Like any other activity, your experience can depend on two main factors: the style being offered and who is teaching it. Finding the style of yoga that best fits your need is also important, and know that this need is likely to change over time. Beyond those considerations, finding a teacher you connect to and feel comfortable with is also an important consideration.
Clarifying questions you may wish to ask are …
- is the class vigorous or more meditative?
- maybe more specifics about the postures taught: the level of knowledge needed, average length holding an asana, etc.?
- maybe the pacing of the class is important to you?
- is meditation or chanting included?
- what is the teachers’ experience and training?
The Myth of Yoga Styles
“A wise man once said, “There is no right answer to a wrong question.”
I remember this whenever someone asks what style of yoga I teach. So I reply, hesitantly, that while style is defined as a fixed form or manner, yoga is an infinitely adaptable science of self-care.” Continue Reading this enlightening article by Robert Bimberg’s on “Yoga styles.”
acro A physical practice combing yoga and acrobatics. Being “flown” by another practitioner builds strength and your capacity to trust. Archive footage from 1938 shows the famous Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya doing acro-yoga. Fast forward to 2003 and the modern reemergence, which is attributed to acro partners Jenny Sauer-Klein and Jason Nemer.
aerial Also known as Anti-Gravity Yoga and originated in New York in 2007, though ancient images of Yogis portrayed practitioners hanging from trees. If you have been challenged by inversions on the mat aerial provides a supported opportunity to explore going upside-down. Manipulating the force of gravity enables the capacity to go deeply and access joints and muscles, allowing an increase in flexibility.
Ananda During the 1960s, Swami Kriyananda developed Ananda from the roots of hatha Yoga and the teachings of Pramhansa Yogananda, in the 1940s/1950s. Ananda is a tool for spiritual growth while simultaneously releasing unwanted physical tensions.
aqua Experiencing yoga in water is as unique as on the water, though usually gentler and less impact. The water both supports and challenge the many asanas usually practiced on the ground due to the release of gravity. It is a must try at least once if you can find it.
Ashtanga A method that synchronizes flowing movements with breath to produce an intense internal heat and purifying sweat. Each class is based on a fixed sequence developed by Indian master K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2000). The primary series includes “pickups” and “jumpbacks” characteristic of this style. The full system is based on six series of asanas, which increase in difficulty. More information here –and- here. Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast
Baptiste Yoga™ was founded in the 1940′s by Walt Baptiste. His son, Baron, is the evolver of this vigourous practice. The physical aspects are inspired by the teachings of Krishnamacharya, Iyengar and Desikachar, whom Baron studied with personally from a young age.
Bikram A series of 26 poses in a room heated to 105 degrees is the standard for this style. The heat’s purpose is to warm up the muscles quickly and promote detoxification. Choudhury copyrighted this series in 2002, which started a conversation in the modern Yoga movement about who owns Yoga?
core power Founder, Tevoer Tice, calls these classes a “high intensity workout.” This Yoga brand combines Power Yoga with heat to present a demanding physical practice. It is a complete cardiovascular and strength-training workout. More.
Energy Medicine Yoga is a tantra-based practice. The Sanskrit word tantra means “to weave and to stretch towards.” More broadly it also refers to systematic techniques for achieving a particular outcome. The yoga part of EMYoga is grounded in a practice with emphasis on various techniques to help you accept your innate perfection and from there transform into, or stretch toward, becoming your best self.
Forrest designed this style with a focus on both the physical and internal. The practice is founded on four pillars — Breath, Strength, Integrity and Spirit. The sessions are heated with an emphasis of breath, holding longer posters, intense sequences, and abdominal work. The intention is to create transformation that can be taken off the mat and into daily life.
hatha The word hatha refers to the physical practice or “Yogasana.” If you are browsing through a studio’s listing of classes, and a class is simply described as “hatha,” it could be referring to a variety of options. The class could have a slower pace, or it may be the teacher’s style is an eclectic blend of two or more of the styles. Generally, it refers to a style focused on alignment and the use of breath.
Yoga master Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002), founder of Integral Yoga®, helped pioneer the introduction of Yoga to the western world 50 years ago. In general, this is a gentle physical practice integrating any of the yogic paths/margas as a guideline. Th Breathwork, meditation, chanting, and deep relaxation are all included to ultimately emphasis union with God. “The aim of Yoga is to calm the mind. That’s why we call it integral Yoga, because we integrate everything – body, mind, and spirit.”
