Different Types of Yoga Today
This page briefly outlines some of the different types of yoga that have become popular today. On the previous page you’ll find a list of the traditional yoga types, with brief summaries of each of those as well.
Different Types of Yoga Today
Yogi Amrit Desai (the founder of Kripalu Yoga) created this yoga type, which is best described as ‘meditation in motion’ – a practice which integrates joyful inner stillness with effortless outer action. The principle objective of Amrit yoga is to help one to learn to live in harmony and, as they refer to it, ‘alignment’.
This style of yoga is a deeply mindful practice. It combines elements of hatha yoga raja yoga. Cultivating inward focus and meditative awareness is a principle focus during the practice of the poses and pranayamas.
There are three essential stages in this yoga. Types of practices which are dynamic in nature are characteristic at each level. Stage one consists of an active routine of 26 positions. The practitioner then moves through 2 additional stages, gradually developing an intuitive, meditative flow through the postures, all the while releasing inner tensions and cultivating at a deep, heart-centred state of peaceful integration.
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Anahata yoga was developed by Ana Costa, who refers to it 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 was developed by an American named Donald J. Walters (Swami Kriyananda), who was a direct disciple of the famous Paramahamsa Yogananda.
Still one of the less common types of yoga today, ananda yoga is a gentle practice that combines breath awareness, affirmations and yoga postures. Its methodology is to move from body awareness through energy awareness to, finally, silent, inner awareness.
The objective of this yoga style is to harmonize the body, mind, and emotions – and to ultimately attune oneself with higher levels of awareness. A distinctive feature of this new-age yoga is the use of affirmations while in the yoga asanas (postures).
Of the many modern styles of yoga, anusara yoga is of relative recent advent. It was founded in 1997 by John Friend, and combines a strong emphasis on physical alignment with, according to their website, a ‘philosophy that believes in the intrinsic goodness of all beings’.
Anusara classes are put forth as being light-hearted as well as accessible to students of differing abilities. During these yoga sessions, poses are taught in a way that opens the heart, both physically and mentally. Specific props are also often used to aid in the practice.
Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is among the most common styles of yoga being practiced today. This practice is also synonymous with Mysore yoga (or Mysore ashtanga yoga), but is usually referred to simply as ashtanga yoga (or sometimes ashtanga vinyasa yoga).
This yoga style is a rigorous system of ‘yoga-based’ physical exercises, which were developed by K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore India. These exercises were specifically designed to build strength, flexibility, and stamina.
This is quite evident in the practice, which consists of a set series of poses, which are always performed in the same order. In this physically demanding type, yoga students move from one posture to the next in a continual flow, while at the same time linking movements to breath. This practice is called a ‘vinyasa’.
There are six series, or ‘levels’ of practices in this modern ashtanga yoga, with each successive one more advanced in its physical postures and techniques.
Since ashtanga vinyasa has become an extremely popular style of yoga today, much confusion has resulted around the term ashtanga. This modern ‘exercise yoga’ should not be confused with the classical ashtanga yoga of sage Patanjali.
Of the common types of yoga being practiced today, Bikram yoga is certainly among the most well-known. It was developed by Bikram Choudhury and has hundreds of studio franchises today, primarily in North America.
Its practice is characterized by a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. These practices are also guided by a 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.
Children’s yoga may not really be considered one of the specific styles of yoga, although the term ‘children’s yoga’ (or kid’s yoga) is popular now and applied generally to yoga classes or practices specifically designed for children.
The practices put forth as children’s yoga can encompass a wide variety of activities, which vary according to the individual teacher. One should therefore contact the yoga provider directly to gain specific information about the classes or programs that they offer.
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), reflecting one of its primary bases, which is the development of ‘heart power’. Another of the cornerstones of dru yoga involves a process they refer to as ‘energy block release’.
Ana Forrest, creator of Forrest Yoga, has spent 30 years developing Forrest Yoga specifically to address current day stresses and challenges, both physical and emotional.
Forrest Yoga uses intense pose sequences with the aim of “awakening each of the senses,” and helping you to “connect to your core.” The methodology involves the use of heat, deep breathing and vigorous sequences, as well as holding positions for longer periods of time.
