usually, props are used to support each posture. Sequencing refers to the flow of the movements allowing the body to open up to different aspects of the body. Finally, for the timing, poses in Inyegar yoga doesn’t necessarily need to be prolonged. As soon as stability is achieved in a certain pose, moving on to deeper and intense poses may be possible. This helps the body achieve flexibility and strength.
Inyegar yoga is a perfect type of yoga for everyone to practice, especially those with problems with their postures.
The Jivamukti yoga was founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon. This type of yoga combines asana, pranayama, chanting, and music to achieve the ultimate, and the original aim of yoga – self-realization. Its core also highlights the connection of life to Earth. This connection is also why the followers of this type of yoga stick strictly on their vegetarian lifestyle. Life and Gannon intended to create this yoga discipline to remind the people about what yoga is really all about.
Yoga isn’t a one-time thing. You do not get better with just one session. It takes practice. If you’re a beginner, going through this list of the different types of yoga may help you decide which one would suit you. Begin with the simplest ones and learn as you go. Constant practice will eventually lead you to achieve greater things.