Different styles of contemporary Hatha Yoga

As hatha yoga has grown more popular different styles and schools have developed. Most styles are based on the same basic asanas (poses) however the experience of one style can be incredibly different to another. In this quick guide you can find out about some of the most popular styles along with their essential characteristics.

Ananda Yoga established by Kriyananda, a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, this system is based on Yogananda’s Self-Realisation Fellowship (SRE) and Yogoda Satsanga Society of India(YSS) teachings. This style emphasizes inner awareness, energy control and the experience of each asana as a natural expression of a higher state of consciousness which is enhanced by the use of affirmations.

Anusara Yoga founded by American-born yoga teacher John Friend in 1997. This style is derived from the Iyengar style of yoga and reintroduced elements of Hindu spirituality into a more health-oriented approach to Yoga. Anusara means ‘flowing with Grace,’ ‘flowing with Nature’ and ‘following your heart,'” as interpreted from the Sanskrit anusāra meaning “custom, usage, natural state or condition”.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – created by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century, often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga.This style is energetic and synchronises breath with movement. The individual asanas are linked by flowing movements (vinyasas). The current style of teaching is called Mysore style as it was oringinally taught in Mysore, India.

Bikram Yoga – created by Bikram Choudhury in the late 20th Century. All Bikram Yoga Beginning Series classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is a hot yoga style, practiced in a room heated to 35–42 °C (95–108 °F) with a humidity of 40%. All official Bikram classes are taught by Bikram-certified teachers, who have completed nine weeks of training endorsed by Choudhury. Bikram-certified teachers are taught a standardized dialogue to run the class.

Iyengar Yoga – Developed by BKS Iyengar. The emphasis of this style is on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of asana and breath control (pranayama). Iyengar Yoga often makes use of props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing asanas. The props enable students to perform the asanas correctly, minimising the risk of injury or strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old.

Jivamukti Yoga – David Life and Sharon Gannon created jivamukti yoga in 1984. Classes resemble ashtanga with the vinyasa style flow through asanasa. Each class begins with a standardized warm-up sequence unique to jivamukti and often teachers will incorporate weekly themes, chanting, meditation, readings and affirmations.

Kundalini Yoga – Focuses on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga or meditation. Kundalini yoga is often identified as the most dangerous form of yoga because of the involvement of subtle energies.

Power Yoga – In this style there is a detachment from yoga philosophy in exchange for an emphasis on yoga as a physical workout. Two American yogis, Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest, both of whom studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, are most often credited with inventing power yoga. 

Restorative Yoga – This style is designed to allow the body to slow down and relax in a small number of asanas. Each pose is held for longer than in conventional classes and so a restorative class may consist of only four to six asanas. The long holding of poses is usually assisted with props to ensure the body is fully supported and to allow the muscles to relax. This style was popularised by Judith Hanson Lasater.

Sivananda Yoga – The proprietary yoga system of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre organization based on Swami Sivananda’s teachings to synthesize the principles of the four paths of yoga (Yoga of Synthesis) along with the five points of yoga compiled by Swami Vishnudevananda. The four classical paths of yoga consist of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. The five points of yoga are Proper Exercise (āsana), Proper Breathing (prāṇāyāma), Proper Relaxation (śavāsana), Proper Diet and Positive Thinking (vedānta) and Meditation (dhyāna).

Vinyasa Flow Yoga – This style embodies the continuous, dynamic, conscious evolution of the practice of Hatha Yoga. Vinyasa Flow is not a system and therefore allows for more creativity in sequencing asanas and offering a diverse array of themes. This is probably the most popular style currently being practiced in the West.

Yin Yoga – This is a slow-paced style where asanas are held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more. Moderate stress is applied to the connective tissues of the body—the tendons, fascia, and ligaments—with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. A more meditative approach to yoga, its goals are awareness of inner silence, and bringing to light a universal, interconnecting quality. It is not intended as a complete practice in itself, but as a complement to more active forms of yoga and exercise.

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