A Simple Guide to the Most Common Yoga Styles

A Simple Guide to the Most Common Yoga Styles
Karson McGinley

More people in the West are practicing yoga than ever before. Doctors are prescribing it, scientists are endorsing it, and some insurance plans are even covering it.

But where can you start? It seems as though there are as many styles of yoga as there are leaves on a tree. Depending on the city you live in, there may be a yoga studio on every corner. And what about ordering a DVD online? How do you narrow that search down?

While yoga’s popularity is certainly a blessing, it can also feel like a curse—an overwhelming sense of options that can leave you feeling paralyzed instead of empowered. If you’ve ever felt confused about the different styles of yoga, read on to discover the most common styles in America, and discover the one(s) that are best for you.

The 4 Types of Yoga

It’s important to begin by explaining that the physical practice of yoga (what most people simply call “yoga”) is part of only one of four primary types of yoga that are currently practiced.

According to the yogic tradition:

  1. Karma Yoga is the path of service. Mother Teresa was this type of yoga practitioner. When we serve others without attachment to the results, we are engaging in karma yoga.
  2. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion. Regular prayer, chanting, singing, and other expressions of love for the Divine are all forms of bhakti yoga.
  3. Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom and intellect. Traditionally, this includes reading sacred texts and engaging in philosophical contemplation.
  4. Raja Yoga is the “royal path”, and includes Hatha Yoga (or the breath and bodily practices).

Therefore, to be more specific (and accurate), we are discussing the most common styles of Hatha Yoga that are practiced in the West. Generally, when you hear the qualifier “Hatha” Yoga, it is identifying the type as the physical expression of yoga, as opposed to the other styles mentioned above.

Types of Hatha Yoga

  1. Hatha: While “Hatha Yoga” distinguishes the path of yoga that involves moving the body with awareness of breath, it also exists as a generic style of yoga that is perhaps the most straightforward. A traditional Hatha Yoga class will most likely include a series of asanas (yoga postures), done one after another, without much attention to the transitions between them. You can expect to hold poses for around five breaths each, making it a fairly accessible practice for most students. Within Hatha Yoga, there can be multiple levels, however, so be sure the class you attend is either labeled “all levels” or something similar.
  2. Vinyasa Flow: A very popular style of yoga is Vinyasa, which means “to place in a special way.” More commonly, however, the word is translated as “breath-to-movement,” meaning you are expected to move in and out of the postures with your inhales and exhales. Sun Salutations are practiced in Vinyasa classes, usually followed by variations on similar sequences …read more
    Source: Deepak Chopra  
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