Translating the jargon on a yoga studio timetable or deciphering the style of yoga you are in the mood to practise when choosing a video on YouTube can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are relatively new to yoga. As the popularity of yoga has grown so has the list of types and styles of yoga. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to define some of the most popular styles of yoga including the types of yoga I teach and showcase on my YouTube channel. With all styles of yoga, the primary aim is to align and calm your body and mind in preparation for meditation but there are different ways that that we can achieve this outcome, hence, the creation of different styles of yoga. A common thread amongst all these classes is that they close with a Savasana, the pose of deep relaxation.
Vinyasa Flow Yoga
Vinyasa Flow Yoga was developed in the 1930s in Mysore, India by the father of modern yoga, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. After studying with his guru in the Himalayas, Krichnamacharya cultivated a dynamic yoga practice that combined hatha yoga postures, British gymnastics, and Indian wrestling. The term 'Vinyasa' can be translated as 'arranging something in a special way' and is also used to describe the specific sequence of postures that link poses in a typical Vinyasa Flow class (Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog). If you are reading this and practise Vinyasa Flow Yoga in the West then this style of class resulted from teachers breaking the rules of Ashtanga Yoga (see below) after Pattabhi Jois brought it to America in 1974. During a Vinyasa Flow Yoga class, students are invited to link movement with the breath, creating a powerful and dynamic practice that builds both strength and flexibility in the body. There is no set sequence for this style of yoga which means teachers have a huge amount of creative freedom and they can customise the class to their style of offering. You can expect to sweat and build heat in the body and each class will incorporate an element of challenge and play.
I began practising Vinyasa Flow Yoga over ten years ago and I completed my Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher training with Frog Lotus International which has a very distinctive style of Vinyasa Yoga developed by their founder, Vidya Jacqueline Heisel. Frog Lotus style classes are characterised by a strong focus on pranayama (or breathwork), thorough warm ups at the start of the class and intelligent thematic sequencing. You can find a wide range of Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes on my YouTube channel, all promising to be lively and energetic as well as deeply calming and relaxing for the mind and body.
Hatha Yoga (or Gentle Yoga)
Most forms of yoga in the West could be classified as Hatha Yoga as the term refers to the practice of physical yoga postures. However, in the context of a yoga studio or searching for yoga online, Hatha Yoga is a gentler paced practice in comparison to Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Hatha can be translated as sun (ha) and moon (tha), the yoga of balance, or as 'wilful' and 'forceful', the yoga of activity. This is the style of yoga that I recommend to complete beginners as the pace of the class is a lot slower, allowing time to give attention and accuracy to the alignment of the poses. Practising Hatha Yoga will help to improve your strength, balance and flexibility and encourages a peaceful connection between the body and mind.
I have titled this style of class 'Gentle Yoga Flow' on my class timetable and on my YouTube channel for ease of comprehension. I combine my knowledge of Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Restorative Yoga to create a calming and relaxing class that links flowing movement with the breath, while stretching out the whole body. The heart of this yoga class is an awareness with the breath and a sense of grounding in the present moment. I have designed this class to be accessible to all levels of physical yoga practice and more invigorating poses including core work and balances are peppered in throughout the sequence as these are key for mobility in the body and the health of the spine.
Restorative Yoga was developed by BKS Iyengar as an alternative to more invigorating styles of yoga. He developed this style of practice to be utilised when you are feeling unwell or if you are dealing with an injury. A Restorative Yoga class might only include five or six poses that are 'held' for five minutes or more and these poses use bolsters, blankets, blocks and eye pillows to support the body. These supported, effortless and passive poses create a sense of deep relaxation for the body and help the body to move into the relaxation nervous system response. Whether using restorative yoga for rest and rejuvenation or healing, this form of yoga can be profoundly empowering. This practice helps tension to melt away and allows you to enter a deeply meditative state, leaving you feeling completely refreshed and restored.
The form of Restorative Yoga I offer is inspired by my Restorative Yoga Teacher training with Jillian Pransky. Each class begins with pranayama and gentle stretches, followed by passive restorative poses. You can find a small selection of this style of class on my YouTube channel.
The following styles of yoga are not classes that I offer but they are common to see on yoga studio timetables and online.
Yin Yoga was originally introduced by Paulie Zink and was designed to help students to sit longer and more comfortably in meditation. This meditative and slow practice aims to target the connective tissue around the joints (mainly the knees, pelvis, sacrum and spine). Although this is a slow and supportive style of class, it can be very intense because the stretches are held for three to five minutes, helping you to access deeper layers of the fascia. The gentle stimulation of the connective tissues help to create space in the joints, reverse habitual movement patterns and improve flexibility and mobility. This practice is a an excellent complement for anyone who has a history of vigorous exercise and training.
One of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya's students, Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois continued to teach a dynamic Vinyasa Flow style of yoga and eventually developed his own system, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in 1948. Ashtanga is an intensely athletic, physically demanding and dynamic practice. Similar to Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Ashtanga synchronises movement with the breath to create internal heat which is designed to purify the body. This style of class is great for building strength. Ashtanga Yoga translates as "eight-limbed yoga" and refers to the eight-limbed path of yoga outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. There is an emphasis on Ujjayi (victorious) breath, the Bandhas (internal locks) and maintaining Drishti (internal and external focus) throughout this style of yoga. Pattabhi Jois is one of the most influential figures in bringing yoga to the West and first showcased this style of yoga in America in 1974.