Yoga essentially means uniting or “yoking of the mind”. The physical part of yoga was developed as a vehicle for meditation. It was designed to prepare the body, particularly the nervous system, for stillness, creating the necessary physical strength and stamina that allows the mind to remain calm. Hatha yoga is a powerful method of self-transformation. It is the most practical of the yoga’s and is the perfect gateway into all the other yoga’s.
It all originated from a man known as Patanjali, ‘the father of yoga’. In the 2nd century he wrote the now well known, Yoga-Sûtras. This text describes the path of Raja Yoga, often called ‘classical yoga’. Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an “eight limbed path” containing the steps and stages towards obtaining enlightenment. After Patanjali, yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They developed Tantra Yoga, consisting of techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.
There are many different types of styles of yoga that the Western society adopted. Below are a few of the most common with brief descriptions. Each style of yoga is done with a different intent, but to have the same end goal of calming the nervous system down in order to sit through Shavasana in complete stillness.
Was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar. This style focuses on alignment as well as detailed and precise movements. It is an excellent style for people with injuries who need to work slowly and methodically.
This style is about releasing the ‘kundalini energy’ that is said to be trapped or coiled in the bottom of the spine. Classes work towards releasing the blocked chakras starting at bottom to the very top crown chakra. These classes work your core focused on fast breathing techniques. Chanting, mantra and meditation are usually quite intense.
In Sanskrit Ashtanga is translated as “Eight Limb path.” It moves through the same set series repeatedly moving from standing to floor. The breath is synchronized with the movements producing internal heat and profuse sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. From this yoga style, vinyasa was developed as it’s a flowing style linking breath to movement.
As mentioned in Ashtanga, Vinyasa yoga has developed from the Ashtanga teachings. Vinyasa is more of a power yoga with a different spin on it usually uniquely structured to the teacher.
I’ve personally only done Bikram twice and it was very different. It is a set of 26 postures that you do twice in a sauna type room. Each pose is done intentionally to benefit the body in a specified sequence. Leaving the individual feeling rejuvenated and detoxified.
These 2 are a very slow-paced style of yoga. It consists of seated postures held for longer periods of time. These practices can be a very meditative yoga that lets you relax, as you let gravity do the work. There are many props and variations offered for each pose.