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Types of Yoga Explained - Part 1

I’ve been on a real yoga buzz recently, and for someone who gets bored of exercise routines really quickly, it excites me to know that there are just so many different types of yoga on offer out there to stretch my enthusiasm week to week. I thought a little research was in order, as although I’m open to giving anything a shot, it’s nice to have some idea of what you’re in for as you settle into your mat. Maybe you want to get your heart pumping, ‘open your heart’, or love the idea of mastering meditation. Whatever your yogi heart desires, this will give you a brief overview of some of the more popular forms of yoga being practiced today.

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Hatha yoga – the foundation of all yoga styles and is an easy-to-learn basic form of yoga.  It incorporates Asanas (postures), Pranayama (regulated breathing), meditation (Dharana & Dhyana) and kundalini (Laya Yoga) into a complete system. Hatha is a gentle practice where you move slowly and smoothly through dozens of poses. The focus is on holding the poses and integrating your breathing into the movement. Hatha is a great way to stretch, work your muscles, get in touch with your body, relax, and decrease stress. This style celebrates balance; the word “Hatha” comes from “ha,” meaning “sun,” and “tha,” meaning “moon.”

Acro Yoga – a form of partner yoga where two yogis work together for therapeutic release and acrobatic fun. One partner (called the base) supports the other (the flyer) in a series of aerial postures. There is also a spotter, who makes sure everyone has good alignment so the flyer doesn’t fall. Acro Yoga requires cooperation and trust. Acro yoga is often described as ‘blending the spiritual wisdom of yoga, the loving kindness of Thai massage, and the dynamic power of Acrobatics’. These three ancient lineages form this practice that cultivates trust, connection and playfulness. There are 7 main elements that make up the practice: circle ceremony, asana, partner flow, Thai massage, therapeutic flying, inversions & spotting, and partner acrobatics.

Anahata Yoga - referred to as a ‘meditative interpretation’ of hatha yoga. The focus of this style of yoga is the opening of the anahata chakra, or ‘heart center’, while at the same time correcting bad posture and opening up the chest, shoulders and lungs to enhance the flow of the life force into the body. This yoga type is characterized primarily by a flow of exercises, postures and short meditations. The practice itself is not designed to be physically taxing, but mainly to encourage full breathing, calmness, and an ‘opening’ of the heart centre.

Ananda Yoga – classes focus on gentle postures designed to move the energy up to the brain and prepare the body for meditation. Classes also focus on proper body alignment and controlled breathing. The aim is to move from body awareness through energy awareness to, finally, silent, inner awareness with the goal of harmonising the body, mind, and emotions – and ultimately connecting with your higher levels of awareness. A distinctive feature of this relatively new yoga practice is the use of affirmations while in the yoga postures.

Anusara Yoga – a relatively new form of yoga, which pairs strict principles of alignment with a playful spirit. Postures can be challenging, but the real message of Anusara is to open your heart and strive to connect with the divine in yourself and others.

Ashtanga Yoga – one of the most common styles of yoga being practiced today. This practice is also synonymous with Mysore yoga, but is usually referred to simply as ashtanga yoga (or sometimes ashtanga vinyasa yoga). It involves synchronizing breathing with progressive and continuous series of postures. This yoga style is a rigorous system physical exercises specifically designed to build strength, flexibility, and stamina. The set series of poses are always performed in the same order. In this physically demanding type, you move from one posture to the next in a continual flow, while at the same time linking movements to breath. This practice is called is called ‘vinyasa’.  This results in improved circulation, flexibility, stamina, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Ashtanga is designed to build strength and endurance. There is little emphasis on meditation with Ashtanga, and at the end of the session you will feel more like you have completed a traditional ‘workout’ than you would with any other type of yoga. Ashtanga is for you if you’re looking for a tough, physically challenging workout and is not the best choice for beginners.

Bikram Yoga – one of the common types of yoga being practiced today and is one of the more physically demanding types. Its practice is characterized by a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. The exercises are guided by very specific dialogue from the teacher, while at the same time performed in a room heated to 40.5 degrees Celsius (105°F), with 40 percent humidity. A comprehensive workout that includes all the components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular health, flexibility and weight loss. Each pose is usually performed twice and held for a certain period of time. Kapalabhati Breath or what is called the “breath of fire” is performed with each of the poses. The heat actually works to loosen your muscles. This in turn allows you to move more fluidly into a deeper yoga pose. Also, the heat challenges you to move past your comfort level into a focused mental state. Finally, the heat also helps you sweat, which facilitates the removal of toxins in your body. Take a towel and be prepared to sweat!

Dru Yoga – Dru yoga takes its name from the Sanskrit word druvam, which means ‘fixed’, ‘immovable’ or ‘in one place’. This word essentially refers to a state of stillness within the mind, which remains unaffected by the external world. This style of yoga is based upon soft, flowing movements, coupled with controlled breathing and visualisations. The primary intentions of this yoga style are strengthening the core stability of the body, stress relief, and building a sense of empowerment and overall wellbeing. Many of the postures and sequences of dru yoga are designed to activate anahata chakra (the heart centre). Another of the cornerstones of dru yoga involves a process they refer to as ‘energy block release’.

This is by no means an exhaustive list as philosophies around each form of yoga are very detailed and specific, but I thought I’d leave us all some time to actually practice the art  I hope that however you integrate the practice of yoga into your life, you receive joy in whatever form your desire. Part 2 coming next week!


Live well, live long, live naturally

Renée x

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