What are the different types of yoga?

Learn about the various forms of yoga asana practices and what might be right for you

5 MINUTE READ
Vinyasa Yoga School
Updated over a week ago5 minute read

A common question that we get here at Vinyasa Yoga School is, "What's the difference between these different styles?"

Indeed we agree, this can be a very confusing question. There are many different styles of yoga that a student of yoga may encounter from Vinyasa to Ashthanga, Iyengar, Hatha and beyond.

So, what is the real difference?

Well to begin, it is important to first clarify that all of these different "styles" of yoga are actually different styles of teaching the asanas or yoga postures. While these asana teachings may differ, all styles are just one part the yogic path (learn more about the eightfold yogic path).

While the style that you choose might be right for you, it may be different from others. We are all on the same path! Below we have outlined 10 of the most commonly practiced yoga styles:

Hatha

We begin with Hatha because by definition hatha is any physical yoga practice - meaning when you are doing Ashtanga you are doing Hatha, when you are doing Iyengar you are doing Hatha, etc. What can you expect then then if you are to take a Hatha class? Students can expect an introductory class which you will learn the basic asanas and breathing exercises. The rise of Hatha in the 20th century is often attributed to Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.

Viniyoga

The roots of Viniyoga can be attributed to Krishnamacharya as well. This type of yoga is based on the guru/student model, in which an experienced teacher works individually with each student to make a personalized yoga program based on their individual factors such as health, age, and physical condition, including past or current injuries. In fact, Vini actually means differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application. This type of yoga is great for students with injuries.

Ashtanga

Stemming from Krishnamacharya's teachings, his student K. Pattabhi Jois codified and populared modern day Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga (Sanskrit for "eight-limbed") Yoga is named after the eight limbs of yoga mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In Ashtanga yoga classes students can expect a sequential rapid, flowing class where each pose is linked by the breath (this linkage is called vinyasa). These set sequential series which are taught as students progress is what differs Ashtanga from similar practices such as Vinyasa and Power Yoga. Learn more about the fundamentals elements of Ashtanga yoga

Vinyasa

Rising from the appeal of the athletic and active Ashtanga yoga style, modern Vinyasa was brought to the West by various students of Pattabhi Jois. Unlike Ashtanga, however, a Vinyasa Yoga class does now stick to the same sequence of poses. Instead teachers have freedom to craft their own flow for each class. In addition Vinyasa class may include music in the background, something you won't find in an Ashtanga class. Here at Vinyasa Yoga School, we love to train vinyasa teachers because we believe that each student's path to yoga may be different. As a vinyasa yoga teacher you will learn how to flow different asanas together to create a variety of different classes that can serve all of the different types of students you will teach!

Iyengar

Named after master Sri. B.K.S. Iyengar, student and brother-in-law to Krishnamacharya, this type of yoga is much slower paced than an Ashtanga or Vinyasa class. Contrary to Ashtanga and Vinyasa style classes, Iyengar yoga includes very little vinyasa flow. Instead Iyengar classes focuses on perfect alignment and holding poses for longer durations while utilizing props to gain a deep awareness of the precise actions in the body. While this pace may be slower and students do not experience the sweat they may be expecting, Iyengar is strenuous, and through holding the various poses student build great strength and flexibility.

Restorative

A modern yoga derived from Iyengar's yoga style, Restorative classes focus on revitalizing the body by increasing circulation to the organs and calming the nervous system. As in an Iyengar class, props such as blankets and bolsters are used as students hold poses for long lengths of time. Different from Iyengar yoga however the focus is on a relaxing into the pose, encouraging a deeper inner focus.

Sivananda

Named after master Sivananda Saraswati, and brought to the west by his discipline, Swami Vishnu-devananda, Sivananda yoga is a holistic approach to Hatha Yoga which focuses on preserving the health and wellness of the practitioner. The system is based on a five-point philosophy that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking work together to form a healthy yogic lifestyle. Sivananda training involves frequent relaxation and emphasizes full, yogic breathing.

Kundalini

Based on a 1935 treatise by Sivananda, Kundalini aims to release pure concentrated energy from the body so it can be used by the practitioner. Constantly moving, invigorating poses coupled with quick repeated breathing techniques help harness energy and strengthen the nervous system. The practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy in your body which like a snake is coiled at the base of your spine, waiting to be tapped.

Jivamukti

Developed by Sharon Gannon and David Life, students of Sivananda and Ashtanga Yoga, Jivamukti is a modern form of yoga which translates to "liveration while living" (jiva = individual soul, mukti - like moksa = liberation for the cycle of death and rebirth). Jivamukti classes are indeed a combination of the two schools as it combine the vigorous physical practice of Ashtanga with the ethical and spiritual practice of Sivandanda through it's own five-point philosophy - shastra (scripture), bhakti (devotion), ahimsa (non-harming), nāda (music), and dhyana (meditation). Students can often expect a theme for each class, Sanskrit chanting, and references to ancient scripture.

Bikram

Bikram Yoga named after founder Bikram Choudhury, follow the same formula of 90 minute classes, consisting of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 40 °C (104 °F) with a humidity of 40%. Because of these environments students may want to consult with their doctor before practicing.

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