The pillars of Forrest Yoga are Breath, Strength, Integrity and Spirit. Its stated mission is to “create a sense of freedom, a connection to one’s spirit and the courage to walk as one’s spirit dictates.”
Forrest Yoga is a practice that builds flexibility, intelligence and strength with the idea of “helping you to deepen the relationship with your authentic self.”
Flow yoga may not really reflect any of the particular styles of yoga, per se, but its practice is becoming an increasingly popular aspect of the modern approach to yoga.
This word ‘flow’ is a generic term that has become very popular in Western yoga culture. Flow yoga is based upon postures and breathing practices from the hatha yoga tradition, and generally refers to the integration of movement with deep, abdominal breathing.
Nowadays, one is quite likely to see a particular yoga class advertised as ‘flow yoga’, although the style of practice and techniques given in these sessions can vary greatly according to the individual teacher.
The teachings of Swami Gitananda Giri Gurumaharaj of Pondicherry India are referred to by his students as Gitananda Yoga. Swami Gitananda himself found much folly in the growing number of new ‘types of yoga’ today. He referred to his system of yoga as Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga, as he felt this name accurately reflected his teachings, which were based upon the traditional ashtanga yoga as passed down through the lineages of the great saints and sages of ancient India, who were known as Rishis.
Along with being a realized master of yoga, Swami Gitananda was also trained in modern allopathic medicine, and thus was able to combine the ancient traditional spiritual sciences with a modern, scientific temperament to form a uniquely profound, yet very practical exploration of the traditional teachings of yoga.
One of SwamiJi’s principal messages was, “Yoga is a way of life”, and the teachings of Gitananda Yoga reflect this by recognizing the necessity of applying the principles of yoga to every aspect of one’s life, and not just focusing on physical exercises and techniques.
But Gitananda Yoga also includes a complete system of hatha yoga practices that provide a foundation for the higher techniques. Thus, for those who were able to properly prepare themselves, Swami Gitananda provided a complete system of jnana yoga techniques to purify the mind, freeing it of hang-ups and false concepts and conditionings.
… and for those who are able to attain a sufficient level of mental concentration and purity, Gitananda Yoga goes on to initiate them into the raja yoga practices, which reveal the psychic world of the higher spiritual energies.
For more about Swami Gitananda and Gitananda Yoga, visit http://www.icyer.com
Hot Yoga was, at first, and offshoot of the wildly popular Bikram Yoga, yet nowadays it has become a well-recognizable style of yoga itself.
Hot yoga is performed with much the same approach as Bikram Yoga. It utilizes a heated room for the performance of various poses, yet it differs in the sense that it is not subject to the strict performance of the 26 precise asanas and the associated verbal script that is characteristic of Bikram Yoga. The actual techniques employed, and the style of hot yoga classes can, however, vary according to each individual teacher.
One of the earlier of the modern styles of yoga to be developed for Western seekers, integral yoga was created by Swami Satchidananda (who gained fame at the 1969 Woodstock Festival), along with and his student, Dr. Dean Ornish, who used this yoga style to treat heart patients.
Integral Yoga, however, is also the term used by Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry India. Aurobindo’s integral yoga referred to the union of all the parts of one’s being with the Divine. The nature and practice of his integral yoga is described in his Synthesis of Yoga.
A lesser known of the modern types of yoga, ISHTA yoga was created in the late 1960s by Alan Finger and his father, Kavi Yogi Sivananda Mani Finger, of South Africa. ISHTA stands for the Integrated Science of hatha, tantra and ayurveda.
This style of yoga practice claims, according to their website, to be “a physical and spiritual form of yoga that addresses the individual needs of each student who practices it”. Its practice blends different postures, breathing and mental focusing techniques in ways that range from slow movement to more vigorous, heart-pumping, sweat-inducing series.
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The founder of this, perhaps the most recognizable of all the modern types of yoga, was BKS Iyengar of India.
