There are several different styles of yoga, each based on its founder’s unique approach. The three major styles share a common lineage, as their founders were all students of Indian Yogi Krishnamacharya. These styles are Astanga, Iyengar and Viniyoga. Two other major styles, Integral and Sivananda, were created by disciples of the famous guru Sivananda.
The main difference between the styles is that of emphasis. One style may focus on alignment of the body, another may be holding the postures for period of time and yet another, the flow from one posture to another. Below are descriptions of some of the well-known styles of yoga.
Within a particular style of yoga, each instructor will add their own interpretation, so you will experience some variation even within a style. In addition, at Yoga Etc. Studio, our instructors will vary the practice based on the individual levels of the attending students.
Ananda Yoga was developed by Swami Kriyananda. It is a style of hatha yoga that uses asana and pranayama to awaken, experience, and begin to control the subtle energies of the chakras within oneself. The purpose is to use these energies to harmonize body, mind, and emotions, and – importantly – to attune oneself with a higher level of awareness. One unique feature of this system is the use of silent affirmations while in the asanas as a means of working with the subtle energies to achieve this attunement. Ananda Yoga is a relatively gentle, inward experience, not an athletic or aerobic practice.
ASHTANGA / POWER YOGA
For those who want a serious workout, this is it. Ashtanga, which means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. Developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga is physically demanding. Participants move through a series of flows, jumping from one posture to another to build strength, flexibility and stamina. This set series of poses is always performed in the same order. This style is very physically demanding because of the constant movement (flow) from one pose to the next.
Forrest Yoga is a dynamic and mindful yoga workout that builds flexibility, intelligence and strength while helping students deepen their relationship to their authentic selves. Forrest Yoga helps individuals heal from physical and emotional injuries while creating a more spacious home within themselves.
Hot Yoga is practiced in a 100-105 degree room, which allows for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. This series of poses warms and stretches muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Hatha is a very general term that can encompass many of the styles of yoga. If a class is described as Hatha style, it is probably going to be slow-paced and gentle and provide a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.
Developed by Swami Satchidananda, the man who taught the crowds at the original Woodstock to chant “Om,” Integral classes put almost as much emphasis on pranayama and meditation as they do on postures. Integral yoga is used by Dr. Dean Ornish in his groundbreaking work on reversing heart disease.
Iyengar is the creator of one of the most popular styles of yoga in the world, and is noted for great attention to detail and the precise alignment of postures, as well as the use of props such as blocks and belts. Instructors of this style must complete a rigorous 2-5 year training program for certification. Based on the teachings of the yogi B.K.S Iyengar, this style is most concerned with bodily alignment, which is the precise way in which your body should be positioned in each pose in order to obtain the maximum benefits and avoid injury. Iyengar practice usually emphasizes holding poses over long periods versus moving quickly from one pose to the next (flow).
KALI RAY TRIYOGA
Kali Ray TriYoga, founded by Kali Ray, brings posture, breath and focus together to create dynamic and intuitive flows. The Tri Yoga flows combine flowing and sustained postures that emphasize spinal wavelike movements, economy of motion, and synchronization with breath and mudra. The flows are systematized by level and can be as gentle or as challenging as desired. Students may progress from basic to advanced as they increase their flexibility, strength, endurance and knowledge of the flows.
Called the yoga of consciousness, Kripalu puts great emphasis on proper breath, alignment, coordinating breath and movement, and ‘respecting the wisdom of the body’ so that you work to the limit of your unique flexibility and strength. In this style, you learn to focus on the physical and psychological reactions caused by various postures to deepen your awareness of mind, body, emotion and spirit. There are three stages in Kripalu yoga: 1) learning the postures and exploring your body’s abilities, 2) learning to hold the postures for an extended time to develop concentration and inner awareness, and 3) learning movement from one posture to another, which arises unconsciously and spontaneously, and seen as meditation in motion.
Kundalini yoga in the tradition of Yogi Bhajan includes classic poses, breath, coordination of breath and movement, and meditation. While all asana practices make use of controlling the breath, the main purpose of this style is to free Kundalini energy in the lower body and allow it to move upwards. So with this practice, the exploration of the effects of the breath, or prana, on the postures is essential. Also, rapid, repetitive movements are a feature of this style, rather than poses held for a long time, and the teacher will often lead the class in call and response chanting.
Sivananda is one of the world’s largest schools of yoga. Developed by Vishnu-devananda and named for his teacher, Sivananda yoga follows a set structure that includes pranayama, classic asanas, and relaxation. Vishnu-devananda wrote one of the contemporary yoga classics, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. First published in 1960, the book is still one of the best introductions to yoga available.
Developed by Rama Berch, Svaroopa Yoga teaches significantly different ways of doing familiar poses, emphasizing the opening of the spine by beginning at the tailbone and progressing through each spinal area in turn. Every pose integrates the foundational principles of asana, anatomy and yoga philosophy, and emphasizes the development of transcendent inner experience, which is called svaroopa by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. This is a consciousness-oriented yoga that also promotes healing and transformation. Svaroopa is not an athletic endeavor, but a development of consciousness using the body as a tool.
Like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes. Vinyasa, which means breath-synchronized movement, tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called Sun Salutations, in which movement is matched to the breath. A Vinyasa class will typically start with a number of Sun Salutations to warm up the body for more intense stretching that’s done at the end of class.
Viniyoga is not so much a style as it is a methodology for developing practices for individual conditions and purposes. This is the approach developed by Sri. T. Krishnamacharya, teacher of well-known contemporary masters B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi, and continued by his son, T.K.V. Desikachar. Key characteristic of the asana practice are the careful integration of the flow of breath with movement of the spine, with sequencing, adaptations and intensity dependent upon the overall context and goals. Function is stressed over form. Practices may also include pranayama, meditation, reflection, study and other classic elements.