“The mind & body are not separate entities. The gross form of the mind is the body & the subtle form of the body is the mind. The practice of asana integrates & harmonizes the two.” - Swami Satyananda
Every so often, in gyms across the country, some sports and activities become really popular. In recent years, the yoga class has seen its rise to popularity. With asanas, yoga Nidra, Iyengar yoga, pranayama, Vinyasa Flow, or even sophrology, there are plenty of different terms that pose a challenge to the uninitiated.
It’s thought that yoga is even one of the 10 most popular sporting activities in the country. To us, it seems pretty justified given that yoga is great for re-centring yourself, toning muscle, gaining flexibility, healing your body and mind, and also mindfulness.
With all the different types of yoga about, how can you find the right one?
That’s exactly what we’re going to have a look at over the course of this article: the different types of yoga, what's special about each one of them, and the benefits and drawbacks of each style.
What Is Ashtanga Yoga?
Amongst all the different types of yoga, sun salutations, yoga mats, breathing exercises, you can find Ashtanga yoga. Behind this strange name, you can one of the yoga styles that that is usually taught by yoga teachers.
So what exactly is Ashtanga yoga?
Ashtanga means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. Ashta means "eight" and Ang means "limb". It’s quite simple actually. This is a style of yoga that’s based on eight different foundations.
So what are these eight pillars, I hear you ask?
Don’t panic, I’ll tell you! The eight limbs or foundations of Ashtanga yoga are as follows:
- moral codes
- self-purification and study
- breath control
- withdrawing of the mind from the senses
- deep meditation
- union with the object of meditation
Ashtanga yoga sits comfortably between inner peace and mindfulness and is a rich discipline that makes use of all the senses while re-centring your conscious mind at the same time as strengthening and toning your muscles.
It’s difficult to say exactly when Ashtanga yoga was created. That said, there are a few facts that will give us an indication of where it came from. Krishnamacharya, an Indian yoga teacher who died in 1989, is said to have created modern yoga.
He had three students including Pattabhi Jois, who we’ll focus on today for the simple reason that he was the person who created Ashtanga yoga! Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic yoga which allows you to also improve physically as well as spiritually.
Ashtanga yoga follows a sequence of six yoga postures which create a fluid and logical routine. The goal is to break a sweat while also managing stress, gaining a greater understanding of the self, and making the most of the present.
Ashtanga yoga can help you harmonise with your body, tone and relax muscles, improve your posture (and postures). This is far more advanced than pilates.
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What Is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram yoga is one of the most popular types of yoga. That said, few are familiar with exactly what the term means.
So what is Bikram yoga as we know it today?
In fact, Bikram yoga is pretty simple. It’s a type of yoga that is usually done in group classes and focuses on simplicity, especially for beginners. You have to practise regularly in order to achieve positive thought and really relax.
In Calcutta, India, in 1946, Bikram Choudhury developed his own type of yoga which, as you will have guessed, took his name and became Bikram yoga. This type of yoga comes with all the typical benefits of the practice such as stretching and flexibility while adding something a little special.
Bikram Choudhury decided to develop his own type of yoga after suffering an accident which held him back physically. Despite all of this, he continued to practise yoga and improve his physical and mental condition. He decided to make his own type of yoga and Bikram yoga was born.
So what is Bikram yoga?
Unlike the basic yoga postures you are used to and traditional guided meditation, Bikram yoga is dynamic and different.
You do this type of yoga for 90-minutes in a room that’s heated to 40°C with 40% humidity. These interesting conditions are due to the fact that Bikram Choudhury used to practise his own yoga in the same ones.
Despite not being ideal for those sensitive to the heat, there are a lot of positives to practising Bikram yoga for those that can handle it, especially when it comes to your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
In addition to making you sweat and eliminating toxins, hot yoga, as it's also known, can help you improve your mental fortitude, improve physically, and develop concentration skills, all while also including the general benefits of yoga that all types of yoga can bring. Between stretches and meditation, each lesson is an invitation to get to know yourself, become more flexible, and feel better both on the inside and out.
What Are the Principles of Hatha Yoga?
Hatha yoga is the style of yoga that we could call “traditional yoga”.
Why is that?
For the simple reason that it is always considered to be the root of all the other types of yoga that we know.
What about private yoga tutorials, Kundalini yoga, children’s yoga classes, or a prenatal yoga course?
These are all derivatives of Hatha yoga!
That’s why we should really take a look at exactly what Hatha yoga is. Since hatha means “force”, we can already guess at what the philosophy of Hatha yoga is all about. We can also call this “postural yoga”. It’s for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or expert.
This type of yoga focuses on the different postures. You need to hold these postures for around three minutes, which will help you physically and mentally, especially in terms of mindfulness and your self-awareness. Yoga workshops, which are usually quite affordable, are a great way to discover this type of yoga.
After a bit of stretching, relaxation, and some light physical activity, these sequences of movements might make you consider becoming a yoga teacher yourself. This is a complete and rich discipline which may open the doors to other types of yoga.
How Do You Practise Vinyasa Yoga?
To really understand what Vinyasa yoga is, you need to understand what its name means. In Sanskrit, Nyasa means “to place” while Vi means “in a special way”. This should give you some idea of what to expect with Vinyasa yoga.
This is a type of yoga that comes from Ashtanga yoga and came to the West during the 1960s as a way to harmonise movement and breathing. You have to adopt each pose and breathe appropriately, which will, in turn, guide your posture. It’s a great way to build tone and relax!
There are a lot of positives to this type of yoga. Vinyasa yoga can help you sleep better, alleviate back pain, manage stress, and it also comes complete with all the other positives that yoga usually brings regardless of whether you practise it in a private tutorial or a group class.
The breathing exercises are conducted at the same time as you adopt each posture bringing together flexibility, balance, and building muscle tone all at the same time.
In short, yoga is a rich discipline which can improve our physical and mental condition. As you saw, there’s a type of yoga for everyone. You just need to find the right style for you! In this article, we've only scratched the surface of the different yoga styles around.
Make sure that if you have any previous injuries or medical conditions, you consult your doctor before taking up yoga. You should also mention any conditions to your yoga tutor or teacher so that they know which asanas you mightn't be able to do. It would be a shame to start doing yoga only to further exacerbate an existing injury or condition!
Don't forget that there are yoga classes for all ages and levels. You're never too young nor too old to start practising yoga!