Styles/Types of Yoga
Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga is one of the eight branches of yoga and focuses on the physical body as its method for personal development. In the western world, this is the yoga that most of us know and love. Hatha Yoga is a physical exercise regime that utilizes different “poses” called asanas, for the purpose of strengthening, opening, and cleansing the body. These asanas can be categorized by the movement they create in the body. For example, there are forward bends (like touching the toes), backbends (looking up), twists (turning around), as well as inversions, standing, and sitting postures.
Although almost all “styles” of yoga practiced in the west fall under the branch of Hatha Yoga, the Hatha Yoga style is typically a gentler and less dynamic practicing technique. A class designated a “traditional Hatha yoga” class would involve a few of all of the different categories of asana postures (standing, sitting, twists, etc) without vinyasas (see below) to flow them together. The class would be at a slower pace and spend a lot of time warming up and cooling down in order to allow for a balanced practice.
Hatha yoga has 8 limbs which address other aspects of life other than the physical asana. These are 1. Yama (universal ethics and morals) 2. Niyama (personal codes of conduct) 3. Asana (physical postures) 4. Pranayama (breathing techniques) 5. Pratyahara (controlling the senses) 6. Dharana (mental focus) 7. Dhyana (meditation) and 8. Samadhi (experience of super consciousness, cannot be taught). Many of these other limbs may be of interest to people but are commonly not taught in group yoga classes. Pranayama is a common interest as it helps to connect you to and deepen your practice.
What this style is good for: injuries, increasing flexibility, very young or elderly, mental aspects of yoga
Vinyasa-Flow: The style of vinyasa-flow yoga is a type of yoga under the Hatha Yoga branch. This style of yoga uses the traditional idea of a “vinyasa” between sequences of standing or sitting postures to tie the poses together within a yoga class. The vinyasa originates from the traditional idea of sun salutations (Surya namaskars) flowing through the following postures: 1. Tadasana 2. Uttanasana 3. Uttanasana B 4. Chaturanga Dandasana 5. Urdva Mukha Svanasana 6. Adho Mukha Svanasana [Flow Sequence Here] 7. Uttanasana 8. Samasthiti.
Vinyasa-Flow classes are generally very dynamic and sequence poses in a way that the class flows together. The class is generally taught with music and does a warm up, standing sequence connected through vinyasas, sitting postures, and cool down. This is one of the most popular styles of Hatha Yoga in the west.
What this style is good for: Weight loss, increased strength and flexibility, exercise, physical and mental enjoyment
Ashtanga Vinyasa: The Hatha yoga style of Ashtanga Vinyasa is the most challenging and dynamic, and is very popular among young people in the West due to its ability to trigger weight loss, fast. Originally developed for teenage boys in India, this style uses a combination of standing, sitting, twisting, and inverted postures to physically challenge your strength and flexibility. This style also uses the traditional “vinyasa” (see above) to connect poses together, but is more strict in the performance of them after each individual posture (standing and sitting). This is not the full, traditional Ashtanga Primary Series, but uses that sequence as a basis and foundation for the class.
Ashtanga Vinyasa classes are extremely fast paced and dynamic, and will challenge you in every physical way possible. The warm up for the class is a series of sun salutations, which warms the body up very quickly. The cool down of the class generally consists of backbends and inversions, followed by Savasana.
What this style is good for: Weight loss and body toning, increased strength and flexibility, cardiovascular health, exercise, young to middle aged people (not elderly)
Viniyoga: The qualities of asana that uniquely define Viniyoga are by using the classical forms of postures as a starting point, and infinitely adapting them to make maximal, optimal use of alignment, breath and movement. The goal of creating strength, flexibility and ease in the body is a question of understanding the body, and using that understanding to move into postures in steps rather than all at once. In Viniyoga we break down a pose to its very simplest level and take steps to work up to the full form.
Viniyoga also stresses the connection of breath to movement, and focuses on the flow of the sequence being found within the breath. In a viniyoga class you can expect to begin with some pranayama, warm up, standing series that gradually take you into the peak poses, and a cool down. This style is similar to the hatha yoga style, but is especially good for yoga therapy.
What this style is good for: Injuries, Acute and Chronic pain, increased flexibility, elderly and young people
Partner Yoga: Partner yoga is a style of yoga that is performed in pairs and uses each others bodies to perform yoga postures. This is the Hatha style of yoga, but performed with partners. This is a good yoga for relationship building, or just for having some fun! Classes are light hearted and easy-going.
What this style is good for: Increased strength and flexibility, families, couples, mental enjoyment
Prenatal Yoga: There are many women that have been practicing yoga for years, and then become pregnant and don’t know what is safe to practice and do not have classes available to her to practice in a safe environment. Prenatal yoga is a yoga style specifically aimed at safe practice for pregnant women. The class takes into account the previous experience of the woman, where in the pregnancy she is, and the state of the pregnancy’s health. Prenatal yoga is a great way for continue an exercise regimen while pregnant, and can use positions to help flip a baby if it is breech or encourage the babies head to engage when the mother wants labor to begin. Note: prenatal yoga cannot be performed between weeks 10-13.