Initially, the sole purpose of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment. In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as "yoke" or "union," describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one's own pure, essential nature.
With many different types of yoga being practiced today, it may be difficult for you to figure out which style benefits your mind and body the most. It’s important for you to find out which type of yoga meets your needs, so here’s a quick explanation of five of the most common yoga styles practiced everywhere.
Hatha originated in India in the 15th century. This type of yoga is slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation.
Purpose: To introduce beginners to yoga with basic poses and relaxation techniques
Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
Good for: Beginners and people wanting to learn the basics of yoga
Much like Hatha, Vinyasa covers basic poses and breath-synchronized movement. This variety of Hatha yoga emphasizes on the Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses where movement is matched to the breath.
Purpose: To link the breath with movement and to build lean muscle mass throughout the body
Benefits: Helps improve strength and flexibility, tones the abdominal muscles, and reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike seeking to strengthen their bodies
Ashtanga yoga metaphorically focuses on eight limbs. Considered a form of power yoga, Ashtanga is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups.
Purpose: To help improve one’s spiritual self
Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss
Good for: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side
Iyengar covers all eight aspects of Ashtanga yoga and focuses on bodily alignment. Different props like straps, blankets, and blocks are used to assist in strengthening the body. Standing poses are emphasized, and are often held for long periods of time.
Purpose: To strengthen and bring the body into alignment
Benefits: Helps improve balance, speeds up recovery from an injury, and builds up body strength
Good for: Beginners who want to learn the correct alignments in each pose and those with injuries, balance issues, and chronic medical conditions like arthritis
Also known as hot yoga, Bikram is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room. It’s typically a series of 26 poses that allows for a loosening of tight muscles and sweating.
Purpose: To flush out toxins and to deeply stretch the muscles
Benefits: Speeds up recovery from an injury, enhances flexibility, and cleanses the body
Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike who want to push themselves and those with physical injuries
These are only a few of many styles of yoga. Try one or all of them to figure out which one suits your needs the best.