What are all these styles of yoga?

So, you've heard about yoga or you already be practicing some sort yoga but what ever do they all mean? These days there are hundreds of styles of yoga, but I am here to tell you they all have been created out of the traditional source - HATHA YOGA.


As yoga came to the west, it was clear our bodies required different things so, as necessity is the mother of invention.... teachers started to create their own styles, strands or lineages of yoga to start opening out to a larger market. In my years teaching I have been to many varieties of yoga and have enjoyed some and not enjoyed some. From my very infant experience (in comparison to actual yogis in the east) I do feel that some of these styles are culturally appropriated to suit the masses. They move us away from the traditional and historic reasons and benefits of practicing yoga. e.g the use of music and an emphasis on a hierarchy in the poses.


To be clear, I am not here to judge or ridicule anyone. Like I said before, I have practiced ALL OF THESE VARIETIES of yoga mentioned below and more and I have learned something from every single practice. That may be a teacher saying something that solidifies what I already was aware of or something utterly new and unique. It's good to remember that learning doesn't always mean building knowledge without questioning it. It could mean that you learn that an idea or cue or alignment suggestion doesn't sit with you in your body so you will not bring it with you to your practices - even if a teacher says to do it, it also can an approach and attitude to your mat.



Here are some styles you may have heard of or even practiced and what makes each of them unique (ish) in style in chronological order and what the practices usually consist of....



Hatha [traditional]

Hatha means uniting the 'ha' sun and 'tha' moon created perhaps 5,000 years ago. Hatha yoga can be considered as anything you might do with the body, including: asana – yoga postures, pranayama – breathing techniques, mantra – chanting or reciting, mudra – hand gestures, shatkriyas and shatkarmas – cleansing techniques. The physical difference of a hatha based class is that of the length of holds [it is longer between 5-15 breaths] and the transitions between poses You start facing the side of the mat mostly and always return back to Tadasana [mountain pose] between each pose - this is not commonly taught in most western studios or shalas. The sun salutations are different here too.


Hatha [flow]

The same umbrella as above. This is more commonly seen as 'Hatha Yoga' on studio timetables. This is a slower but stronger practice where poses are typically held 5-15 breaths and from one pose you transition into another unlike traditional hatha where you go back to tadasana, this practice is most accessible for the short hour slots we are given in the west meaning more poses can be visited and practiced in the class.




Ashtanga Vinyasa

Pattabhi Jois coined and created Ashtanga Vinyasa after studying with Krishnamacharya in 1948. This style has a three fold approached called the Tristana. It consist of the Ujjayi breathing, three bandhas and our dristi the process of using these tools to deepen your experience is one of the main characteristics that separate Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga from other yoga forms . There are set sequences, set breath counts and set vinyasas that are known and taught all over the world. See previous blog post for more info.


Iyengar

Iyengar yoga is firmly based in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and created in the 1970s by the man himself: B.K.S Iyengar. It is characterised by precision and alignment in the execution of the postures, sequencing of the asanas towards a desired result, timing in the length of time the asanas are held for maximum benefit and the use of props if required to help a student gain the maximum benefit from each asana. Iyengar yoga concentrates on postural alignment and body awareness. This is a functional practice.




Yin

Yin yoga is a meditative practice born in the 1970s. Stillness and attention are prioritised above ‘achieving’ a pose. Yin Yoga is a slow-paced practice where poses are held for a longer period of time [up to 5 minutes or more!] There are around 20 classical yin poses. On the physical level it targets bones, joints and connective tissues. There is no aesthetic ideal to reach which makes the Yin Yoga approach very liberating, instead there is an emphasis on a functional approach. On the energetic level it reconnects with its roots of Taoist yoga, and uses the ancient map and modern theory of the meridians, the long holds in Yin restore harmony in the subtle body by targeting the channels that run through the connective tissues. On the emotional/mental level it prepares the practitioner for meditation as one of the central intention of the yin practice is the cultivation of inner stillness and a keen sense of introspection



Dharma

Dharma Yoga was created by Sri Dharma Mittra in 1975. The physical posture practice (Asana) tones and invigorates the body and mind, leading to enhanced flexibility, strength, balance and concentration. This is a modern interpretation of classical eight-limbed or hatha-raja yoga {more info can be found in my PDF download}. It is deeply rooted in ethical precepts that includes elements of flowing vinyasa, inversions and held poses.