Types of Yoga

What is Hot Yoga?

Hot yoga can refer to any yoga class done in a heated room. The room is usually maintained at a temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most often, hot yoga tends to be a flowing, vinyasa style of practice in which the teacher instructs a series of linked poses. As you can imagine, a vigorous yoga session at high temperature promotes profuse sweating and makes the body very warm.

Introduction to Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Vinyasa yoga, in which movement is synchronized to the breath, is a term that covers a broad range of yoga classes. This style is sometimes also called flow yoga, because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance. The breath acts as an anchor to the movement as you to flow from one pose to the next in time with an inhale or an exhale.

The literal translation of vinyasa from Sanskrit is “connection,” according to Ellen Stansell, PhD, RYT, and scholar of yogic literature and Sanskrit.

In terms of yoga asana, we can interpret this as a connection between movement and breath.

A cat-cow stretch is an example of a very simple vinyasa, because the spine is arched on an inhale and rounded on an exhale. A sun salutation sequence is an example of a more complex vinyasa. Each movement in the series is done in time with an inhalation or an exhalation.

What To Expect From a Vinyasa Class

This style allows for a lot of variety, but will almost always include sun salutations. Expect movement, not just stretching. Whether the class is fast or slow, includes inversions, or is very alignment-oriented will depend on the individual teacher and the particular style in which he or she is trained. Some classes include some warm up stretches at the beginning while others launch straight into standing poses. Some very popular yoga styles, including AshtangaPower Yoga, Jivamukti, and CorePower make use of the vinyasa method. If a class is simply identified as vinyasa it may make use of aspects of any number of traditions. The one thing you can be sure if is the flow between poses.  The rest is up to the teacher.

What Does “Go Through Your Vinyasa” Mean?

When vinyasa is used as a noun, it describes a series of three poses that are done as part of a sun salutation sequence. When the teacher says, “go through the vinyasa at your own pace,” she means do plank, chaturanga, and upward facing dog (or their equivalent variations) using your breath to measure when to move to the next pose.  If you start to get tired and this affects the quality of your poses, it’s very acceptable to skip the vinyasa and wait for the class in downward facing dog.

Is Vinyasa Yoga for You?

Vinyasa’s strength is in its diversity. There is no single philosophy, rulebook, or sequence that teachers must follow, so there is a lot of room for individual personalities and quirks to come through. This makes it essential that you find a teacher you enjoy and can relate to. If your first flow class doesn’t rock your world, keep trying different teachers. If you appreciate having things a little loose and unpredictable and like to keep moving, this style is definitely worth a try.

What is Power Yoga?

Power yoga is a general term used in the west to describe a vigorous, fitness-based approach to vinyasa-styleyoga. Though many consider it to be “gym yoga,” this style of practice was originally closely modeled on the Ashtanga method. The term came into common usage in the mid 1990s, in an attempt to make Ashtanga yoga more accessible to western students. Unlike Ashtanga, however, power yoga does not follow a set series of poses, so classes can vary widely.

With its emphasis on strength and flexibility, power yoga brought yoga into the gyms of America, as people began to see yoga as a way to work out.

Who Invented Power Yoga?

Two American yoga teachers are most often credited with the near simultaneous invention of power yoga: Beryl Bender Birch, based in New York, and Bryan Kest, based in Los Angeles.

Not coincidentally, both these teachers had studied with Ashtanga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Using the term power yoga differentiated the intense, flowing style of yoga they were teaching from the gentle stretching and meditation that many Americans associated with yoga. Baron Baptiste is another well-known yoga teacher who has successfully established his own style of power yoga.

Is Power Yoga for You?

Though power yoga classes can vary widely from teacher to teacher, they will most likely appeal to people who are already quite fit, enjoy exercising, and want a minimal amount of chanting and meditation with their yoga. Prepare to work hard and work up a sweat.

What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha Yoga describes any of the physical practices of yoga. (Remember that yoga has eight limbs, only one of which,asana, involves doing yoga poses.) When you do Iyengar, this is hatha yoga; when you do Ashtanga, as different as this may seem, it is hatha yoga too. Hatha means forceful in Sanskrit, according to Ellen Stansell, PhD, RYT, a scholar of yogic literature and Sanskrit. The physical yoga postures must have seemed forceful compared to the other more subtle practices that were in use at the time that hatha emerged, explains Stansell.

