Yoga classes are kind of like Baskin Robbins; more flavors than you can shake a stick at. Yoga is a hugely popular business, which means everyone wants in on the action. That also means that everyone is trying to differentiate themselves from everyone else. The result is a hugely confusing proliferation of Yoga A, Yoga Z and Yoga Kitchen Sink. A friend of mine was asking what the differences were and how to know what was right for him. So I compiled a list of what the “major” flavors of yoga (by no means an exhaustive list) with a little explanation of the focus of each.
Ananda Yoga: Ananda Yoga classes focus on gentle postures designed to move the energy up to the brain and prepare the body for meditation. Classes also focus on proper body alignment and controlled breathing.
Anusara Yoga: Postures can be challenging, but the real message of Anusara is to open your heart and strive to connect with the divine in yourself and others.
Ashtanga (or Astanga) Yoga: This style of yoga is physically demanding as it involves synchronizing breathing with progressive and continuous series of postures-a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, flexibility, stamina, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.
Bikram Yoga: This style includes fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular flexibility and weight loss. Classes are done at 95-105 degree temperatures which can promote more flexibility, detoxification, and prevention of injuries.
Hatha: A form that is very popular in the United States. It incorporates postures, breathing and meditation into a complete system. It has become very popular in America as source of exercise and stress management. The key take away; do not overdo the postures or try to compete with others..
Integral Yoga: This traditional type of yoga combines postures, breathing exercises, selfless service, meditation, chanting, prayer, and self-inquiry.
ISHTA: ISHTA (Integral Science of Hatha and Tantric Arts) focuses on opening energy channels throughout the body with postures, visualizations, and meditation.
Iyengar Yoga: Promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance through coordinated breathing and poses that require precise body alignment. The poses are generally held longer than in other styles of yoga. Use of equipment like cushions, blankets, straps, and blocks to help the less flexible also distinguishes Iyengar from other types of yoga.
Jivamukti Yoga: Expresses the spiritual and ethical aspects of the practice of yoga that have been disregarded or devalued in contemporary times. It is a vigorous and challenging set of postures with an emphasis on scriptural study, Sanskrit chanting, vegetarianism, non-violence, meditation, devotion to God and the role that music and listening play in the practice of yoga.
Kali Ray TriYoga: A series of flowing, dancelike movements that also incorporates breathing exercises and meditation.
Kripalu: This gentle, introspective practice urges practitioners to hold poses to explore and release emotional and spiritual blockages. Goal-oriented striving is discouraged and precise alignment is not as important as in some other traditions..
Kundalini: This practice concentrates on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward. In addition to postures, a typical class will also include chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises.
Power Yoga: It’s the American interpretation of ashtanga yoga, a discipline that combines stretching, strength training, and meditative breathing. The postures resemble basic calisthenics — push-ups and handstands, toe touches and side bends — but at an intense aerobic pace.
Restorative Yoga: In a restorative yoga class you’ll spend long periods of time lying on blocks, blankets and yoga bolsters – passively allowing muscles to relax.
Vinyasa: Focuses on coordination of breath and movement and it is a very physically active form of yoga.