There are many different styles of yoga practice out there. From those who just practice the physical side, to those that include all chanting, meditation & breathing practices. There are styles that focus on long restorative stays in relaxed postures to those that focus on strengthening muscles or aiming to hold gymnastic postures like handstands. There are styles that promote veganism & spiritual chanting & those use props. Styles where you flow from one pose to another, and styles that you stay in a posture relaxing for up to 5 minutes!
I am lucky that I discovered yoga at a time when the local yoga teacher offered just what I needed at that time. This was at a time when I was looking for a more physical practice with a few mentions of the spiritual side & a bit of meditation. Here are a few ideas around the different styles you may see talked about.
Vinyasa Yoga…. Vinyasa means ‘to place in a special way’ and is often used to describe types of yoga that flow through sequences. These may be the same sequence every time like Ashtanga yoga or different sequences in Power yoga or Vinyasa Flow yoga. They can be fast moving & physically challenging or shower paced.
Hot/Bikram yoga. Hot yoga is what it says on the tin…yoga done in a hot room. Often Vinyasa flow styles. Bikram yoga is a sequence of 26 set poses typically set to a hot temperature & high humidity. Bikram has recently been linked to many accusations of sexual harassment so many hot yoga studios have distanced themselves from his style.
Anusara is one of many styles that have adapted vinyasa yoga with more focus on the mind, body, heart connection. It was founded by John Friend & focused on spirals & heart opening. This is another style thwarted by accusations of sexual misconduct
Jivamukti is another vinyasa flow style practice this one founded by Sharon Ganon & David Life. It involves chanting, & is infused with Hindu style teaching & can be a physically challenging practice. You are also encouraged to practice a vegan lifestyle.
Iyengar Yoga ….this is a style focused on alignment based on practices by the yogi B.K.S. Iyengar. It is more detailed in its alignment & relies heavily on props to support the body into making the required physical shape
Viniyoga is almost the opposite of Iyengar with the idea of adapting the posture to the practitioner not the other way around. If we translate the Sanskrit word Vini it means to adapt. Its teaching is very breath focused & often includes yoga philosophy, meditation & Vedic chanting. This is the style in which my initial yoga training focused upon & the one which builds the foundation for all my practice & teaching.
Yin Yoga is a very slow style often holding postures for up to 5 minutes. It can be a meditative practice focusing inward. Often many props are used to support the body.
Restorative yoga is another slow style focused on winding down body & mind. Again, often using many props to support the body.
Hatha Yoga. The Sanskrit term Hatha is an umbrella term for the physical side of yoga. A practice grounded in the physical practice of yoga that we tend to focus on in the West. So, in some ways all of the above can be termed Hatha yoga.
Kundalini yoga is equal part spiritual & physical & is focused on releasing the kundalini energy in the body said to be trapped/ coiled in the lower body.
Prenatal yoga is adapted for mums to be & can focus on pelvic floor work, breathing & baby bonding. Again, using props to modify poses & ensure stability.
When I started looking for a tutor for my yoga teacher training I started to realise how huge a subject the yoga tradition can be. How many styles & interpretations of the philosophy. Firstly, I had to decide what organisation to train under. At that time there was three main options: the British Wheel of Yoga, Yoga Alliance and the Independent Yoga Network. I liked the fact that the British Wheel were the Sport England ‘governing body’ for yoga & had high standards of a minimum 500 hr training. I was undertaking my yoga teacher training alongside my MSc, a personal training & a nutritional therapy diploma. My life was focused around study & all the subjects overlapped in terms of anatomical study, getting into habits of regular study & maintaining my own yoga practice throughout. Hence I liked the fact that the British Wheel training was not a quick fix but allowed you a few years to integrate the learning into your life, to study the philosophical side of things & to practice teaching while under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
Nowadays there are so many yoga trainings offered which miss that experience…many aiming towards the person instructing a sequence or merely teaching a physical exercise class. This to me is a part of yoga, but not yoga. Personally I feel any good yoga teacher training should occur over time to allow understanding & practice alongside the personal transformation that often occurs. I understand that most of what we learn in our training is not used in weekly classes or even more in-depth workshops. It is however practiced when we teach one to one & when we plan classes. The initial training also often serves to educate us in where we want to study next rather than being an end in itself. Like many I met a few different yoga tutors to see which I felt would guide me best through the transformational journey that is yoga teacher training. From choosing my first tutor for my first 500 hr training, Living Yoga in the Cotswolds, I then took that training further into yoga as therapy. Studying under many teachers from all over the world & integrating that knowledge into my personal style. Allowing me to work with many interesting clients through the years. Helping them, & myself, to improve life in many ways.
My initial training was under the British Wheel but in the style of Viniyoga. I had come from a more vinyasa style of practice so initially I found it hard to slow down & focus. Then I really fell in love with the practice of framing movement with the breath. Of focusing throughout the practice, not on where I was going, but on where I was at! Now I call what I teach Hatha yoga…which basically means the physical aspect of yoga without defining the style. All with foundations in the Viniyoga style. I do try to integrate many different styles into my practice, so you end the practice feeling more comfortable in body & mind. I do suggest you try a few different styles as they can all be fun in different ways. Always respect your own body & do not do anything that causes pain or fear.