Karma Yoga, Yin Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga… It is easy to get confused in the jungle of yoga styles. This list should help you to get an overview of the most important yoga styles and to find the right one for you.
Hatha Yoga - The mother of physical yoga
Sanskrit: hatha = force (ha stands for sun, tha stands for moon)
Hatha yoga is an ancient path of yoga that is closely linked to the traditional Raja yoga path. It is often mistakenly assumed that hatha yoga is an easy form of yoga. But actually, it is the origin of physical yoga. All exercises can be adjusted according to the age, fitness and health of the practitioner. Thus, exercises can be carried out very simply or challenging. The wonderful thing about hatha yoga is that even within a class the differences can be addressed. Consequently, yoga beginners and advanced students can train together and learn from each other. The goal of Hatha Yoga is to make the body flexible to be able to sit in meditation for a long period of time. Hatha Yoga serves as a preparation for higher spiritual practices.
A typical Hatha yoga class includes asanas (body exercises), pranayamas (breathing exercises), mudras (hand gestures), a long relaxation phase, meditation, and for advanced students also bandhas (neuromuscular locks) and shatkriyas (cleansing techniques).
Effort: * to ***
Focus: preparing body for meditation, spiritual growth
Vinyasa Yoga / Yoga Flow / Vinyasa Flow
Sanskrit: vinyasa = movement, connecting
Vinyasa Yoga puts the asanas of Hatha Yoga into a flowing sequence. At the same time the breath is consciously synchronized with the movements. Stretching and strengthening exercises are connected with each other in this very dynamic yoga style. To start with Vinyasa Yoga your should look for a beginners class. Classes for advanced students more complex exercises and the students need a lot of strength and stamina. The different levels cannot be combined in one class. Thus, it is important that you find a group that matches your difficulty level.
Effort: ** to ***
Focus: Concentration, strengthening the body
Sanskrit: kundal = coiled up
Kundalini Yoga focuses on the astral body, chakras (energy centers) and nadis (energy channels). The Asanas of Hatha Yoga are combined with the breath and a special motion sequence. The aim is to activate the Kundalini energy. This vital energy sits in the pelvis and is awakened through asanas (physical exercises), pranayama (breathing techniques), kriyas (purification techniques), meditation and mantra chants (singing).
Focus: Spiritual growth, strengthening and purifying the body
Sanskrit: ashtanga = eight limbs
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) developed this very powerful and dynamic form of hatha yoga. The exercises are performed in a fixed order. Often the asanas are linked by jumps and connected with the Ujjayi breathing. The Ujjayi breathing generates heat in the body and thus acts sweat-inducing and detoxifying. Power Yoga is a further developed form of Ashtanga Yoga, which was founded by the American Bryan Kest. In Power Yoga the sequence remains flexible and does not follow a fixed sequence.
Focus: Strengthening and cleansing the body, building stamina
B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014) developed this very powerful yoga style. The focus lies on the exact performance of the asanas, which are held longer and are linked dynamically. Typically, props such as blocks, straps and chairs are used. The teacher monitors and corrects the students if needed. To adjust the difficulty, individual transitions can be broken down into intermediate steps.
Effort: ** to ***
Focus: exact performance of the asanas, corrections, strengthening the body
The Indian physician Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) was a teacher for Hatha and Raja yoga. His student and close confidant Swami Vishnudevananda (1927-1993) founded the first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Montreal, Canada, in 1959. He brought yoga to the western world. Sivananda Yoga is Hatha Yoga but as a sign of respect is taught as Sivananda Yoga in the Sivananda Yoga Centers. Sivananda Yoga can be practiced at any stage of life. The special aspect about Sivananda Yoga, as it is also taught at Yog Temple, is that the traditional approaches of hatha yoga (asana, pranayama, deep relaxation, vegetarian diet, positive thinking and meditation) are taught in a holistic package.
Effort: * to ***
Focus: holistic approach; Spiritual growth, healthy and peaceful life, body strengthening and cleansing
Sanskrit: jivamukti = liberation of the soul
This Ashtanga Yoga inspired style was founded in 1987 by artist couple Sharon Gannon and David Life in New York. It combines asanas of Hatha Yoga with flowing, dance-like transitions. These are linked with a special breathing technique and music. Jivamukti yoga focuses on the body, ethics and a spiritual practice. Jivamukti yogis follow five tenets: Shastra (study of traditional yoga scriptures and Sanskrit), Bhakti (devotion to God), Ahimsā (nonviolence), Nāda (music - listening and chanting) and Dhyana (meditation).
