Hatha Yoga refers to the physical branch of yoga and the term includes all the styles of yoga. There are many more styles of yoga than the average person has time to learn. So you must choose very carefully from the styles available. I have outlined several of the most important ones below. All the styles share a common lineage. The founders of the three major styles of yoga Iyengar, Astanga and Viniyoga were all students of the same great teacher named Krishnamacharya. INTEGRAL YOGA and SIVANANDA YOGA were also founded by students of another great teacher named Sivananda. The Styles vary in the focus and emphasis they place on various aspects of hatha yoga. Whether its body alignment, breathing rituals, breathing coordination with the postures, length of time postures are held, the rhythm and selection of postures, meditation and spiritual inquiry. You should try to learn something about each style before you choose your first yoga class. Your choice of styles should be determined by your psychological needs and physical abilities. Do you want a vigorous workout with less attention paid to meditation and spiritual inquiry or are you looking for a good sweat and improved muscle strength and coordination or are you more interested in a balanced approach. I suggest you pick two or three different styles attend some classes and find one that suits you best. The DVD that Hatha Yoga Lesson has created is called (Yoga A Beginners Guide) it is meant to introduce the beginner to some important and basic yoga postures as well as provide a simple guide to the fundamentals of practice. When you have become familiar with what yoga feels like you can make a more informed choice as to which style you should practice.
Here are 11 of the most important styles of Yoga in alphabetic order
#1 ANANDA YOGA
#2 ASTANGA YOGA
#3 BIKRAMS YOGA
#4 INTEGRAL YOGA
#5 IYENGAR YOGA
#6 KRIPALU YOGA
#7 KUNDALINI YOGA
#8 POWER YOGA
#9 SIVANANDA YOGA
#10 SVAROOPA YOGA
ANANDA YOGA: Ananda Yoga was developed by Swami Kriyananda who was a disciple of Paramhansa Yoga Yogananda author of the famous book Autobiography of Yogi. This yoga is very gentle, the emphasis is on breathing and deep relaxation. While in pose the use of affirmation and self suggestion is used to clear and energize the mind in preparation for meditation. The spirit is recognized and acknowledged while in the postures. There are many exercises involving tensing and relaxing the muscles. The physical routine of postures is not extremely demanding, though you benefit from an overall feeling of strength and vitality. The emphasis in Ananda Yoga is on prayer, deep breathing techniques, auto-suggestion, and deep relaxation. A Spirit/Body path.
ASTANGA YOGA: A system of hatha yoga which was developed by K.Pattabhi Jois. This is one of the most athletic and intense yoga styles. The classes usually start with 5 salutations to the sun, followed by a flow of postures known as The Primary Series after which the Second, then the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth series is learned. Ujjayyi breathing is used as well as the Bhandas(refer to our breathing section).
BIKRAMS YOGA: Bikrams yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury he trained under Bishni Ghosh the brother of Paramahansa Yogananda. Bikrams Yoga is taught generally in a room with a carpeted floor and many mirrors. The temperature of the room is (95 to 105 degrees.) The heat helps soften the muscles and ligaments. You will sweat profusely, which is the point of the heat. Perspiration is the great cleansing mechanism of the body. The posture flow consists of 26 postures preformed twice within a 90 to 100 min. This workout is quite intense and can leave you sore if your unprepared athletically. The emphasis is more on the physical performance of the postures rather than on meditation or deep relaxation.
INTEGRAL YOGA: Developed by Swami Satchidananda. Dr Dean Omish uses this method in his ground breaking work on reversing heart disease. Integral yoga combines all the paths of yoga Postures, breath control, selfless service, prayer, chanting, meditation and spiritual self understanding into one single approach. There is emphasis towards the spiritual and meditative paths. Their motto is ( easeful in body, peaceful in mind and useful in life.) Their classes are usually 75 min. long with 45 min. of a gentle postures sequences, which are followed by deep relaxation and a breathing sequence, ending with meditation. This is an all around approach to hatha yoga.
IYENGAR YOGA: Developed in India by B.K.S. Iyengar it is now considered to be the most popular style of yoga in the west. The instructors are some of the best trained having to complete a 2 to 5 year training course. They are knowledgeable about anatomy and physiology and precise body placement in each posture. This style is a moderate intensity practice with more standing poses than seated. There is less focus on pranayama or breathing techniques and meditation. The emphasis rather is on proper alignment of the spine, placement of the hips and feet. Fewer poses are practiced because the focus is on holding each pose for longer periods of time. Great attention is paid to each persons individual needs and physical limitations, so props are use to assist in the postures. Beginners use blocks, yoga ties, belts, pillows, balls, the wall, sandbags ect.
KRIPALU YOGA: Founded by Yogi Amrit Desai who was taught by Kripalvanandaji a Kundalini Yoga master from India. This is a gentle to moderate practice. There are three stages to Kripalu Yoga. Stage One focuses on learning the postures and observing the consequent mental and emotional reactions you may be having to to the postures. You are here developing an awareness of the mental emotional and physical connections in yourself. Stage Two involves holding the postures for longer periods of time, concentration and inner awareness are developed. Stage three is called (Meditation In Motion.)In this stage the movement from one pose to another is allowed to flow more spontaneously The poses becomes unconscious expression of feeling and emotion. Free flow of postures directed by your bodies natural intelligence and intuition is the goal of this final stage of Kripalu Yoga. At each stage different intensities of the poses are offered from gentle to moderate and vigorous. This is a Spirit/Body path.
KUNDALINI YOGA: Kundalini yoga is in the tradition of Yogi Bhajan who brought the style to the west in 1969. Kundalini Yoga is a highly spiritual approach to hatha yoga. It involves chanting, meditation, breathing techniques all used to raise the kundalini energy which is coiled at the base of the spine. Very spiritual.
POWER YOGA: Power yoga is much like Ashtonga Yoga in that it is equally vigorous and athletic. It combines the eight limbs of yoga wisdom working with the students mental attitude and perspective. They use Bandas and Moodas to try to build energy for the demanding poses. Many athletes prefer this workout for training.
SIVANANDA YOGA: Developed by Swami Vishnudevananda a disciple of Swami Sivananda. This is a moderate intensity workout with a forceful beginning. It begins with 12 complete Salutations to the Sun followed by 12 classic yoga postures. The postures are practiced with synchronized breathing. There is chanting mantras designed to work up through the chakras. The point of the practices is to eventually transcend into a realm of pure spirit. A Spirit/body approach.
SVAROOPA YOGA: Developed by Rama Berch. This style of Hatha Yoga uses the body as means toward spiritual development. Its posture technique to open up successive area of the spine in order to develop the transcendent inner experience called(svaroopa). Svaroopa Yoga place great emphasis on healing the body and the mind as a prelude to inner transformation.
VINIYOGA: Developed by Krishnamacharya and is carried on by his son T.K.V. Desikachar. Viniyoga is the middle path between the exactness and detail of Iyenga Yoga and the athletic and physically demanding Ashtonga Yoga. The style was derived from (Vinyasa Karma) which literally means an organized course of yoga. The postures are tailored and modified to the physical needs and limitations of the student. There is deep respect for the individual and his body. The emphasis in the postures is on the spine and on the breathing. It combines postures, breathing techniques, with meditation, text study, counseling, imagery, prayer, and chanting.