Iyengar yoga focuses on precision of physical alignment, and perfection of posture. It is also characterized by its use of props, such as belts, cushions, straps, blocks and benches as aids in performing the positions.
This popular style of yoga often emphasizes holding poses over long periods, stressing the development of flexibility, strength, stamina, balance and concentration.
Jivamukti yoga is relatively new type of yoga, created in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon. In the Sanskrit language, jiva is the word that refers to the ‘individual soul’. Mukti means ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’.
Similar to some of the other modern types of yoga, jivamukti emphasizes vigorous asanas (poses) performed in a vinyasa-style series. However, it also incorporates meditation/visualizations, chanting and uplifting music, with each class having a particular theme to be explored.
This yoga style was first popularized in New York City and today finds popularity with many Hollywood celebrities and famous personalities.
American Kali Ray founded this style of yoga. Its practice brings posture, breath and focus together to create what she refers to as dynamic and intuitive flows. These ‘triyoga flows’ combine fluid movements and static postures, emphasizing spinal wavelike movements and the synchronization of movement with the breath.
The triyoga flows are organized into seven levels, with students progressing to more advanced practices as they increase their flexibility, endurance and strength.
The first of the 2 types of yoga created by Amrit Desai was kripalu yoga. This practice emphasizes proper breath, alignment and the coordination of breath and movement. In kripalu yoga, students learn to focus on the physical and psychological reactions caused by various postures, and to develop a more subtle awareness of their mind, body and emotions.
Similar to Amrit yoga, the kripalu style of yoga takes the student through three essential stages starting with the practice of certain postures (stage 1); then holding the postures longer while further developing concentration and inner awareness (stage two); and finally to stage three, whereby the movement from one posture to another occurs spontaneously and unconsciously.
Please see ashtanga vinyasa yoga.
Made popular by Beryl Bender Birch, power yoga is certainly one of the more fashionable types of yoga being propagated today. In essence, power yoga is a Western version of the ashtanga vinyasa yoga of Sri Pattabhi Jois, of Mysore India.
The dynamic movements characteristic of ashtanga vinyasa yoga are also a primary feature of power yoga, although power yoga does not necessarily keep strictly to the set series of poses prescribed in modern ashtanga. Like ashtanga vinyasa yoga, power yoga is a dynamic, challenging and sweat-inducing practice.
‘Pre’ and ‘Post Natal’ yoga are not particular types of yoga, per se. They are generic terms which are used to refer to any yoga practices designed for women during pregnancy or after delivery.
The practices and the methodologies employed during pre and post-natal classes will vary according to the training and approach of the individual teacher… and so you are advised to contact the yoga provider directly to gain more specific information about their classes and programs.
Swami Satyananda was a disciple of the famous Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh. The headquarters for his organization is in Bihar, India, but there are many followers of his teachings around the world.
Compared to the many new forms of yoga that have emerged in recent decades, Satyananda yoga more closely resembles the traditional types of yoga.
Here is a comprehensive system of yoga that includes asanas, pranayama, cleansing techniques, practices for mental concentration, sense withdrawal (pratyahara) and meditation, all brought together in a unified package that aims to integrate all aspects of one’s being in a meaningful way which is also relevant to modern day life.
A distinctive element of Satyananda yoga is a technique that he refers to as yoga nidra, which involves a systematic relaxation of the body and the mind, with the goal of eventually helping one’s consciousness to move ‘beyond the mind’.
Siddha yoga isn’t necessarily properly classified under types of yoga. It is more of a ‘yoga movement’ than any particular style of yoga. It was founded by Swami Muktananda, a Hindu guru from India, in the 1970s and has centers in many countries around the world today.
Siddha yoga draws many of its teachings from the Vedantic texts of ancient India, including the Bhagavad Gita, as well as from the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism. Its practice includes mantra chanting, meditation, seva, satsanga, darshan and dakshina.
Swami Sivananda was a famous guru from Rishikesh, India. He had many disciples who themselves went on to garner much recognition worldwide. One such disciple was Swami Vishnu-Devananda, whose teachings and centers he named after his own guru, Swami Sivananda.
