The many different styles of yoga can be very confusing to a beginner. Deciding which style to learn and practice is even more of a conundrum. It helps if you can have a guide to see what each style is supposed to do. Each asana, or pose, in yoga is supposed to address a specific part of the body.
The top fifteen yoga styles differ, depending one who created them and their intent for your body:
1. The Anusara style of yoga, originated by yoga teacher John Friend in 1997, is a modern version of Hatha Yoga. It focuses on what its founder calls the three “A’s”: an Attitude of an open heart, Alignment of the body, and the Action that is the natural flow of energy in a properly aligned body.
Anusara asanas also have 3 focal points for your body: the pelvic, the heart, and the upper palate at the roof of the mouth. Although the Anusara style of yoga seems a bit formal, its aim is not to fit everyone into perfect poses, but to encourage students and practitioners to adapt the poses to their own abilities.
2. The Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga style with its series of six strenuous asanas was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the early 20th century. Ashtanga is
Sanskrit for eight-limbed, and the style is so named because of the yogic eight limbs cited in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga incorporates pranayama, or breathing, into the practice of the asanas. The Surya Namaskara sequence of asanas usually precedes the six strenuous asanas, and a version of it usually closes the session.
3. Bikram yoga is often referred to as ‘hot yoga.’ While this term makes it sound like a sexy form of yoga, the ‘hot’ part simply refers to a style of yoga that is practiced in a room that is much like a sauna, with a temperature of 105 degrees and humidity at 40%. Bikram Choudhury, a yoga teacher from India, began this style of yoga in the mid-1900’s. It consists of 26 asanas done in the sauna-like atmosphere.
4. In Hindu tradition, the god Shiva is reputed to be the founder of Hatha Yoga. This style of yoga became quite popular as an exercise regimen in the 20th century. Classical Hatha Yoga can be traced back to the Buddha’s time. Many of the more modern schools of Hatha Yoga can be traced to Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, a yoga teacher from India who was also an ayurvedic practitioner.
Classical Hatha Yoga focuses on reaching samadhi, or union with the Divine force. The Hatha Yoga of today merely focuses on asanas that relax and rejuvenate the body, although it still emphasizes pranayama (breathing), partyahara (withdrawal of the senses, or mindfulness), dharana (development of a single focus), and dhyana (intense meditation) as well as Samadhi.
Hatha Yoga is perhaps one of the more commonly practiced versions of yoga in America today. This guide is continued in Part 2.