Part 1 in our Yoga For Beginners series.
Yijun Liu | August 08, 2016
The main aim of yoga is to attain unification of the mind and the soul with the universe. However, there are different schools of yoga that seek to reach this goal through different routes. Various styles or types of yoga have evolved from these schools, each having particular characteristics. To kick off our Yoga for Beginners series and begin the process of wellness through yoga, it is important to first know the major styles,many of which are named after their founding father, and their distinctive features.
From the popular Hatha yoga to the intricate Ashtanga yoga, find out what is unique about each of them!
Ashtanga Yoga was made for individuals who appreciate order. It incorporates the practice of one or more ashtanga series, wherein you have to shift from one posture to another, while keeping the breathing flow intact. Each series constitutes a succession of asanas, which are always repeated without changing the order, with a total of six series. It would be good to note that this yoga form can be quite physically demanding, being dynamic and fast-paced.
Ah, I’m quite sure you would have heard of this style of yoga.
The main attribute of Bikram Yoga is consistency. Irrespective of the yoga class you attend, it will always have the same two breathing techniques with twenty six postures, carried out in the same order for one and a half hour – at 40% humidity, and a temperature of 40°C. It is said to simulate the natural environment of outdoor yoga practice in India during summer. Bikram Yoga focuses on postures designed specifically to warm and stretch the muscles through their 26 different poses.
Fans of Bikram Yoga swear by it. They believe that the heat helps to speed up heart rates and removes toxins through sweat. However, when choosing yoga for beginners, Bikram may be more challenging than the others mentioned in this article. Even so, it is worth a try. Always remember to enter the class well-hydrated and do not hesitate to rest in child’s pose whenever you experience dizziness or tightness of breath.
Hatha Yoga is really all about the basics of yoga. Hatha itself simply refers to the physical practice of yoga.
Hatha Yoga believes that enlightenment can be attained by ultimate control over the physical being. This form primarily involves cleansing rituals and breathing exercises, aimed to control the energy within the body.
Unlike its Vinyasa counterpart, Hatha Yoga is slower and requires you to hold the pose for a longer time for greater appreciation without rushing through. While practising Hatha Yoga, it is paramount to synchronise your breathing to your movement. Personally, a Hatha class is one I look forward to attending after a long day at work as it always helps me achieve a better state of calm!
Vinyasa is in fact an amalgamation of different yoga styles. It involves a series of sun salutations, with movements that are aligned to the normal breathing process. Also known as “power” or “flow” yoga, Vinyasa is one of the most dynamic forms of practise. This form of yoga is characterised by rapid, fluid flows from one pose to the other and has garnered much fandom over the years.
To keep classes lively, most Vinyasa lessons will be accompanied by music. One of my favourite classes to date would be the Vinyasa class I attended at Yoga Barn, while I was in Bali. Be sure to check this tranquil studio out if you ever find yourself on the beautiful island of Bali.
The Kundalini style involves repetitive exercises or movements, mantras, meditation, chanting and dynamic breathing procedures. In order to evoke the energy lying latent at the base of the spinal cord, specific kundalini exercises, called kriya are repeated and integrated within the breathing process. The repetitiveness of techniques is what makes this style unique from other forms.
Developed and popularised by influential yogi, B.K.S. Iyengar, this type of yoga is exceptionally meticulous. A lot of time is spent finding the correct alignment for poses and holding them. After all, as the old adage goes, you will only reap the benefits if the poses are held correctly.
In order to do so, Iyengar Yoga studios are often equipped with a myriad of yoga props such as towels, straps blocks and even a rope wall to help students deepen their practice.
As the name suggests, this is the yoga of action, specifically, “spiritual action”. Kriya Yoga involves calming down the mind through mantras, breathing techniques, scriptural self-study and meditation. It works on the principle of bringing the divine energy, accumulated in the body’s lower part, towards the spine.
Founded by Swami Sivananda, this form is an amalgamation of actions like Savasana (relaxation pose), anuloma viloma, kapalabhati and surya namaskara. This is followed by twelve asanas that enhance spinal strength and flexibility.
Prana Yoga aims to offer participants a kind of mastery over prana, which is the combination of all the energy existent in the universe. The power of prana is channelized to ensure success in life by exercising more influence.
Being one of the newest ‘kid on the block’, most of you may not have heard of Anusara Yoga.
This yoga is a manifestation of the three A’s- attitude, alignment and action. It is actually a modern variation of Hatha Yoga, including the flow and the universal alignment inherent to all yoga postures.
Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara Yoga can almost be classified as a western take to the traditional Hatha Yoga. Based on Friend’s Universal Principles of Alignment, this practise encourages you to seek grace and open up your hearts, while at the same time pursuing physical strength.
Alternatively known as breathing yoga, this comprises various yoga styles and is often an integral component of other yoga forms. The main aim is to help participants reach a bodily and psychological harmony.
In contrast to all the other mentioned forms of yoga, Restorative Yoga is the most gentle form of practice. Suitable for individuals nursing an injury or simply requiring profound rest, this form never fails to provide you the ‘zen’ you need after a long week.
The goal in Restorative Yoga is to restore and revitalise both your body and soul. As such, one does not need to put in a lot of effort to achieve poses. Hence, inversions and lifts are often absent in this type of Yoga and instructors often focus on breathing techniques instead. So the next time you need a TGIF break, you should perhaps consider attending a Restorative Yoga class!
So there you have it – we’ve covered the major styles of yoga available that ares suitable for all age groups! There are going to be days where you may be drawn more to one form over another other, and that’s perfectly alright. Variety in practise is often encouraged, and perhaps even ideal, for you to achieve the best state of physical and mental health.
Until the next part in our series of ‘Yoga For Beginners’, I hope you will be actively seeking your “prana”. Namaste.
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