How Hatha Is Used Today

These days, hatha is most often used to describe gentle, basic classes with no flow between poses. A hatha class will likely be a slow-paced stretching class with some simple breathing exercises and perhaps seated meditation.

What is Yin Yoga? Origins

In Yin Yoga, poses are held for several minutes at a time in order to the stretch the connective tissue around the joints. The most prominent advocate of this method is the American teacher Paul Grilley, who learned the basic technique from Taoist Yoga teacher and martial arts expert Paulie Zink. Grilley also studied with the Japanese Dr. Motoyama, whose research posits that our connective tissue may actually be the key to discovering subtle energy channels in the body (called nadis in yoga and meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine).

Despite having an advanced asana practice, which is supposed to help prepare the body for meditation, Grilley found himself uncomfortable when he began to attempt long, seated meditations.

  Yin Yoga directly addresses the demands that sitting still in one position for a long time places on the body by focusing on stretching connective tissue instead of muscle. Sarah Powers, who studied with Paul Grilley, is another well-known teacher in this field.

Yin and Yang

In Chinese philosophy, the yin yang symbolizes the duality and interdependency of the natural world. Things that are yang are moving, changing, and vigorous. In contrast, things that are yin are still, static, and calm.

The majority of western yoga practices have evolved into being very yang– lots of movement, with an emphasis on stretching the muscles. Muscles are yang, while connective tissues like tendons and ligaments are yin. Sitting for meditation is more yin, and therefore requires a practice that adresses this use of the body. While joints like the knees and ankles are fragile and easily over stretched, the body also contains joints in the pelvis, hips and lower spine that are naturally much less flexible. It is these joints that yin yoga primarily addresses.

Yin Poses

Yin poses are derived from traditional yoga poses, though they have been renamed to distinguish them. Thus, cobbler’s pose becomes butterfly, plow pose becomes snail, and pigeon pose becomes sleeping swan.

Yin vs Restorative

Though Yin yoga and restorative yoga are similar in that poses are held for long periods, they have fundamentally different purposes. It is possible to get yin benefits from doing restorative poses, but the goal is not relaxation. Restorative poses are typically much more supported using props. In yin poses, gravity helps intensify the stretch. Some poses, such as dragon (a version of lizard pose), would not work as restorative poses, which are typically done in a supine or prone position.

What is Kundalini Yoga? 

Kundalini yoga has only been practiced in the west relatively recently. In 1969, Yogi Bhajan founded 3HO (the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) to introduce this yoga practice to a broader population. Although Kundalini had not previously been taught to the public, Yogi Bhajan felt that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy its benefits.

What Does Kundalini Mean?

The Kundalini is untapped energy (prana) at the base of the spine that can be drawn up through the body awakening each of the seven chakras.    Full enlightenment occurs when this energy reaches the crown chakra at the top of the head. Kundalini energy is often represented as a snake coiled at the bottom of the spine.

Focus on Breath and Movement

Each Kundalini Yoga asana series is done with a specific breathing technique that intensifies the effects of the poses with the purpose of freeing energy in the lower body and allowing it to move upwards.  Kundalini sequences (called kriyas) may consist of rapid, repetitive movements done with in conjunction with a designated breathing method or holding a pose while breathing in a particular way.

What to Expect in a Kundalini Class

A Kundalini class begins with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility. The main work of the class is called a kriya, which is a proscribed sequence of poses and pranayama that focuses on a precise area of the body. The teacher typically does not make manual adjustments. The class ends with a meditation, which may be accompanied by the teacher playing a large gong, and a closing song. Kundalini devotees often wear flowing white robes and head wraps, but don’t feel obligated to adopt this style of dress when you take class.

Is Kundalini for You?

Kundalini is one of the more spiritual types of yoga. It goes beyond the physical performance of poses with its emphasis on breathing, meditation, mudras and chanting. However, the Kundalini sequences can be very physically intense. This type of yoga appeals to those who are up for both mental and physical challenges.

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