Popular Types Of Yoga:
Yoga, over the years, has become a very modifiable practice. Oftentimes, fine tuned to meet the practitioners wants and needs. However, as a beginner yogi, one of the first things to consider is the style or “path” of yoga best suited for the goals you have in mind. Not all yoga is created equal. Within this article, we’ll talk popular types of yoga.
For many, Hatha style yoga is what comes to mind. However, yoga exists in many other forms. For example, Ashtanga yoga, offers a much more structured style of practice. Whereas Vinyasa yoga classes offer more flexibility when it comes asanas, and environment.
Above all, it’s important to have a general idea of the differing styles. This basic understanding, can help guide one to choosing a style that suits their needs. Furthermore, some styles are much more strenuous on the body. As a novice yogi, it’s wise to ease your way into specific asanas and sequences.
Why Choose Yoga?
Yoga is becoming a more popular form of alternative type exercise. It’s a practice heavily focused on creating a balanced body, and mind. Oftentimes, yoga is misconceived as a practice all about getting in touch with your spiritual side. However, this is not the case.
Yoga can be used as:
- an outlet for stress.
- a powerful, and safe exercise routine.
- a way to balance out your current exercise regimen.
- as well as a way to better connect our mind and body.
Yoga can have a crucial impact on the complete well-being of an individual, from both a physiological perspective to psychological. We’ll be discussing some of these potential benefits later. One of best ideas for any novice is to attend a few different types of yoga classes. Additionally, discussing the practice with a certified yoga instructor who can help guide you in the right direction.
For example, if you’re looking for a more moderate intensity routine, participating in a restorative style, may not be the way to go. Instead, trying your hand at Vinyasa flow would be better suited to your goals. Alternatively, maybe you’re an experienced yogi, whom wants to try their hand in say, aerial yoga.
There are yoga styles that can be better tailored for those looking for a more delicate or gentle exercise form, as well. This includes slower poses with less transitions, potentially using props for assistance. For example, chair yoga, suited for those whom may have trouble with balance, or flexibility.
This now leads us into the direction of the different and most popular styles of yoga. Our goal here to introduce you to some of these styles. Simplifying these popular styles of yoga so you may be better inclined to identify what style fits your needs.
A Brief Background On 6 Of the Most Popular Styles of Yoga:
Related Article: The Best Yoga Mat For Beginners: What to Think About!
Hatha Yoga: (Sanskrit “Discipline of Force”)
Hatha Yoga is derived from the word “Ha” which means Sun and “Tha” which means moon. In combination denotes “will” as well as “power”. Hatha yoga aims to balance these two energies. This is also one of the most popular types of yoga. Oftentimes, it’s the style most relate to, when they think of the practice of yoga.
Hatha yoga dates back thousands of years. Within today’s culture, focuses much on the physical presence, involving and emphasizing both postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (Pranayama).
That being said, Hatha yoga can also encompass anything done with the body including; mantra’s (or chanting), mudra (hand gestures), and even visualization practices.
Furthermore, this style of yoga is used to calm the mind and body. For these reasons, it is a style that can oftentimes be well suited to prepare oneself for the art of meditation.
Hatha Yoga is often recommended for beginners because of the slower, more static type poses. Above all, giving your body time to align and adjust. For example, basic poses within include; Sukhasana, Mountain, forward fold, low lunge, downward dog, and warrior pose.
Expect these types of classes to last up to 90 minutes, with a combination of breathing, yoga postures/poses, as well as being followed by meditation.
Vinyasa Yoga: (Sanskrit “Connection”)
From a more static type style of yoga (Hatha), to one more focused on movement or flow of asanas, is Vinyasa yoga. Concurrently, or anchored through breath (Ujjayi Breath).
When you think of Vinyasa, think of smoothness or a “flowing” type of movement. A major difference between Vinyasa to some other styles of yoga like Ashtanga and/or Bikram is the variations of poses, in the different classes you may attend.
Although Vinyasa classes are put together with a seamless flow of asanas, these asanas can and will differ from class to class. Furthermore, it can be both slower paced transitions, to a more rigorous pace.
Vinyasa yoga is known to be versatile. Oftentimes, thought to help prevent injuries, due to the focus on different parts of the body through varying sequences, instead of a set number of poses and sequences.
A yogi can expect to go through a various set of categories of postures, including back-bends, forward-bends, standing postures and many more.
Ashtanga Yoga: (Sanskrit “Union of the Eight Limbs of Yoga”)
Ashtanga yoga has grown immensely in popularity over recent years. Unlike Vinyasa’s style, Ashtanga focuses heavily on a series or fixed set of poses. In the case of Ashtanga yoga, the previous pose must be mastered before moving to the next series.