In 1957 he founded the first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, of which there are now nearly 80 locations worldwide, including several ashrams and retreats.
The Sivananda style of yoga focuses on classical hatha yoga postures, pranayama, relaxation and meditation. There are twelve basic poses that form the foundation of the practices in Sivananda yoga, which aim to increase strength and flexibility, and promote proper breathing. Typical practice sessions also include the surya namaskar (sun salutation), while incorporating chanting, meditation, and deep relaxation as well.
Svaroopa Yoga was developed by Rama Berch. It is a therapeutic style of hatha yoga that teaches significantly different ways of doing familiar poses, emphasizing a deep opening in the muscles around the spine. While focusing on alignment, props are often used to help the student relax into the pose.
Developed by A.G. Mohan and his wife Indra, of Chennai India, svastha yoga is another one of the types of yoga based upon the teachings of his guru, Sri T. Krishnamacharya (along with Iyengar yoga, the Mysore Ashtanga yoga of Sri Pattabhi Jois, and Viniyoga of T.K.V. Desikachar).
Svastha yoga was developed as a means to promote structural health by improving both spinal strength and flexibility, while also conditioning mental steadiness. Thus, the sequence of yoga asanas taught in this yoga style progress from simple to more challenging, while at the same time incorporating both dynamic and static postures.
There is a personal emphasises in svastha yoga, which approaches each person uniquely, honouring their different needs, goals and limitations, and crafting a practice suitable for the individual.
Taoist yoga is not one of the styles of yoga that would fit properly into the yoga tradition, but its practices are certainly in keeping with the many of new yoga styles around today. Taoist yoga is a system of vigorous exercises designed to develop strength, flexibility and balance, and to enhance the flow of energy in the body.
Some of the positions and exercises of this practice are similar to those found in hatha yoga, also incorporating similar breathing techniques from this ancient school of yoga as well. But some of the practices also stem from the Chinese tai chi tradition, which is why it is portrayed by the name ‘taoist’.
Viniyoga is a type of yoga practice created by T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of Sri T. Krishnamacharya. It is a gentle practice, wherein certain poses are synchronized with the breath in sequences determined by the individual needs of the practitioner.
Viniyoga modifies the yoga pose in order to meet the specific needs of each individual practitioner, with the goal of promoting healing and enhancing the flexibility and strength of the joints.
Practices may also include aspects of breathing (pranayama), meditation, contemplation, deeper study and other classic elements of yoga, yet the emphasis remains on coordinating breath and movement.
The flowing movements in viniyoga, also referred to as vinyasas, are similar to the dynamic series of postures in ashtanga vinyasa yoga. The vinyasas in viniyoga, however, are performed at a greatly reduced pace and stress level, while specific postures and ‘flows’ are chosen to suit the individual student’s abilities. Therefore, viniyoga is usually taught in small groups or one on one.
Vinyasa is a general term used within many different types of yoga. It simply means a ‘breath-synchronized movement’. In most styles of yoga that employ vinyasas (such as power yoga or ashtanga vinyasa yoga), these movements tend to be fairly vigorous actions.
Although a vinyasa itself does not adhere to any specific sequence, it is commonly based upon the surya namaskara, or ‘sun salutations’ series of postures.
Yin yoga is another modern cross-discipline system of exercises that isn’t necessarily in keeping with traditional types of yoga. In effect, this system represents an application of a Chinese taoist analysis to some of the mechanical practices of hatha yoga.
Yin yoga selects postures to gently stretch and release the connective tissues around major joints of the body, while at the same time putting slight pressure on the joints themselves. The muscles are held as relaxed as possible while performing these poses, and are maintained anywhere from 2 minutes in the beginning, up to 10 minutes for advanced practitioners.
The list of modern yoga styles seems to be expanding every day. These days one is as likely to see some hip or trendy social activity coined along with the word yoga. Type is an over-used word in yoga today, and just because something has the word ‘yoga’ attached to it, doesn’t necessarily mean it has much to do with yoga. Yoga is more than any ‘type’.
To find out more about what yoga really is, please visit our What is Yoga page…