7 popular forms of yoga: what you need to know

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We’ve all heard of it and most of us have been inside a yoga studio at least once in our lives (deliberately or perhaps by being forced). There are a lot of cliches regarding yoga practice. Some of them are, that yoga is too slow, you need to be fit and super flexible or that yoga is only for women. However, yoga can actually get you in shape or more flexible (even mentally) and it’s definitely not girls only! Also, it can bring a lot of other benefits as well, such as lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, increased strength, bone density and perhaps even peace of mind. Not enough reason to get on the mat? This article is meant to give you an idea of different yoga styles and aims to show that in the diversity of styles there might be one that is perfect for you. Yoga can be easy going, challenging, fast or peaceful as well as very hot. Who knows, you might get infected by this yoga fever!

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga, in Western society, as a physical practice, is a general kind of yoga that includes many different styles. The classes are often easy going, gentle and more relaxed, so it’s a nice first introduction to yoga. Hatha yoga can vary a lot, depending on the studio. So it might be wise to take a quick look first.  Several benefits are stress relief, a more flexible body and mind, less back and neck problems and a better posture.

Bikram Yoga & Hot yoga

Bikram yoga has a sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises (pranayama) that are taught in a 90 minutes class with a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. By practicing these postures, fresh oxygenated blood is sent through the body. The heat makes the body more flexible and facilitates the release of toxins. The sequence is developed by Bikram Choudhury and he calls his studios “Torture Chambers”.  

Since Bikram has a patent on his sequence of postures, during hot yoga the postures are presented in different orders and the sequence may contain different postures than the Bikram series. But the general concept is quite similar, sweating your buttocks off in a hot room, whilst practicing yoga. Some possible long term benefits are a beautiful skin, weight loss, a better sleeping pattern, a better posture and more energy.

Ashtanga Yoga

This yoga style was brought to the West by Sri. K. Pattabi Jois. It’s a vigorous style, with a fixed series of postures that are held for five breaths. Each posture builds on the previous one, which is intended to create internal heat. This style is physically more challenging and a lot of attention is paid to breath and the flow of postures. It has a lot in common with Iyengar Yoga, since Sri. K. Pattabi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar were taught by the same teacher, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Despite similar postures, the approach of both styles differ. Some benefits are stress relief and flexibility.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga was developed and brought to the West by B.K.S. Iyengar. Because everybody is different, during Iyengar classes, props are being used. These props, including blocks, belts, chairs, blankets, provide support with injuries, stiffness or structural imbalances and thus help the (beginning) student whilst going into the postures safely and properly. The focus in class lies on a proper alignment, subtleties and proper practice of postures. Postures are usually held longer, in order to be aware of the musculoskeletal alignment. Anusara yoga is a modern variation of this style.

Vinyasa

Vinyasa means flow in Sanskrit. This yoga style has everything to do with fluid movements and smooth transitions from one pose to the next, without intermissions. The different movements are synchronized with the breath, to connect each pose. Some of the benefits are, relief of stress and anxiety, a more balanced metabolic system and it may aid losing weight.  Vinyasa classes are never the same, so if you love change and are not a big fan of routines, this might be your cup of Yogi tea.

Acro yoga

This is a combination of yoga, acrobatics, performance and healing arts. Acro yoga also builds trust and promotes teamwork, as it is practiced with others instead of alone. Classes may include warming-up, partner flow, inversions and Thai massages. Some benefits are increased flexibility, stress relief, improved concentration and strength building.

Yin yoga

Yin yoga has its roots in Taoism and has more of a passive character with a slow pace. Poses are held for longer periods, ranging from one to ten minutes. The aims are, to increase flexibility and circulation in the joints. Some benefits are, healthier joints, increased flexibility, stamina, and calmness. Class only includes seated postures and postures lying on the floor. There are no standing postures. This is a great way to calm the mind or to stretch after running.  
Note: Yoga is way more than just physical practice, however, this is outside the scope of this article.

By Pooja Guptar 

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