In 1993, Joseph Le Page, M.A., founded Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) in San Francisco. IYT is a personalized using a variety of yogic tools from guided imagery to breathing exercises. Medical and mainstream wellness settings, including hospitals and rehabilitation centers, use this style to address specific health issues from heart disease to depression.
ishta, an acronym for the Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda, is the yoga brainchild of South African native Alan Finger. A typical class mixes flowing Ashtanga-style asanas with the precise methodology of Iyengar. It also includes subtle energy techniques like mantra. The full effect is to expand awareness and generate emotional well-being.
Iyengar Practitioners pay close attention to the precise muscular and skeletal alignment, especially standing ones, in this system. Asanas are typically held much longer, than in other styles, and may use props to assist in creating the proper form. Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014), who used Yoga’s many aspects to heal ailments he experienced in childhood. This style of Yoga has influenced many modern styles now taught.
jivamukti Looking for a highly meditative yet physically challenging form of yoga? Maybe you love flowing to a super soundtrack? An Ashtanga-like flow with a variety of modern spiritual teachings is the base of this style. Ancient techniques – chanting, meditation, pranayama – are also part of a typical class. Founded by committed vegans and activists, Sharon Gannon and David Life.
kripalu Often described as a meditation in motion. This system, developed over a 20-year period by yogi Amrit Desai (1932-), can be dynamic or restorative in nature. Amrit’s inspiration came from the experience with his guru, Kripaluvananda, where he fell into a spontaneous flow of postures without any direction from his mind. Learning to observe sensations in the body and mind assist in developing insight in this style. Compassionate discovery and self study is the philosophy of this approach.
Kundalini Yoga stems from the tantric yoga path. At one time it remained a closely guarded secret practiced only by a select few. Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004) decided to change this tradition by bringing this unique blend of chanting, movement and breath to the West, in 1969. It everybody’s birthright to be “healthy, happy and holy,” he reasoned. Each class closes with relaxation and a song. For more information, visit 3HO.org – or – here.
Mysore is a southern India city known as the traditional home of Ashtanga. The class structure is “open.” Each class is self- paced by the student. A teacher is present to assist students with individual adjustments & verbal instruction according to their ability. Traditional class versus Mysore, which should I take as a beginner?
ParaYoga is a living link to the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation, and tantra. Our mission is to serve these teachings by continuing to be a leading resource for the dissemination of their wisdom, power and capacity to positively affect all aspects of modern life. Our unique approach is to combine authoritative knowledge, direct experience, and accessibility so that students and teachers of all levels––and society as a whole––are uplifted by yoga and tantra’s time-tested practices, leading to ultimate fulfillment and freedom.
Phoenix Rising Therapy This style combines assisted yoga postures with body-mind psychology. Its’ aim is to facilitate a release of physical tensions and emotional blocks by connecting the physical and emotional self. More information here.
power Beryl Bender Birch started this style of Yoga, in 1995, as a challenge to Americans’ understanding of what it really means to be fit. The common thread to every class is a rigor in developing strength and flexibility through an Ashantaga inspired practice, flowing sequences of standing postures. To understand more about this deeply energetic style check out Beryl’s website, or Bryan Kest’s.
prana flow This Vinyasa flow practice is designed to be “a transformational path to vital living.” Founded by Shiva Rea (1967- ) and the Global Vinyasa Collective of Teachers, “it is a creative and holistic approach to finding, and embodying, the dynamic flow of yoga.” You are likely to be in continuous motion in a playful and creative sequence. See it in motion.
restorative Craving a deep rest? This style, credited to have started with the props and modifications often used by B.K.S. Iyengar, adapts the practice the student’s body. You are encouraged have the teacher assist your setup if you experience any pain or strain. Popularized in the 1970s by Judith Lasater, (a student of Iyengar) this soothing practice centers its’ philosophy on physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Read more.
Sivananada At its core, Sivananda Yoga is geared toward helping students answer the age-old question “Who am I?” It is based in a Vedantic approach. This Yoga practice is based on the philosophy of Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) (of Rishikesh, India), who taught disciples to “serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize.” As a new student you are will likely to perform a set of twelve basic asanas in a slow-pace, along with introductory meditation practices. The practice will evolve from this initial basic formula.
Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Typically, a SUP session takes place on a 10- to 12- foot long board. This practice requires a different quality of focus while in, and during transitions between asanas. Core muscles are continually called on to assist in negotiating balance on your unstable floating mat. It is good to ask the questions at the very top of this page. These classes can be as varied as the styles on this page.
Svaroopa The emphasis here is to open the spine. Every pose integrates the foundational principles of asana and anatomy by beginning at the tailbone and progressing through each spinal area. The name Svaroopa comes from the philosophy of Patanjali and emphasizes the development of transcendent inner experience. This style of Yoga was developed by Rama Berch in 1992.
Tantra teaches us to go beyond the body of self toward a higher dimension. Through Tantra we learn how to go beyond the compulsive limitations of our body and mind. Many modern day Yoga styles are influenced by Tantra from Anusara to Para Yoga. A positive, life-affirming perspective is what you will encounter when taking class form a teacher who embodies this Yoga philosophy. A Tantric will portray everything (the good and the bad) as an expression of Divine Consciousness. Learn more.
Buddhists describe Tibetan Yoga as a range of tantric meditation and prana based practices. Little is known in the West about the physical practices. In 1994, yoga teacher Christopher Kilham published, The Five Tibetans: Five Dynamic Exercises for Health, Energy, and Personal Power, a modern version of Peter Kelder’s Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth from 1939. It describes a sequence of postures of Tibetan origin called “The Five Rites of Rejuvenation.” Beginners start with 10 or 12 repetitions and progressively work their way up to the 21 repetitions of the full routine.
ViniYoga is for evolving on the physical, emotional, and intellectual level. An empowering and transformative practice, created by T.K.V. Desikachar (1938-2016). It synchronizes the breath with asana sequences, often falling into the Yoga therapy category. Each movement is determined by the needs of the practitioner. This style, best known through Gary Kraftsow, also emphasizes the integrate of transitions between each series of unique movements.
Vinyasa (a.k.a. Flow) usually refers to a transition between two different positions, “take a vinyasa.” Flow was born out of the Ashtanga lineage, and in the modern era is commonly thought of as anything that synchronizes the breath with poses that flow one to the other. Patthabi Jois, founder of Ashtanga, strived to deepen concentration and body consciousness throughout the entire time on the mat by also considering the movements between each asana. Deep breathing is the focus “getting into the posture” as well as, while in the posture. This style is adapted into many asana offerings in the modern world of Yoga. To vinyasa or not to vinyasa?
White Lotus Yoga is a collaborative creation of Ganga White and Tracey Rich. Both are known to have a nondogmatic teaching approach. The aim of this style is to assist students in developing a well-balanced personal practice, which can range from gentle to vigorous. Alignment, breath, and the theoretical understanding of Yoga is incorporated into every class format.
yin yoga was founded by Paulie Zink, a Chi Kung expert and internationally acclaimed martial arts grand champion. The meridian theory of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) influenced the formation of this style. Yin became popularized by Paul Grilley in the late 1980’s. This style targets deep connective tissue and the fascia, and creates an environment that enhances the flow of prana/energy in the body. Passive postures, which access the deeper tissues of the body and the joints they encompass (hips, sacrum, spine), are held for several minutes.
yogalates is an ever evolving method embracing functional movement, back care and exercise therapeutics. A regular session combines core stabilizing and posture enhancing dynamics of Pilates with poses (asana) to cultivate strength, stamina, stability and flexibility. Read more.
“Relaxation means to be blissfully happy; it has no end. I call bliss absolute relaxation; sleep is a different matter. Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation.” – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
A powerful relaxation and meditation technique derived from ancient tantra inducing a deep body-mind relaxation. The Yoga Nidra technique enables you to remain aware while you enter into the dream and sleeping states of consciousness. Learn how to invoke this state.
yoga therapy Georg Feuerstein, “Yoga therapy is of modern coinage and represents a first effort to integrate traditional yogic concepts and techniques with Western medical and psychological knowledge.” Gentle movement (physical), conscious breathing (emotional), visualization (mental) and other whole body practices are used to uplift the spirit in the one-on-one or small group offerings. Find research, educational resources and therapeutic effects of Yoga visit professional Yoga therapists site.