Yoga is an ancient practice, which comes from India, that involves movement, meditation and breathing techniques promoting mental health and physical well-being.
However, the word yoga is currently too vague to describe the various types of yoga that exist because it has been "split up" into several styles but you can always find some of them that definitely work best for you. In this article, we shine a light on the main styles.
Hatha yoga is the classic style of yoga, meaning that it is the base of all the different types that followed. Known as "the yoga of force", when compared to the next two styles it is generally practiced more slowly and with more static postures where you have to hold longer.
In Hatha, ‘Ha’ means sun (active energy) and ‘Tha’ means moon (passive energy), and the combination of these two separate words means the balance of solar and lunar energy. In addition, Hatha yoga is very popular in the west for developing focus, strength and flexibility. Basically, if you want to learn the basics of yoga, then this is the perfect choice!
Vinyasa is a style of yoga where you won't be bored, as no two classes are alike. In terms of the benefits of this practice, the fact that the postures are always very different is very good at preventing injuries that can occur by continuing to make the same movements every day.
Comparing Hatha Yoga with Vinyasa, they follow some of the same postures but the main difference is in the rhythm of the classes, as Vinyasa classes move at a faster pace, requiring greater breathing control than Hatha Yoga. In fact, Vinyasa lessons are known for their intensive movement practices.
This type of yoga was taught in 1900 by the Indian yoga guru, K. Pattabhi Jois. Although it is actually a form of Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga is a more athletic and challenging yoga style. Furthermore, the main difference is that Ashtanga classes follow the same six sets of specific sequences.
It is a physically demanding technique that improves the body's strength and flexibility. It also potentially has mindfulness benefits due to the need to be present as you move through challenging sequences.
As this is a rigorous and demanding practice, don't forget to bring your towel, as you will get sweaty. If you are looking for an intense activity that develops your flexibility and balance, this type is ideal for you.
Yin yoga is known to focus on passive sitting postures (hence it's called yin) that exercise the connective tissues in the hips, pelvis, and spine, holding in the position for a period of time that can range up to 10 minutes.
It can be very difficult because of how uncomfortable some of the positions can be. People who suffer from low bone density, osteoporosis or a similar condition should avoid it as it involves long periods of spinal flexion.
If you are looking for a more spiritual practice, this is for you, as a kundalini yoga class usually consists of a form of yoga that involves breathing exercises, repetitive postures, and chanting. Compared to other styles of yoga, it is more spiritual, helping to increase your awareness.
The world “Kundalini” comes from the Sanskrit word “kundal”. The aim is to activate the energy and channel upward through the chakras in the process of spiritual perfection, according to Vedantic culture.
Created by Bikram Choudhury in the 70s, the aim is to improve health. This practice is done in a room at around 40 degrees Celsius. Bikram believed that a hot environment would make it easier for students to stretch; in addition they would feel more excited after the sessions.
In terms of benefits, it can increase flexibility and heart health, while increasing respiratory awareness and help you to lose weight as you sweat a lot.
However, this type of yoga requires you to be careful, as you will first need to drink plenty of water to hydrate your body. Also, if you have any health problems, consult your doctor before starting hot yoga.
Flow Yoga is a style of yoga in which the practitioner dynamically moves from one posture to another, following the breath. In these movements, the practitioner breathes according to a sequence of postures. Either way, this flow of movement and breathing brings you into a meditative state and helps you to let go of thoughts and stay in the present.
These lessons can vary, depending on the teacher, from gentle lessons to strong physical challenges. To be sure what type of class you are going to, you can ask if it is a more “powerful flow” or a “softer flow” yoga class.
All in all, keep in mind that a yoga class is a very personal thing and the best way to find out if you like it or not is always to try.
Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252