Today there is a different style of yoga class available on almost every corner. What makes it more confusing is that types of yoga are now more like brand names instead of traditional styles.

How do you know which type of yoga is right for you? The best way to know is to speak directly to the instructor. Find out about the teacher’s background, their approach, and then try the class at least once.

Here is an abbreviated description of the more common kinds of yoga that you will encounter.

HATHA YOGA:  This is the umbrella term that describes all yoga that involves work with the body. Generally, breath work (pranayama), poses (asana) and meditation, are all a part of hatha yoga. All of the yoga styles below are hatha yoga.

IYENGAR YOGA: (Based on teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar) This yoga emphasizes precise physical alignment in poses. Good for someone with an injury or illness where misalignment of bones, ligaments, and even organs are causing or contributing to the problem. Uses props such as straps, blocks, blankets and bolsters to allow people to hold poses if they do not have sufficient strength or flexibility.

RESTORATIVE YOGA: (Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar) This therapeutic yoga involves using straps, blocks, blankets and bolsters to prop your body in relaxing (usually lying down) poses. The goal is to support muscles and joints so that you can relax deeply, or initiate “the relaxation response,” which reduces stress and can induce healing of injuries and recovery from illness.

ASHTANGA OR POWER YOGA: (Based on teachings of K. Pattabhi Jois) A vigorous style of yoga that involves poses (asanas) that are presented in a specific sequential order, using sun salutations as warm up. In these classes you will go from one pose to the next, quickly, often jumping to get to the next one. The sequence, practiced with continuous Ujjayi breathing, will be the same whether you are in California, Canada, or India.

VINAYASA FLOW YOGA:  Adapted from Ashtanga yoga. Basic ideas are the same--a vigorous set of poses with continuous Ujjayi breath-- but the sequence of poses can be changed at the discretion of the instructor, allowing for a bit of creativity. Movement is timed with breath, and “sun salutations”  may be inserted in between.

BIKRAM OR HOT YOGA:  A style of yoga done in a room that may be heated to 100 degrees or more. The same poses are sequenced in the same order each class, with the instructor reciting the words of the inventor, Choudhury Bikram. Not recommended for people with health conditions.

KRIPALU YOGA:  A combination of Western psychotherapy and Eastern wisdom, Kripalu yoga emphasizes looking inward, emotional release and spiritual transformation. Students are encouraged to process their feelings that come up during class. Classes usually involve chanting, breath work, meditation, postures and some free-form improvisation.

KUNDALINI YOGA:  The emphasis in Kundalini yoga is on the breath, with the intention of “moving energy” up the spine. This tends to engage the sympathetic or stimulating part of the nervous system. Poses, chanting, meditation and repeating mantras are part of this yoga. It also tends to seem to have a more religious bend (practitioners wear turbans and white clothes), which may intimidate some. Interestingly, Kundalini instructors are trained to teach without touching their students.

INTEGRAL YOGA: A yoga that emphasizes finding the combination of yoga types that suits the individual. This includes combining the branches of Raja, Hatha, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, and Japa yoga. Classes may include pieces of each branch, such as poses, breathwork, guided relaxation, mudra (energy seals), bandhas (energy locks), cleansing practices, mantra repetition, chanting, prayer, and reading of yoga sutras (scriptures).

GYM YOGA: Yoga a gyms can include one or a mixture of all of the above styles, depending on the instructor. Great care should be taken to learn the training background of these instructors, especially if you have any injuries or other health conditions.

Types or styles of yoga

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