I first practiced yoga at an Iyengar studio.
It was close to my house.
My one requirement.
At the time, I didn’t know different schools of yoga existed. As an out-of-shape, lazy 20-something with a penchant for perfectionism, Iyengar was the ideal place for me to learn.
However, it wasn’t for everyone.
Occasionally someone would wander in off the street, water bottle in hand, ready to yoga hard.
Instead, they found a slow-paced class with detailed instruction. The class worked on a pose, circled around the teacher for instruction, returned to our mats and tried to perfect the pose with props in hand. No sweat involved. No water intake until class completed.
What is Yoga?
Yoga means union. A joining of the body and the mind or to quote BKS Iyengar’s website: “the union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self.”
Most of yogic disciplines follow the eight limbs of yoga described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, of which asana, or posture, is one of the limbs. How postures are taught, which ones are more emphasized, and the influence of the other 7 limbs of yoga varies by yogic lineages and traditions.
The following are some brief descriptions of some of the more well-known types of yoga.
All yoga comes under the category of Hatha yoga. Hatha means force referring to a rigorous discipline of asana (poses) and breath.
BKS Iyengar made traditional yoga poses more accessible to the general public by adding props, such as blocks, straps, blankets, and chairs to practice. Most classes focus one pose at a time rather than linking poses together.
K. Pattabhi Jois popularized this gymnastic form of yoga. Poses and breath are linked together (a vinyasa flow) and practiced in a specific order. An Ashtanga flow can be energetic and challenging.
Both BKS Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois studied under Shri Krishnamacharya as young men in India.
Vinyasa is a series of linked yoga poses (like in Ashtanga yoga), however unlike Ashtanga, the poses are not in a particular series. Each vinyasa can be different. Most are centered around a sun salutation, a traditional set of poses.
Yogi Bhajan brought Kundulini to the west in 1969. Kundulini in sanskrit refers to the energy at the base of the spine, the life force, that forms in the womb and unravels at death, to return to the Source. Kundulini yoga focuses on the spiritual energies within our bodies. It incorporates chanting with movement and breath to transfer energy throughout the body’s energy centers, or chakras.
Bikram Choudhury brought his yoga style to California in the 1970s. The practice consists of 26 poses conducted in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity.
A vinyasa flow class taught in a heated room. The types of asana and the temperature of the room vary by teacher and studio.
Also called the “yogic sleep.” The practitioner lays down and is guided through a meditation to a deep state of relaxation and awareness.
Founded by Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984. Jivamukti comes from sanskrit meaning “liberation while still living on Earth.” Spiritual and ethical practices combined with vigorous vinyasa yoga characterize the method. While most yogic disciplines focus on the eight limbs, Jivamukti has five central tenets.
Gary Kraftsow is the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute. He studied in India with T.K.V. Desikachar. “Vini” in sanskrit connotes differentiation or adaption. The method focuses on using asana and breath to address individual needs as well as movement and stillness of poses and sequencing classes based on its practitioners.
Yin focuses on the connective tissues of the body by holding poses, mostly seated and or laying on the floor, for lengths of time (1 – 20 minutes) and relaxing.
LYT Yoga® is a core based vinyasa method created by physical therapist Lara Heimann, who
implemented her own background in neurodevelopmental rehabilitation to rewire the brain and reestablish more optimal movement patterns in the yoga practice and for life.
Try all of them. You never know which one will benefit you the most.
When you finally decide to practice daily, here are some questions to consider:
Is this practice sustainable for my body?
What is my level of natural flexibility?
How athletic am I?
Does this practice help me connect with my body?
What are my yoga goals?
Does this bring me joy?
With all this in mind, which practice suits you best?
If you want to keep showing up on your mat, choose a type of yoga that resonates and inspires you.