Consequently, it is a more structured path of yoga. These poses are deeply connected by the breath, and (like Vinyasa), focuses on Ujjayi breathing, also known as ‘victorious breath’.
The term Ashtanga is made up of 2 Sanskrit words. Firstly, being “Ashta”. Secondly, being “Anga”. “Ashta” referring to the number eight and “anga” to limb. The whole meaning of the word is “eight limbs of yoga”. Ashtanga style yoga encompasses the eight limbs of yoga, including; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
As a beginner yogi, Ashtanga will be challenging. At the core of this practice, it demands physcial strength, flexibility and endurance. As such, it will require quite a feat of those 3 dynamics.
Ashtanga yoga is made up of 6 total levels that are very demanding, done in a similar flow or fashion as Vinyasa sequences. As you complete poses, and series, you’ll then be guided through more difficult or advanced series of poses.
These include series or sequences known as Sun Salutation A & Sun Salutation B, then progress from there. Furthermore, while this is a physically demanding style, it also helps one find clarity, focus and inner peace.
Related Article: Yoga Fundamental Part I: What Is A Sun Salutation & Why Practice Them?
This yoga form was developed by Bellur Krishnamachar SundararajaIyengarand and is a form of Hatha Yoga. An emphasis is placed on perfecting each pose with yoga props like yoga foam blocks, chairs, belts or custom made supports. In particular, these supports are made from material like, wood. This style also blends with pranayama, focusing on technical alignments of poses.
Iyengar yoga (keeping effective alignment in mind), places an emphasis on body, mind and breath. With body alignment and the use of props being prominent in this style, it’s often well suited for beginners, to the practice.
However, intermediate and advanced level yogi’s can also benefits from this style. In fact, Iyengar yoga helps build both strength and flexibility.
Additionally, it is recommended for people of all age groups who prefer an organized type of yoga. Namely, sequencing or ordering of poses at a slower pace, is a part of this style. This can help aid in a gradual progression, in a safe and effective manner.
Many believe this styles helps with increasing focus or concentration, improving both mind and body health.
Restorative yoga is geared toward any age or yoga “level”. A slow paced style of yoga, that puts most emphasis on longer holds, calmness, stillness and deep effective breathing.
Props in restorative yoga, help to support the body and make holding these asanas (sometime upwards of 5-20 minutes) possible. A style focused on passive stretching, often restorative yoga encompasses just a few poses within the course of a session.
Props like blankets, foam blocks, or bolsters are utilized to give the body aid in positioning. Additionally, providing a deeper relaxation period. The goal is to relax and restore. Oftentimes a yogi that practices more intense styles of yoga, may split up there sessions with a restorative one to help better relax and “restore” the body and mind.
This form of yoga is extremely useful for those who wish to relax and distress their bodies and mind. It can aid people whom suffer from insomnia or anxiety, as it can be performed multiple times per day, with only a few different poses.
While other forms of yoga and exercise engage muscle groups within the body, the focus here is to relax, while encouraging gentle stretching.
Developed by Bikram Choudhury, hence the name. This is a form of hot yoga offering a structured environment. Bikram yoga consists of a heated room with set series 26 poses, and 2 Pranayama exercises.
A typical class will continue for 90-total minutes. Consequently, due to the elevated temperatures, makes it imperative to stay properly hydrated both before and after a session.
Temperatures of the room are often up to 105 degrees F, and humidity upwards of 40%.
Much of the movement or poses are structured after Hatha style positions. Common poses used in Bikram classes include; Triangle pose, Cobra pose and Eagle pose.
This form of yoga is structured to help relieve stress, may help with chronic pain such as arthritis, joint aches, and perhaps other injuries. The hot climate allows for muscles and joints to warm-up faster. In turn, helping to deepen poses and stretches, within the designated time frame.
One of the biggest misconception is that hot yoga and Bikram yoga are the same. This is not the case. Truthfully, all Bikram is hot. However, hot yoga is any yoga performed in a room with elevated or purposeful hot temperatures. So, not all hot yoga is Bikram.
Potential Health Benefits of These Popular Types Of Yoga:
A. Stress Relief:
Studies have shown the effect that yoga can have on stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have indicated that yoga may not just reduce stress, but also “enhance your mood and sense of well-being“.
There is current literature providing similar conclusions. A review of literature published in 2012, looked at 35 trials addressing effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. In conclusion, 25 of those trials “noted a significant decrease in stress and anxiety, with yoga regimens”.
Stress reduction may also be noted from it’s ability to help promote flexibility, and relieve tension. Thus, potentially helping with pain control.
According to Healthline, yoga poses (much like exercising), promote the release of endorphins. Also known as our happy-hormones or feel-good hormone). This release can help with both short and long term stressors, as you become better apt to handle emotions.
A specific study on a Hatha yoga regimen, included 52 women over the course of 12 sessions. The findings found yoga to have an effective role in reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Thus, reiterating it’s use as a form of safe, complementary medicine.
B. Help Manage Chronic Health Conditions:
According to one article posted in Frontiers in Psychology, yoga is one of the top ten complementary health practices used by adults in the U.S, where 45% of the population have at least one chronic health condition.
Yoga has shown positive effects on distress and functional performance of those who suffer from chronic health conditions or diseases.
A study published in 2017, displayed evidence supporting the recommendations of yoga as a supportive intervention in helping women with breast cancer, helping fight fatigue and sleep disturbances, as well as improved quality of life.
A meta analysis of 10 studies was also conducted. Furthermore, providing evidence that yoga may be effective in helping to improve physical ability, lung function, and quality of life in people with COPD. This was according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Research also exists surrounding yoga’s benefits on patients with asthma, on smoking cessation & weight loss.
c. Reduction in Inflammation:
Inflammation is a common and natural response of the body to acute trauma. However, if you suffer from chronic inflammation, it can actually lead to a risk for certain health conditions.
There have been several studies linking yoga to lower levels of inflammatory markers after exercise.
One particular study included 218 subjects. The results showed lower inflammatory markers of the yoga group vs. the non-yoga group participants. In conclusion, the study found that “regular practice of yoga can protect the individual against inflammatory diseases”.
A study of a restorative Iyengar yoga intervention published in 2014, was found to reduce inflammation-related gene expression in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue.
Related Article: How Can Yoga, When Done Correctly, Help Increase & Improve Concentration?
d. Chronic Pain Reduction:
Millions of people suffer from chronic pain conditions. Continued evidence is showing yoga can help in relieving some of these pain symptoms, as well as perceived pain symptoms.
So far, the evidence for the effectiveness of yoga or mind-based practice remains relatively low., However there is some promise of yoga, or movement/body awareness practices in the treatment for helping with symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Other research identifies the possible benefits of yoga for chronic lower back pain, headaches and arthritis pain.
One such pilot study identified Iyengar yoga as being a feasible treatment option for reduction in pain and disability, caused by knee osteoarthritis.
Another study on yoga based interventions vs. wrist splinting for carpel tunnel syndrome concluded yoga as a more effective treatment in relieving signs and symptoms of CTS.
A narrative literature review evaluated the effects of movement-based mind-body interventions (MMBI). This included practices such as yoga, tai chi and qigong. 32 articles were included in the review in which yoga had the highest number of focused intervention, then qigong, then tai chi.
In conclusion, the articles showed MMBI to be effective for treatment of lower back pain. This included a reduction in pain or psychological distress (like anxiety/depression), and improved function.
Related Article: Yoga for Lower Back Pain
A systematic review and meta analysis published in 2019, included 10 randomized control trials, involving 686 participants. The analysis concluded that yoga may help relieve neck pain intensity, improve pain-related functions, increase cervical range of motion (ROM), and quality of life.
There is also an increasing amount of evidence suggestive that yoga (along with adjunct therapies) may help reduce migraine intensity and frequency.
e. Sleep Benefits:
According to John Hopkins Medicine, “studies have linked yoga’s benefits to improved sleep”.
One specific study provided evidence of yoga on sleep quality, and quality of life in the elderly. The study concluded that “regular yoga exercises in the daily routine of elderly people, can help achieve good sleep quality”.
Another study compared the effects of yoga and Ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatric population. In conclusion, the yoga group had a significant decrease in the time taken to fall asleep, and an increase in the total number of hours slept. They also stated “feeling more rested in the morning” after 6 months time.
Related Article: Yoga for Better Sleep: Learn Why Bedtime Yoga, Works!
These popular styles of yoga can be beneficial for both body and mind, each in their own ways.
It’s important to understand the basic characteristics, specially, if you’re a novice to yoga or exercise in general. Understanding your limitations is crucial to being successful from a physical perspective.
Additionally, we always recommend anyone new to the practice (or a practitioner wanting to try something new) take a class, and educate yourself.
Please share your thoughts on how yoga has positively effected your life, as well as other tips you’d like to offer to the community.
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