Understanding the 5 Popular Types of Yoga

There are many different types of yoga today and it may be confusing for some, especially beginners. However, no matter what style of yoga you practise, you are likely to enjoy benefits from regular practice such as improvement in flexibility, strength, muscle toning and posture. In this blog post I will be briefly sharing about 5 popular types of yoga and their characteristics.

1. Ashtanga Yoga
The Sanskrit word “Ashtanga” means eight limbs. It was first used by an ancient Indian sage, Patanjali to describe eight practices (“limbs”) which should be mastered in order to experience the true goal of yoga. In short, these eight limbs of yoga are: Yama (abstinences), Niyama (observances), Asana (physical yoga postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (transcendence).
There are 6 series of Ashtanga Yoga, and they increase in difficulty as they advance from the primary series. Each series is a set sequence of asanas in the same order and they are usually fast-paced and physically challenging. However, there are Mysore-style classes where students can carry out the series at their own pace while yoga instructors assess them.

2. Hatha Yoga
The word “Hatha” can be translated to two meanings, “wilful” or “forceful”. Hatha Yoga practices are meant to align and calm our body, mind and spirit to prepare for meditation. A Hatha Yoga class generally involves a set of physical yoga poses (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama). These are practised at a slower pace with more static posture holds than other types of yoga.

3. Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa refers to a series, or sequence of steps. The Sanskrit word “Vinyasa” comes from a prefix vi-, meaning ‘variation’ and a suffix -nyasa, meaning “within prescribed parameters”. It is a style of yoga characterised by stringing postures together so that one moves from a posture to another seamlessly, using breath. A posture is connected to another in Vinyasa via “transitions”. They are basically what you do in between postures, but what is not always appreciated is that transitions are considered postures themselves. The variable nature of Vinyasa Yoga allows one to develop a more balanced body while preventing repetitive motion injuries that could possibly happen if one repeats the same thing every day.

4. Bikram Yoga
Bikram Yoga was initially introduced by Bikram Choudhury. The practice involves repeating the same 26 poses in set cycles over a span of 90 minutes. These poses were chosen by Choudhury from classic hatha poses and they should be done in a specific and unchanging order so as to achieve the desired benefits of Bikram Yoga. In addition, Bikram Yoga is typically done in a room heated to 40.6 degree Celsius or 105 degree Fahrenheit with a humidity of 40%. This form of hot yoga is meant to detox and eliminate toxins and aid weight loss while allowing one to become deeper into the posture.

5. Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga was founded and first taught by martial arts expert and Taoist Yoga teacher, Paulie Zink. Yin Yoga is a style of yoga that targets the deep connective tissues of our body such as the ligaments, joints, bones and fascia. It is slow-paced and poses can be held for 3 to 5 minutes. The reason for holding such poses is to apply moderate stress to the connective tissues so as to increase circulation in our joints and improve flexibility. Yin Yoga also improves energy flow and enhances the flow of chi (which means breath or air) in the organs.