Yoga helps to achieve the union of the body, mind and soul. Yogic exercises recharge the body with cosmic energy and facilitate the attainment of perfect equilibrium and harmony, promotes self-healing and removes toxins from the body. It enhances personal power, self-awareness and helps increase concentration. Kunjan Paul
, a Yoga expert discusses the different types of Yoga.
Yogi Bhajan, a spiritual teacher introduced this style of yoga to the West in the late 1960s. “Kundalini” in Sanskrit translates to “life force energy” (known as prana or chi), which is known to be coiled at the base of the spine. The yoga sequences are carefully designed to stimulate or unlock this energy and to reduce stress and negative thinking. It helps us to elevate our consciousness. This is accomplished by challenging, both the mind and body, with chanting, singing, meditation, and kriyas, specific series of poses paired with breath work and chanting. Typically, a kundalini class starts with a mantra, followed by breathing exercises, warmups to get the body moving, increasingly more challenging poses, and concluded by relaxation exercises and meditation.
Vinyasa Yoga is also called “flow Yoga” or “Vinyasa flow.” It was adapted from the more regimented Ashtanga practice. Vinyasa Yoga focussed on breath and movement. The poses are synchronized with the breath in a continuous rhythmic flow.
Hatha Yoga represents the sun and the moon, and it’s designed to balance opposing forces. The balance in Hatha Yoga might come from strength and flexibility, physical and mental energy, or breath and the body. Hatha is a blanket term for many different styles and schools that use the body as a means for self-inquiry.
Ashtanga Yoga consists of six series of specific poses taught in order. This is a physical, flow-style yoga with spiritual components. Ashtanga teachers give hands-on adjustments, and in Mysore-style studios (named after the city where the practice’s guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, lived and taught), each student has a unique practice. The practitioner moves at the pace of his/her own breath.
Yin Yoga is a slower style in which poses are held upto five minutes or more. It is a type of yoga with roots in martial arts as well as yoga, and it’s designed to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility. The practice focuses on the hips, lower back, and thighs and uses props like bolsters, blankets, and blocks to let gravity do the work, helping to relax. While other forms of yoga focus on the major muscle groups, yin yoga targets the body’s connective tissues. Yin also aids recovery from hard workouts. Adding a deep stretch and holding class like yin can be extremely beneficial to a strong body. Holding poses longer benefits the mind as well as the body, providing a chance to practice being still. This is a beautiful practice that honors stillness.
Iyengar Yoga is named after B.K.S. Iyengar, who developed his classical, alignment-based practice in India. Iyengar Yoga is known for the high level of training required of its teachers and for its resourceful use of props. While considered optional in many practices, multiple props are used in Iyengar classes — including chairs, walls, and benches, in addition to more common ones like straps, blocks, and bolsters.
Like Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga traces its roots to Ashtanga, but is less regimented and is more open to interpretation by individual teachers. Power yoga is generally more active and is done at a quicker pace than other styles of yoga. It strengthens the muscles and increases flexibility. The variation of sequences keeps the brain engaged while working on all the muscles in the body.
If you walked by a Restorative Yoga class, you might think everyone was taking a nap on their mats. This form of yoga uses props to support the body. The goal is to completely relax into poses, which are held for at least five minutes but often longer. This means that you might only do a handful of poses in a class, and it’s perfectly acceptable to drift into sleep during them. Some teachers might even lead you through Yoga Nidra – a guided meditation that allows you to hover blissfully between sleep and wake. Though all different types of yoga can aid stress relief and brain health, Restorative Yoga places its focus on down-regulating the nervous system. It can benefit those who need to de-stress, and it can also be used as part of your rest-day self-care.
Yoga can be a wonderful workout for moms-to-be. It often focuses on easing pains associated with pregnancy, such as sore hips or an aching low back. Prenatal yoga provides stress relief, exercise, and self-care in one session, and the breathing exercises can come in handy during labor and delivery. Since this is a practice designed specifically for moms-to-be, it excludes poses that might be too taxing or unsafe for the changing body. It is advisable to check with your doctor before beginning a yoga practice, if you are pregnant.
Aerial Yoga is sometimes called anti-gravity yoga. It involves traditional yoga poses with the added support of a strong, silky hammock that hangs from the ceiling. The hammock is used as a supportive prop in poses like pigeon or downward dog, and helps you more easily perform inverted poses, like headstands and handstands, that might be beyond your abilities or comfort levels. It’s also used for a cocoon-like Savasana, the final resting pose at the end of a yoga class. Hanging upside down reverses the blood flow in the body and decompresses the spine providing much relief and a euphoric feeling.
Acro Yoga takes familiar yoga poses — like downward dog or plank — and makes them double the fun and sometimes double the work by adding a partner. One partner serves as the base on the ground, while the other is the flyer who contorts themselves on the soles of the base’s feet. Acro Yoga allows people to break from the rectangular confines of their yoga mat and find a connection with their fellow practitioners. This type of yoga helps you playfully explore your mind-body connection, develops effective communication skills with a partner, and aids in setting appropriate boundaries. Exploring these skills through acro yoga can translate to strengthening these skills in all our other relationships in life.