Whenever I tell someone I’m a yoga teacher, the first question they ask me is what kind of yoga do you teach?
Now this is a tricky question for me because (A) I know what they mean and (B) because yoga is 5,000 discipline that has tremendously evolved semantically in this day an age.
To answer in currents terms (post 1980s after yoga was introduced to the west) where yoga is known as a physical exercise, the “types” of yoga can be divided into the following:
Hatha Yoga is the division of the yogic discipline that describes postures (asanas) in details as part of the solution to keeping the physical body healthy, as well as meditative postures. In this sense, every physical type of yoga is hatha yoga.
However, when a class is advertised as Hatha Class, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures.
A yoga style that follows the teaching style of B.K.S. Iyengar, a huge contributor to modern yoga as he brought a systemization to yoga postures. He can be credited with highlighting the importance of alignment and introduced props such as blocks, straps and blankets to assist individual alignment and he understood the differences between many body types.
Ashtanga / Ashtanga-Vinyasa / Mysore-Style Ashtanga
Made popular by late K. Pattabhi Jois (known as “Mysore-style”), the class starts with a series of sun salutations, followed by a series of pre-determined series of postures which students are expected to know.
This is most physically demanding yoga classes out there with advanced twists, binds and inversions.
Vinyasa / Flow
From the more cardiovascular sun salutations of the Ashtanga yoga, birthed the Vinyasa classes. Vinyasa classes incorporate many postures into the class but always cycling through a section of the sun salutation “vinyasa” (downward dog, plank, chaturanga, upward dog, downward dog).
This is probably the most popular type of yoga because its constant movement makes it dance-like.
The type of yoga you find in gyms.
With elements of Ashtanga Vinyasa, these classes are made of power postures to build strength. They tend to useyogic postures that incorporate lunges (warriors), squats (chair pose) and balancing poses.
Bikram Yoga / Hot Yoga
First made popular by Bikram Choudry, they consisted of 26 postures performed in sequence in a 40-degree Celcius enclosed room to mimic the heat in India. It became really popular in the west (especially in colder countries) because performing yoga in warm room reduced muscle strain from the lack of a warmup.
From his innovation, other styles of yoga outside Bikram’s prescribed 26-posture sequence, were then performed in hot rooms and marketed simply as hot yoga.
Yin Yoga / Restorative
Drawing its name from the Chinese concept of Yin (slow moving energy) and Yang (fast moving energy), a yin yoga class focuses on long hold postures intended to stretch the hamstrings, back, shoulders and open of hips, shoulders and chest.
Using props, class attendees can expect to feel more relaxed and restored after class.
Kundalini classes focus on the spiritual side of yoga. Cleansing exercises (kriyas) are performed in addtion to mantra chanting, meta meditation, laughing, shouting, embracing sadness and much more.
Now, all that being said, as I mentioned in the beginning of the post, yoga is an ancient discipline that encompasses more that just physical postures but also meditation, way of thinking, approach to life, nutrition, breathing techniques, cleansing techniques and much more than than.
After all, the ancient yogi had 5,000 years to describe what it is, so it’s impossible to answer in a short article, let alone an entire lifetime. Yet, yoga has true benefits no matter what style you’re into, yoga does share a common goal and that is achieving peace and balance.
And we’re all down for that.