Many a potential yoga student eagerly looked up class schedules at their local gym only to be baffled by the variety of different types of yoga there are. These yoga types are actually all made up of the same postures, or poses, they use them in differing ways to achieve specific goals. Here is a guide to the most popular of yoga styles, so you can find the one you're looking for. These are the most likely to be taught at your gym and have DVD teachings readily available.
We'll start with two very general terms that each describes a variety of other, more specific types:
Hatha - These types of yoga are especially good for the beginner just learning the basic poses. They tend to be gentle, slow-paced, and done to very soothing music.
Vinyasa - These yoga types are physical movements synchronized with breathing. A Vinyasa class would typically begin with vigorous "Sun Salutations" as warm-up. These match physical movement with breath. More strenuous stretching movements are done toward the end of the class.
As we discuss the more specific types of yoga, you'll see many are named after the teachers that invented them:
Kundalini - This Vinyasa type of yoga uses quick, repeated movements rather than long position holds. There may even be some chanting or call and response techniques used during the class. Kundalini holds the breath control during posture performance as essential. The expected result is energy moving from the lower body to the upper.
Bikram/Hot - This is usually referred to as "Hot Yoga," and was initiated by Bikram Choudhury. In its full version it is a series of 26 moves, but not all are used in all classes. As its name implies, it is practiced in a hot room - about 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows for a cleansing sweat and muscle relaxation.
Ashtanga/Power - Ashtanga is a quick-flow and intense yoga and is physically demanding. The "flow" is a term used to describe how much time you hold a movement and then move to the next movement. In true Ashtanga yoga the same movements are always performed in the same order. "Power yoga" is something that has been derived from Ashtanga. It will have the same flow, but not necessarily have the same strict pose set. Both are often used for weight loss purposes.
Iyengar - Named after teacher, yogi B.K.S. Iyengar, Iyengar yoga pays particular attention to proper body alignment. Iyengar yoga's flow is slow, emphasizing long holds and often employing various props, such as blankets, straps, and other items that help your body find the correct alignment for each position.
Anusara - This type was founded by John Friend who wanted to create a more light-hearted class open and beneficial to yoga students of all levels. It adds the positive philosophy associated with Tantra to the emphasis on physical alignment espoused by Iyengar.
Jivamukti - Inspired by Ashtanga yoga, Jivamukti promotes chanting, meditation and studies of the spiritual realm. These classes are found primarily in the U.S. and are quite physically challenging.
Sivananda - These yoga centers teach more than simple yoga classes. There are now over 80 such centers world wide, and they were founded by a student of Swami Sivananda. Their five basic principles are: 1. Proper exercise (Asana) 2. Proper breathing (Pranayama) 3. Proper diet (vegetarian) 4. Positive thoughts and meditation (Dhyana)
No matter which type of yoga you choose, always check with your doctor before starting a yoga, or any other kind of exercise regime.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga