Exploring Different Styles Of Yoga: Which One Is Right For You?

by | Jun 25, 2024 | Life | 0 comments

Yoga is an ancient practice rooted in Indian philosophy Other than being used as a spiritual practice, yoga has become popular to promote physical and mental health too.

In the United States more people are practicing yoga. Today, 1 out of 7 U.S adults have practiced yoga in the past 12 months. In children the count has risen to about 1 out of every 12.

There are many different styles of yoga and each are unique in their own way. They range from gentle practices to physically demanding ones. This is why it’s important to know the different styles, to determine what is best for you.

CATEGORIES OF YOGA

PHYSICAL POSTURES

As the name suggests, physical poses deplete the energy levels of one’s body by utilizing their physical strength. They improve strength, flexibility and balance in an individual and further support their physical health. As the muscular tension is released, it gives way to mental relaxation and peace as well.

BREATHING TECHNIQUES

Breathing exercises are based on breath control and regulate the flow of energy throughout the body. In this, one is asked to inhale and exhale through their nose for a few second count, keeping the mouth shut. Therefore, more energy is conserved in the body which will be used to balance the autonomic nervous system and improve many stress related disorders. Some popular breathing techniques to start are:

  • Deep breathing
  • Belly breathing
  • Synced breathing
  • Spot focus
  • Extend the exhale

MEDITATION

Meditation in yoga is mostly used as a post exercise practice which helps to give a sense of calm, peace and balance to mind. The person feels relaxed and focused with a sense of mental clarity. In the long run, meditation also improves one’s attention span, compassion, emotional awareness and joy.  

ETHICS

Yogic philosophy aims at promoting harmony between the body, mind and spirit. Therefore, all the techniques such as poses, breathing techniques and meditation take the individual to the spiritual world and promote acceptance towards life. The self acceptance further works towards liberation from the sufferings and brings complete peace to their soul. Some other important principles of yoga are:

  • Ahimsa (non-violence) 
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Brahmacharya (right use of energy)
  • Aparigraha (non-greed)

DIFFERENT STYLES OF YOGA

  1. HATHA YOGA

This is the gentlest form of yoga and can be picked up by beginners as well. It includes static poses combined with gentle breathing exercises. The individual will focus on mastering the postures through force which targets the body’s major muscle groups present in upper and lower body parts. As per 17th century text, Hatha yoga includes ten mudras, nine kumbhakas and 84 asanas. The benefits of Hatha yoga are:

  • Reduces stress
  • Improve core strength and balance
  • Improve flexibility
  • Relieves back and neck aches
  1. VINYASA YOGA

This is the fast paced, fitness based yoga approach and is recommended for intermediate and advanced yogis. Vinyasa yoga advances by stringing postures together so that one moves from one to another seamlessly using breath. This is also known as ‘flow’ yoga. Some common benefits of this style of yoga are:

  • Eases stress and anxiety
  • Improves flexibility and fitness
  • Promotes mindfulness
  1. IYENGAR YOGA

This style is named after an Indian yoga teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar yoga differs from other styles of yoga as it focuses majorly on the structural alignment of the body through asanas. Different from Hatha yoga, it makes use of props (belts, blocks and pillow-like bolsters) to support the poses and assure correct alignment. Since, this approach is so precise, safe and detailed, the yogis are able to reap the full benefits in the poses. It helps to:

  • Correct problems with posture
  • Improves balance and stability
  1. ASHTANGA YOGA

The yogis practicing this style of yoga follow a set sequence of postures each time before progressing to the next posture. Hence, it is physically demanding and the most difficult style. This practice involves standing and seated postures, twists, backbends and forward folds. This style of yoga:

  • Calms the mind
  • Improves leg and core muscle strength
  • Relieves pain
  • Promotes mindful eating
  • Improves breathing pattern
  • Improves concentration skills

  1. KUNDALINI YOGA

Kundalini yoga is considered as a powerful style due to its transformative potential to harness one’s inner strength and wisdom. The practice is filled with some challenging breath exercises, coupled with asanas, meditation and chanting. This style of yoga helps to:

  • Ease stress and anxiety
  • Promote spiritual enlightenment
  • Improve cognitive functioning
  • Promote self esteem and self appreciation
  1. BIKRAM YOGA

Bikram yoga is also known as Original 26+2 because it includes 26 poses and two breathing exercises. The classes are very unique as the room is heated to 41Degree Celsius with a humidity of 40% to imitate the Indian temperature. Despite some potential cons of this yoga style i.e. dehydration and higher risk of injury, it is still practiced. The benefits are:

  • It can be practiced at any fitness level
  • Improves lower and upper body range of motion
  • Improves lower body strength
  • Improves balance
  1. RESTORATIVE YOGA

This style of yoga is very relaxing and can be practiced at a slow pace. Apart from other yoga styles, one doesn’t focus on postures and stretching but focuses on releasing mind-body tension. It is an ideal form for any beginner as it will require no experience or any specific range of flexibility. Similar to Iyengar yoga, restorative yoga also involves props like blocks, blankets and bolsters but to hold the yoga pose for a longer duration and not for alignment purposes. The benefits of this yoga pose are:

  • Deep relaxation of body and mind
  • Release muscle tension
  • Promotes healing and balancing
  • Balances the nervous system
  • Imparts compassion and understanding towards self and others
  1. ANUSARA YOGA

This is an innovative form of yoga which was introduced by an American-born yoga teacher in 1997. Along with emphasizing on alignment principles, Anusara yoga also focuses on heart-centered philosophy and intrinsic goodness within each individual. The improvements elicited by this style of yoga are listed below:

  • Improves flexibility and posture
  • Enhances lung capacity
  • Boosts immunity and blood circulation
  • Improves mental stability and well-being
  1. YIN YOGA

This is the slowest yoga style and incorporates the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. It works deeply to target the connective tissues of the body with passive, longer-held poses. So, instead of focusing on building strength, Yin yoga helps relieve muscle tension with poses held for up to 3-5 minutes. However, to avoid complications related to overstretching, women in their third trimester or those recovering from labor should avoid Yin yoga. In other individuals, Yin yoga helps to:

  • Relieves stress and tension of muscles
  • Improves flexibility
  • Boosts circulation
  1. PRENATAL YOGA

A daily prenatal yoga practice can benefit a pregnant mother and her baby immensely. It is a multifaceted approach that encourages stretching, mental-centering and focused breathing. This class is tailored to address the aches and discomforts of pregnancy which can be helpful to a mother. The possible benefits of Prenatal yoga are:

  • Improves baby’s birth weight
  • Lowers risk of complications like preterm labor
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Stabilizes the moods
  • Manage the weight 
  • Prepares for delivery

CONCLUSION

If you are a keen beginner, you must ask yourself a few questions and decide on the yoga style that suits your needs and capabilities. For instance, your goal may be to improve flexibility, relieve stress, or promote weight loss. Determine what style of yoga aligns with your goals and locate a yoga studio near you to begin your yoga journey of improved mental and emotional health.

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Dr. Bob Singhal

Professor Bhupendra 'Bob' Singhal, has taught creativity by joy and right-brain thinking, is a renowned international architect, won major design competitions, has over 70 awards, publications, and media mentions, and served as President of the American Institute of Architects South Bay. In 2011, in his book Joy in Health and Happiness: Your Optimal Path to Success, Professor Singhal wrote about the transformative power of joy and helped readers learn to enhance their daily experience of it.

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