Beyond Om: The Many Styles of Yoga
Yoga is more than "om-ing" and sitting cross-legged. Learn about the different yoga styles and how you can pick one that is right for you.
The Hatha Yoga Styles
The variations of Hatha yoga range from the physically
challenging to the meditatively transcending. According to the Yoga Research
and Education Center web site, they include:
Iyengar yoga, which is the most widely recognized
approach to Hatha yoga, is characterized by precision performance and the aid
of various props, such as cushions, benches, wood blocks, straps, and even sand
"Iyengar is more focused on alignment, and even though it's
not always moving quickly, it's very intense and adapted for beginners,"
the breath with a fast-paced series of postures -- a process producing intense
internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and
organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm
Bikram yoga is a system of 26 postures that are
performed in a standard sequence in a room heated to 100-110 degrees
Fahrenheit. This approach is fairly vigorous and requires a certain level of
fitness on the part of students.
"Bikram is done in a room with a high temperature,"
says Miller. "There is less focus on alignment, and more on sweating and
getting a good workout."
Viniyoga focuses on practicing a posture according to
one's individual needs and capacity. Regulated breathing is an important aspect
of Viniyoga, and the breath is carefully coordinated with the postural
Kripalu yoga is a three-stage yoga. In the first stage,
postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement are emphasized, and
the postures are held for a short duration only. In the second stage,
meditation is included into the practice and postures are held for prolonged
periods. In the final stage, the practice of postures becomes a spontaneous
"meditation in motion."
Integral yoga made a debut at the Woodstock festival in
1969, where yoga expert Swami Satchidananda taught thousands to chant,
"om." This style aims to integrate the various aspects of the body and
mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation,
and meditation, and function is more important than form. In this style of
yoga, breathing and meditation are emphasized as much as the postures.
Sivananda yoga includes a series of twelve postures,
breathing exercises, relaxation, and mantra chanting.
Ananda yoga is a gentle style that is designed to
prepare the student for meditation, involving consciously directing the body's
energy to different organs and limbs.