If you are new to yoga and haven´t yet found your preferred style that resonates with you, the many different names or types of yoga classes can be intimidating. This is true for not only the beginner, but also for the more practiced student looking to try something new. To help make choosing a class easier, I´ve listed some of the more common styles of yoga that you´ll find in cities across the world, along with a brief explanation of each. Of course as yoga grows, more styles and variations continue to be developed and the list grows longer. However, a basic understanding of what yoga offers from this short list will also help you decipher the descriptions for the less common styles you may encounter on your yoga journey.
First of all, I feel it´s important to understand what yoga really is. Most of us, understand yoga to be an active practice involving asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing). However, yoga is actually a holistic path that not only includes the physical practice you´re accustomed to, but also encompasses a complete approach to life that provides harmony for the mind, body and spirit, leading to enlightenment. The person accredited for the development of The Yoga Sutra, known as Patanjali, developed an eight-limb path for fostering awareness and inner peace. By definition, this is also called ashtanga, which literally means ¨eight limbs¨. Therefore, yoga as we know it in its active form, is really only part of the overall lifestyle that is defined by the traditional term.
The second important piece of information to understand when choosing a yoga class is not to get confused by the term ¨hatha¨. Hatha yoga is actually a generic descripter of the active form of yoga (asanas and pranayama) and encompasses most if not all of the other types of yoga. In other words, all the different varieties of yoga are varieties of hatha yoga. However, sometimes you will see a class called ¨hatha yoga¨which usually means that it´s a generic/classical, beginner level yoga class in which you will practice poses, breathing and possibly a short meditation. This is a great place to start if you´ve never taken a yoga class, as it´s usually a slower, more relaxed class. However, don´t be intimidated if one of the other styles appeals to you more. Most teachers will be able to adapt any class to incorporate both beginners and more experienced students. Below are some common styles of yoga practice.
Ashtanga, the name derived from the eight-limb path, is the most common style of yoga. In fact, many of the other styles that exist in the modern world today are built upon the traditional ashtanga class structure. The original format consisted of a primary series of 75 poses, based around the well-known ¨sun salutations¨, followed by an intermediate and advanced series. The idea is that all the postures are performed in the same order and the class lasts about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Ashtanga is considered an intense, fast paced class in which you´ll likely sweat. With this style of yoga, you will build strength, flexibility and stamina.