What’s Your (Yoga) Style?

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What kind of yoga do you practice? You’ve probably been asked that question more than once. The answer depends on how you interpret the question.

Most people are referring to the physical—asana—practice when they consider what “type” of yoga someone is practicing. While there are formal names for specific styles of practice—Iyengar, Asthanga, Jivamukti, etc.—in general, most yoga classes fall into one of two general types, at least in terms of asana practice: hatha and vinyasa. Many yoga classes are a combination of hatha and vinyasa techniques.

Vinyasa Yoga – Go With the Flow

In a vinyasa practice, poses flow somewhat seamlessly from one to the next. Sun salutations, variations of warrior, and other short sequences known as “vinyasas” are the hallmark of this style of practice. A vinyasa sequence might go like this, for example: downward dog, plank, chatarunga, cobra or upward dog, downward dog.

Hatha Yoga – Ancient Tradition

Technically, any type of physical yoga is hatha yoga. But often when people refer to a hatha yoga practice, they mean the traditional style in which individual poses are held statically rather than flowing from one movement to another. This is a more alignment-oriented style where you can take time to settle into a pose and notice its benefits.

Yoga “Brands”

There are many styles of yoga associated with a specific founder; for lack of a better word, I’ll call them “brands.” Some have been around for more than a century, while others are relatively new. Here’s an overview of various yoga styles.

Asthanga yoga, founded by Pattabhi Jois, is a style in which a specific set of postures is performed in order. It is an intense type of power yoga that is primarily a vinyasa style practice.

Iyengar yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, emphasizes the use of props for proper alignment. Iyengar wanted everyone to be able to do yoga, so he began offering his students supports such as blankets and chairs that later evolved into our modern yoga props.

Anusara yoga, a relative newcomer, is a practice created by the American Iyengar yogi John Friend. Like Iyengar, Anusara yoga is alignment-oriented. It also emphasizes “opening the heart.” Every Anusara class begins with a chant known as the Anusara Invocation.

Bikram yoga is the original “hot yoga.” Created by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga is a 26-posture practice performed in a room that is heated to 105 degrees.

Kripalu yoga is a relatively gentle practice that encourages exploration and self-awareness. It is based on the teachings of Swami Kripalu and was developed in the United States in the 1960s. Kripalu yoga focuses on the interplay between body, mind, and spirit.

Integral yoga is a very spiritual practice derived from the teachings of Indian guru Sri Swami Satchidananda. Integral yoga emphasizes not only physical hatha yoga practice, but also devotional practices and study of sacred scripture, as well as self-reflection and mantra meditation.

Jivamukti yoga is also a relatively new style as well as a more spiritually-oriented practice. Created by David Life and Sharon Gannon in the 1980s, Jivamukti is also physically challenging.  Along with the physical practice, Jivamukti yogis are dedicated to five tenets: scripture, devotion, kindness, music, and meditation.

Kundalini yoga is both physically challenging and intensely meditative. This style was brought to the US by Yogi Bhajan. Classes consist of sets of exercises called kriyas. Chanting is also an importance part of the Kundalini tradition.

What’s your style?

Do you have a go-to yoga style that you tend to stick with, or do you prefer to sample different styles, perhaps depending on your mood or energy level? Whatever your choice, remember that your dedication to the practice is what matters most. As we yogis like to say, it’s all good—at least when it comes to the type of yoga we choose to practice.

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Maria Kuzmiak

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