Yoga is a discipline that in recent years has gained prominence and more and more people practice it, not only for its physical benefits but also mental: since this practice combines physical exercise with the care of the mind and the connection with inner peace.
But, unlike other sports where there are no variations - a spinning class will always be spinning or a body pump class will always have the same common thread - with yoga we find different styles and often we do not know which one to choose. There are numerous styles of yoga, almost all of them variants of the traditional Hatha Yoga. Since the mid-twentieth century, various physical yoga methods involving both the body and asanas have been developed: some were created by Indian masters (Sivananda, Ashtanga or Iyengar) and others by Western masters and teachers (such as Power Yoga, Bikram or Yin).
In order to choose the style of yoga that best suits you, you must first ask yourself what you are looking for in yoga, as you can choose a practice that focuses more on spirituality, dynamism or understand your practice as a moment of relaxation. In the spiritual case, you will find practices more focused on the concepts of yoga philosophy, meditation or mantra chanting; while the more dynamic yoga practices involve more the body and muscles through the different postures -or asanas-, although the teacher can always include more breathing and moments of meditation. And finally, passive yoga focuses on learning relaxation.
Although nowadays you can start with any style of yoga -as your teacher will always be able to guide you according to your level-, as we have seen in previous posts, it is usually recommended to start practicing yoga with traditional Hatha.
What types of yoga are there?
As we mentioned, there are many different types of yoga, but here we will collect the most known and practiced ones:
Hatha yoga means discipline of strength, this strength seeks the balance of the polarities that are within us. It is a soft and slow practice, not aggressive and suitable for all ages, it is also highly recommended for beginners, since during its practice the different postures are maintained long enough to get to know and practice each one of them.
It is considered a very mystical and complete practice, since its practices contain the wisdom of the ancient tradition of Vedanta, Ayurveda, yoga philosophy and ancient Indian texts. The Sivananda system synthesizes the benefits of Hatha Yoga in twelve postures, and incorporates chants, mantras and sun salutations in each practice; reflecting in the asana work a way to strengthen the body as well as the mind and spiritual life.
This type of yoga is also a variant of traditional Hatha and was created by the Indian master B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014). The aim of this method is to seek the perfection of the different asanas in order to achieve total balance; and its focus is on the alignment of the body, so there is a strict observance of the position of the spine, shoulders, hips and feet. In addition, this style is popularly known as "yoga furniture", since its practice incorporates the use of props -such as yoga blocks, straps, etc-.
This modality was created by master Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), and is considered the most physically demanding yoga, due to the numerous dynamic sequences -vinyasas- it includes. It is a type of practice that is executed from memory through a fixed series of asanas and a defined order, so it is practiced in a very fluid and continuous way -passing from one posture to another in an accelerated manner-, so it is also considered a moving meditation. The main focus is the synchronization of movements and breathing, and its pillars and bases to work on concentration and energy increase are: the breath itself, the energetic closures and the focus of the gazes.
Vinyasa is the name in Sanskrit language for the relationship between movement and breathing, thus, this is a generic name for the styles with dynamic sequences -which receive the name of "vinyasa"- that are guided with different levels of difficulty. This yoga modality is based on the practice of postures that involve body movements synchronized with specific breaths; and as the practice deepens, the level of difficulty of the asanas increases, although the sessions always end with relaxation exercises.
This type of yoga was spread by Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004) and is defined as the yoga of consciousness or energy, as it aims to awaken the cosmic energy. Kundalani Yoga awakens this energy circuit by activating each of the chakras we possess, through the performance of asanas, breathing techniques, relaxation and meditation, as well as chanting mantras or sacred sounds.
This is a passive style of Hatha Yoga composed of postures that are held in a relaxed manner for 3 to 5 minutes, and through this practice the deepest levels of the body, heart and mind are worked. In spite of being a passive technique, it does not mean that maintaining a posture for so long is an easy task, many times it requires a deep mental relaxation work. This type of practice is ideal to complement it also with a more active practice.
This is a gentle form of yoga that encourages a state of both physical and mental relaxation; and is ideal for people who have suffered injuries and are in rehabilitation, who are beginning to use different yoga props, or simply for those days when a calmer practice is desired.
What is the best type of yoga and which one should I choose?
You have to keep in mind that there is no one type of yoga better than another; each person is different and each moment of life has different characteristics, and according to these you can choose your yoga style.
When looking for the ideal type of yoga for you, you should always have an attitude of conscious listening to you -that is, listen to your body and be realistic with your goals and capabilities-, you should also objectively evaluate your needs and possibilities -both physical and emotional- and inform yourself of the different types of yoga that exist, and are taught in your nearest center, and which is the most suitable for your physical condition.
Practicing yoga at the beginning can be a little difficult, as it is a challenging type of exercise, but when you practice it, it should give you a sense of wellbeing and inner happiness. Therefore, we encourage you to continue practicing, try different styles and find the one that gives you the most well-being, you can even combine different styles throughout your week!