Effort: * to ***
Focus: Body strength, ethnic lifestyle, spiritual growth
Bikram Choudhury developed this style of yoga in the 1970s and spread it in the USA. A sequence of 24 Hatha Yoga Asanas and 2 Pranayamas is taught in a 105 ° F (40 ° C) warm room with 40% humidity. This style enjoys great popularity in the western world, especially in the USA. However, in recent years there is growing criticism. The advertised detoxification process or the increased muscle flexibility could not be scientifically proven. Doctors are warning that the increased loss of water and electrolytes can lead to muscle cramps and circulatory collapse. This style has absolutely nothing to do with the spiritual side of yoga. It is more a gymnastics lesson in the sauna.
Focus: Strengthening body, improving balance
Yin Yoga / Fascia Yoga
Chinese: yin = feminine, passive principle
Yin Yoga was founded by Paulie Zink in the 1980s and later further developed by his student Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, a student of Grilley. In Yin Yoga, Hatha Yoga Asanas are held for longer periods of time (1-20 minutes). This loosens, stretches and strengthens the tissue around the joints. Holding a stretch for a long time is a significant aspect of hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is often mistakenly referred to as a purely active yoga style. The basic idea of the mother of yoga styles, however, is the combination of passive and active elements, of Yin and Yang, of female and male.
The difference between Hatha and Yin Yoga is that Yin Yoga relies exclusively on passive exercises. Further in Yin Yoga philosophical or physiological topics are explained or music is played. Many positions look the same in Yin and Hatha Yoga, but they are performed differently (special muscle groups are not claimed). To reflect the different approach Yin Yoga has new names for the asanas. Yin Yoga is increasing its popularity year by year thanks to its pain-relieving element and gentle classes. The passive Yin Yoga is the perfect combination to the active 'Yang Yoga Styles' like Vinyasa Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga.
Focus: Loosening tight tissue - relieve pain, finding inner peace
Sanskrit: anusara = follow, according to
In 1997, the American John Friend founded this yoga style, which focuses on opening the heart chakra. There has been a true Anusara hype, which ended abruptly in 2012 due to a scandal surrounding the founder, which led to his resignation as managing director. Since the restructuring, the Anusara Yoga community shows itself as humbler without guru or power structures. A classic Anusara yoga class is opened with a small philosophical lecture and is complemented by Hatha yoga asanas that specifically open and strengthen the heart region.
Effort: * to **
Focus: Physical, mental and spiritual opening of the heart
Therapeutic Yoga / Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy is a subgroup of hatha yoga. Specially developed sequences and methods are used for various problems like back pain, infertility, stress, depression ...). Further the self-healing powers are activated. A yoga therapy should be held in individual sessions in order to tailor it according to individual needs and physical limitations.
Effort: * to **
Focus: relief of pain, activation of self-healing powers
Luna = Roman moon goddess
In the 1980s, the German author Adelheid Ohlig expanded the menstruation-initiating methods of Aviva Steiner and thus founded Luna Yoga. The focus lies on the harmonious functioning of the woman's pelvic organs. Hatha yoga therapy sequences, Tantra and Ayurveda treatments contain menstrual and fertility-enhancing methods as well. In fact, Luna Yoga is not a new Yoga style, but it was revitalized to meet western needs. It is commonly offered as a form of therapy.
Effort: * to **
Focus: femininity, improving the function of female organs
The success of yoga in the West let the creativity of many business-oriented "yogis" spark. Thus, many mixed types came up, which have little or nothing to do with traditional Indian Yoga values. To name a few: Yogalates, Boxing Yoga, Dance Yoga, Water Yoga, Acro Yoga, Aerial Yoga, Goat Yoga ...
Paths of Yoga
The so-called "yoga styles", some of which we have introduced here, are all derived from traditional hatha yoga. In general, the goal of yoga is enlightenment. Hatha yoga is only one way to the reach Samadhi (Nirvana, Enlightment). In our article on Traditional Yoga Paths, you can find out what the four main paths of Yoga (Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga) are about and read what Kriya Yoga, Mantra Yoga and Tantra Yoga is.
Yoga at Yog Temple
We offer Yoga Classes and Yoga teacher trainings in Austria and India. Our approach towards Yoga is holistic so that we can show our students the right yogic path. Moreover, we hand over authentic tools to our students, which they will need on their spiritual journey.
We teach all four paths of yoga (karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, raja yoga) and integrate traditional hatha yoga style as well as the wholeness of Sivananda Yoga, the depth of Iyengar yoga and the dynamics of Vinyasa Yoga.
Nipun Sharma, founder of Yog Temple, was born and brought up in India. He studied authentic knowledge of Yoga, which was further developed by great masters such as Swami Sivananda-Ji and B.K.S. Iyengar-Ji.
Yog Tempel has the great honor and pleasure to pass on this great and ancient knowledge to students in Austria.