There are many styles of yoga, so it helps to review a list of different types to get a better understanding of the experience you might prefer. The yoga experience is different for everyone, so the type of yoga that your best friend enjoys might not be the best yoga style for you.
Understanding the Different Types of Yoga
The following types of yoga are some of the more popular disciplines found in yoga studios and in private practice. Even though some of these styles have been created by modern yogis, the core practices descend from the foundational Hatha Yoga established by the yoga gurus centuries ago.
Combining rigorous alignment with Tantric philosophy, John Friend created Anusara Yoga in 1997 to “align with the divine.” Each class starts with a devotion, and follows the “Universal Principles of Alignment”.
- Popular modern instructors: John Friend
- DVD: Friend’s Grand Gathering
- Book: none available at press time of April 2011
Established by K. Pattabhi Jois, this is a flowing form of yoga that incorporates vinyasa, or flow, between held asanas. Students move through a series of different postures, and each series increases the difficulty.
- Popular modern instructors: Richard Freeman, David Swenson
- DVD: Freeman’s Ashtanga Yoga: The Primary Series
- Book: Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual
Developed in 1974 by Bikram Choudhury, this type of yoga is a series of 26 asanas, always executed in the same sequence, in a room heated to 80-105 degrees Fahrenheit. Class runs 90 minutes, and practitioners learn special breathing exercises as well as asana. Only Bikram-certified studios can hold classes.
- Popular modern instructors: No one person, as all Bikram instructors follow the exact same sequence
- DVD: Bikram does not issue DVDs
- Book: Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class
Even though Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all practices, there are many interpretations of it. Some studios list Hatha Yoga at levels based on a student’s expertise. The physical practice will focus on form, while the more esoteric aspects will incorporate The Eight Limbs of Yoga.
- Popular modern instructors: Lilias Folan, Rod Stryker
- DVD: Folan’s Yoga 101 Workout
- Book: Hatha Yoga Illustrated by Kirk, Boon, and DiTuro
Hot Yoga follows the principle that a heated room warms the muscles and detoxifies the body. Hot Yoga is not Bikram, but students often practice in a studio with a temperature of more than 85 degrees.
- Popular modern instructors: James Barken, Marilyn Barnett
- DVD: The Barken Method: Hot Yoga
- Book: Barnett’s Hot Yoga: Energizing, Rejuvenating, Healing
B.K.S. Iyengar is a descendent of strong yoga lineage. Because he suffered from severe illnesses as a child and young man, he perfected a type of yoga that focused on key alignment for better health. Iyengar poses are held for long periods of time, motivated by breath, to encourage the body to expand beyond limitations.
- Popular modern instructors: Patricia Walden, Rodney Yee
- DVD: Walden’s Yoga for Beginners and Yee’s Advanced Yoga
- Book: Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
Sharon Gannon and David Life developed Jivamukti Yoga in 1984 based on the spiritual aspects of yoga. Practitioners say because of this focus on core spirituality, this style is stimulating mentally, emotionally, and physically.
- Popular modern instructors: Gannon and Life
- DVD: Transform Yourself with Jivamukti Yoga
- Book: Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul
This is the most spiritual yoga practice. It incorporates every facet of yoga, including pranayama (breathing) techniques, asana, chanting, and meditation, all designed to awaken latent energy. Some practitioners say this is the most difficult of all yoga practices.
- Popular modern instructors: Gurmukh
- DVD: Gurmukh’s Kundalini Yoga
- Book: Kundalini Book of Living and Dying by Ravindra Kumar
Known as the yoga of sleep, Nidra is a powerful practice that helps students experience a different level of consciousness through meditation.
- Popular modern instructors: Swami J. Bharti, Richard Miller
- DVD/CD: Bharti’s Yoga Nidra Meditation CD
- Book: Miller’s Yoga Nidra
The name says it all: an intense, flowing practice with a great deal of movement and strengthening postures.
- Popular modern instructors: Baron Baptiste, Beryl Bender Birch
- DVD: Baptiste’s Journey Into Power
- Book: Birch’s Beyond Power Yoga
Yes, Tantra can be sensual, but Tantric Yoga is also about creating enlightenment. There are many levels of Tantra, each of which explore the deeper meaning of self.
- Popular modern instructors: Steve and Lokita Carter
- DVD: Carters' Tantric Yoga for Lovers
- Book: Inner Tantric Yoga by Dr. David Frawley
Vinyasa means “flow”, and there are numerous variations of the practice. Movement is coordinated with breath to form a dynamic sequence. The Sun Salutation Sequence is a type of Vinyasa.
- Popular modern instructors: Kate Potter, Seane Corn
- DVD: Potter’s Ultimate Yoga Experience
- Book: Corn’s Detox Flow Yoga
Try More Than One Type
Always keep an open mind regarding the different styles of yoga, and be willing to try something not part of your regular practice. You might have fun with the new experience, and want to freshen up your personal routine with some of the techniques you learn.