The practice of yoga began over 3,000 years ago in India as a way to achieve harmony between the heart and soul. This was a way to enlightenment. Today, the central philosophy of modern yoga is still somewhat the same, as a way to balance the mind, body, and spirit or soul.
There is a wide variety of yoga types for every level of yogi, from beginners to those who are more experienced practitioners. Hatha yoga is the most popular and well-known style. In Sanskrit, the word “Hatha” is a reference to all physical postures in yoga. Here in the west, the term “Hatha” has come to mean all styles of yoga that are based on physical practices.
Ashtanga yoga is a more physically demanding style. This form was popularized in the 1970s. The sequences are rigorous and the postures more intense than some of the other types of yoga.
Iyengar yoga is a slow and methodical form of practice. It’s a form of Ashtanga yoga that was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. In Iyengar yoga, the poses are held for extended periods to give the practitioner the time to adjust the alignment of the body using precise movements. Props such as blocks, straps, and chairs are often used to assist in going deeper into a pose. Teachers of Iyengar are required to go through rigorous training to qualify for certification.
Vinyasa yoga is the most athletic style. It was also adopted from Ashtanga. This form of yoga became popular in the 1980s. In Sanskrit, the term “Vinyasa” means to place in a particular way. The premise of this style is movements coordinated with the breath. The actions with the breath flow from one pose into another.
Bikram yoga was named after Bikram Choudhry. It’s a unique form of yoga where sequences of set poses are done in a sauna-like room. The room temperature is set at 105 degrees with 40% humidity. There are a series of 26 poses that are performed twice each.
Kundalini is a fast moving, energizing style of yoga. It’s both a spiritual and physical practice. The main focus is releasing kundalini energy that is thought to be trapped or coiled at the base of the spine. The postures are performed quickly with the breath. Chanting, mantras, and mediations are also part of the practice.
Yin or restorative yoga is a slow-paced style focused on relaxing the mind and the body. The postures are held longer and are a meditative practice. Props such as blankets bolster, and eye pillows are often used to position the body into passive poses. This is an excellent form of yoga for beginners, and to relax with after a long day.