Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Power yoga, Iyengar yoga, Naked yoga… if you’re inexperienced with yoga but looking to get started, how are you supposed to know which type of yoga to try, and which is right for you?
Here’s a brief look at a few of the most popular types of yoga today. By understanding the different principles behind these yoga styles, you can better decide which type of yoga might work for you.
Hatha yoga isn’t really a “type” of yoga, per se. Technically, “Hatha yoga” refers to any of the physical practices associated with yoga. When yoga studios describe a yoga class as Hatha yoga, they are generally referring to the most traditional yoga poses and styles. Compared to more recent variations on yoga, Hatha yoga tends to be slow-paced, emphasizes stretches, and may include some simple meditation techniques, as well. Hatha is a good way to get started with yoga.
Vinyasa yoga is also called “flow yoga”, and emphasizes movements synchronized with the breath. Students move from one pose to another either on an inhale or on an exhale. This style of moving with the breath accounts for the “flow yoga” nickname, because the poses flow together into almost a dance. Some Vinyasa yoga classes move quickly, allowing for a mild cardio workout along with the stretching. Other classes move more slowly; the pace really depends upon the style of the individual instructor.
Ashtanga and Power yoga both make use of the Vinyasa flow techniques, making these three yogas generally more vigorous than the slower-paced Hatha.
In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, “ashtanga” or “astanga” means “eight limbs”. The eight limbs of yoga, which form the basis of Ashtanga, originally come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an ancient Indian text that lays out both mental and spiritual foundations of yoga. The eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, with each limb building upon the previous limb, are designed to help the yoga practitioner achieve a healthy, fulfilling life.
Ashtanga yoga was popularized for modern times by the Indian yogi Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009). The methods Jois emphasized stress special breathing practices, stretches to realign the spine, and poses to build strength while detoxifying the body. Ashtanga is a more vigorous style than Hatha.
As the name suggests, Power yoga is a vigorous, fitness-based Vinyasa yoga. Very popular with western audiences looking for calorie burning rather than navel-gazing, the term Power yoga didn’t come into use in the mid-90s. In other words, a traditional, spiritual form of yoga it is not. Rather, Power yoga is found in mainstream gyms around America, where yoga as used as yet another way to improve strength, endurance, flexibility, and, of course, the waistline.
Iyengar yoga is named for its inventor, B. K. S. Iyengar, who began teaching yoga in 1936. As a form of Hatha yoga, Iyengar yoga focuses on physical alignment of the body by correctly practicing each pose. The alignment of the physical body, Iyengar states, will lead to a similar balance within the mind. Unlike other forms of more traditional Hatha yoga, Iyengar yoga utilizes various props, including blocks, straps, pillows, chairs, and bolsters. His innovation has led to props being used in other forms of yoga.
Naked yoga is exactly what it wounds like: yoga in your birthday suit. Originally practiced only in the privacy of one’s own home, classes of Naked yoga are starting to gain popularity in the US and in Europe. Why practice yoga naked? Some claim that clothes restrict the traditional yoga’s. Others say the benefit of Naked yoga is more psychological, gaining complete acceptance of one’s body, warts and all.
Find What Works Best for You
In summary, try experimenting at your local yoga studio(s) with different styles and different instructors to find out which type of yoga works best for your personality and your body. Some instructors maintain the original spiritual aspect of yoga, while other instructors utilize yoga as another form of exercise. There’s no “right” yoga style; rather, mix and match until you find the yoga that works for you.