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A Guide to Yoga Styles and How to Choose the Right One

There are many types of yoga out there and it can be hard to know which one is the best for an individual. Here is a guide to some of the most popular styles, what they're good for, and how to choose between them. A beginner may even try multiple of these yoga styles and figure out which works best.

1. Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is arguably the most popular style of yoga. It is a subset or branch of Ashtanga Yoga that we will also talk about today. It focuses on the physical postures and physical fitness of the practitioner. While the broader Ashtanga Yoga is concerned with the holistic well-being of the individual which includes the physical, mental, and spiritual development of an individual. The Sanskrit word “Hatha” literally means “force” which points to its concern with the physical exercise of the body.

Benefits: Hatha yoga has numerous benefits, including enhancing core strength, muscle, and joint flexibility and reducing stress and anxiety.

Who should choose Hatha Yoga: It would be a great choice for people who are new to yoga, want to improve fitness, and prefer a slower and relaxed pace of exercise.

2. Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga is a style of yoga in which the practitioner has to string together postures so that she can move from one to another seamlessly using breath. Vinyasa yoga shares many of the same poses with Hatha yoga but the main difference is in the pacing.

Benefits: Vinyasa yoga shares many benefits with Hatha yoga. But there are some purposes that Vinyasa yoga is especially good at. In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, it is preferred for people whose primary goals include developing endurance and strength, stability, and balance.

Who should choose Vinyasa Yoga: Vinyasa yoga is considered more challenging than hatha yoga. Anyone who wants to give it a try must be familiar with yoga poses. It helps if one has a good level of Physical fitness and likes to be challenged during yoga sessions.

3. Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga is named after and developed by BKS Iyengar described in his bestselling book “Light On Yoga”. Iyengar yoga is different from Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa yoga in precision and sequence. It focuses on the structural alignment of the physical body through practices of asanas. Another aspect that makes Iyengar Yoga is the props such as the chair as a means to assist the practitioner.

Benefits: The use of props such as belts, blocks, pillow-like bolsters aids the practitioner to get into poses with correct alignment. It also shares physiological benefits with both Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga.

Who should try Iyengar Yoga: It is best for people who are detail-oriented and desire to cultivate strength and stability, who like the idea of using props.

4. Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga can be considered the original discipline of Yoga formulated by the sage Patanjali somewhere between the year 500 BC to 800 AD. All the other styles of yoga are only subsets and modifications of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. The Sanskrit word Ashtanga means eight-limbed referring to the eight steps of Ashtanga Yoga, namely Yama (morality), Niyama (discipline), asana (yoga postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).

Who should try Ashtanga Yoga: It is said that Ashtanga yoga is not for everyone as it requires a lot of commitment and requires one to change one’s entire lifestyle. It is not just about yoga postures, breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, it also demands one to adopt moral principles and discipline in one’s life.

5. Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga takes its physical poses from Hatha yoga but it differs from both Hatha and vinyasa yoga as it incorporates mantras and breathing exercises with physical poses. It is also laden with spiritual ideas such as chakras and Kundalini. Kundalini Yogis believe that dormant energy exists in the human body located at the base of the spine which can be awakened by practicing Kundalini yoga which leads to an expanded state of consciousness.

Who should get into Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini yoga is usually practiced by people who consider themselves “spiritual” and/or believe in mystical experiences and esoteric ideas such as Chakras. It may not be a good choice for people who are only interested in improving their physical and mental well-being.

To learn the style of yoga that you prefer from an expert teacher, don't forget to take a look at our schedule for live yoga classes and join in!

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