The Different Types of Yoga and Finding the Right Match For You
You say Ashtanga, I say Kundalini. What’s the difference? Use this guide to find the right yoga for you.
As studies continue to reveal yoga’s many health benefits, this centuries-old Eastern philosophy is fast becoming the new fitness soul mate for workout enthusiasts. Contemporary devotees range from high-powered execs trying to keep hearts beating on a healthy note to image-conscious Hollywood stars striving for sleek physiques. Even prominent athletes are adding yoga to their training regime to develop balanced, injury-free muscles and spines.
Learn more about the various types and styles of yoga:
Vinyasa-style yoga combines a series of flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an intense body-mind workout. Here are a few different types:
The practice of Ashtanga that’s getting mainstream attention today is a fast-paced series of sequential postures practiced by yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, who lives in Mysore, India. Today, yogis continue to spread Jois’s teachings worldwide, making it one of the most popular schools of yoga around.
The system is based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. In class, you’ll be led nonstop through one or more of the series. There’s no time for adjustments—you’ll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Be prepared to sweat. For more information, visit Ashtanga teacher Richard Freeman’s website, yogaworkshop.com.
In 1995, Bender Birch set out to challenge Americans’ understanding of what it really means to be fit with her book Power Yoga. Bender Birch’s intention was to give a Western spin to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, a challenging and disciplined series of poses designed to create heat and energy flow.
“Most people wouldn’t take a class called Ashtanga Yoga, because they had no idea what it meant. Power Yoga, on the other hand, was something Americans could relate to and know that they’d get a good workout,” says Bender Birch.
Power Yoga’s popularity has spread to health clubs across the country and has taken on a broad range of applications. The common thread is a rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility while keeping students on the move. For specifics, consult individual instructors before signing up for a class. For more information visit Thom Birch and Beryl Bender Birch’s website, power-yoga.com or Bryan Kest’s website poweryoga.com.
Looking for a highly meditative but physically challenging form of yoga? Try Jivamukti. You won’t be alone.
Each week, more than 2,000 people visit the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City. Its popularity lies in the teaching approach of cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon, who opened their first studio in 1986, combining an Ashtanga background with a variety of ancient and modern spiritual teachings. In addition to vinyasa-style asanas, classes include chanting, meditation, readings, music, and affirmations. This spiritual resource center also offers specialized courses in Sanskrit and the sacred yoga texts.
“Over the course of time, students will get a broad yoga education,” Life promises. “One week, a class may focus on a particular asana, while the next week’s theme may discuss more metaphysical issues.”
Beginner classes start by emphasizing standing poses, followed by instruction on forward bends, backbends, and inversions. These classes also introduce chants. For more information on class schedules or to find a certified instructor in your area, visit jivamuktiyoga.com.
Kali Ray TriYoga
A series of flowing, dancelike movements intuitively came to Kali Ray (Kaliji) while leading a group meditation in 1980. In 1986, after developing these movements into seven distinct levels, Kaliji established the TriYoga Center in Santa Cruz, California, offering a system of yoga that is taught in a meditative environment.
The first level is a slow, relaxing, and rejuvenating practice. The class, often accompanied by music, focuses on natural alignment and breath within the flow, and ends with meditation. A union of asana (postures), pranayama (breathwork), and mudra (seals), this practice is deeply meditative, promoting relaxation and inner peace. For more information visit kaliraytriyoga.com.
White Lotus Yoga is the collaborative effort of Ganga White and Tracey Rich, who meld two eclectic backgrounds and years of experience into a nondogmatic teaching approach dedicated to helping students develop a well-balanced personal practice. At their 40-acre retreat in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara, California, this husband and wife team offers a complete yoga-immersion experience with programs ranging from weekend and weeklong getaways to 16-day teacher training programs.
White Lotus Yoga is a flowing vinyasa practice which ranges from gentle to vigorous depending on your ability or comfort level. In addition, class formats incorporate alignment, breath, and the theoretical understanding of yoga. For more information, visit whitelotus.org.