How to Choose the Yoga That’s Right for YOU

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The traditional paths of yoga were developed in answer to the original goal of yoga.  They are the Four Margas (paths) to enlightenment which include: Jnana- the path of wisdom or knowledge, Bhakti- the practice of extreme devotion, Karma- All movement is done with the mind centered on God, and Raja- uses the 8 limbs to produce a well-rounded individual, “King” Yoga.

Other traditional yoga paths were; Kriya Yoga- yoga as action, Mantra Yoga- repetition of mantra, Tantra- showing the unseen consciousness through words, diagrams, and movements, and finally, Hatha Yoga- the physical movements and postures with breathing techniques, base for the modern understanding of yoga.  It can be difficult wading through the sea of options when all the names seem unfamiliar or new.  Check out this easy bulleted list for a brief description of some of the more common Hatha Yoga styles on offer today. 

 

All of the following are considered Hatha Yoga as they incorporate the physical postures as a principle focus. 

  • IF YOU WANT:
    • Vigorous and physically demanding
      • Are you someone that will be SOREly(ha) disappointed if you don’t get a vigorous sweat in on the daily? Look for these yoga styles, but be advised to look for a curriculum that teaches beyond Asana, the purely physical part of yoga, only 1/8  of the limbs.
        • Ashtanga: Based on ancient yoga teachings that follow a specific posture sequence and links movement to breath. A very physically demanding practice known for its rigidity.
        • Bikram: Uses a series of 26 poses in a heated room, perfect for a good sweat. Created by Bikram Choudhury 30 years ago, who then became controversial when he sued studios who didn’t teach the exact same poses.
        • Jivamukti: A hard physical practice that integrates yoga’s traditional spiritual elements with class themes, chanting, and ancient scripture.
        • Kundalini: Fluid invigorating poses to release the energy, coiled and waiting, in your body.
        • Power: Athletic yoga adapted from astanga system in the 1980’s western aerobic trend. Style varies by teacher.
        • Vinyasa: Teachers create a flow so that no two classes are the same. Intensity varies and can be just as intense as ashtanga.
  • IF YOU WANT:
    • Alignment based- Varied physical intensity, postures focused on the individuals’ body rather than how the pose “should” look.
      • Anusara: Seeks to use physical practice to let students’ inner goodness shine through.
      • Iyengar: Props commonly used to attain ideal alignment for every individual.
  • IF YOU WANT:
    • Healing/ therapeutic- 200-hour certification possible, more common to do advanced modules post 200-hour more general certification.
      • Chair Yoga: Excellent for anyone that needs many physical modifications, anyone chairbound, popular with aging populations.
      • Prenatal: Postures adapted for expectant mothers in all stages of pregnancy, giving muscles strength and energy for an improved birth and recovery.
      • Restorative: Productive relaxation like a super-charged nap for your body. Use of props for less work, more relaxation.
  • IF YOU WANT:
    • Meditative
      • Ananda: Based on the work of Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, uses Asana, Pranayama, and Meditation to experience the divine or “self-realization.”
      • Kripalu: A three-part practice that teaches you to get to know, accept, and learn from your body.
      • Sivananda: Focused on 12 basic asanas bookended by sun salutations and savasana. Five-point philosophy to foster a healthy yogic lifestyle.
      • Yin: Holding poses with an edge to stretch connective tissue. Muscles are passive which often moves the challenge to the mind.
  • IF YOU WANT:
    • Something Innovative, Creative and more Western, check out the Newcomers
      • Acroyoga: Combining yoga with acrobatics.
      • Aerial Yoga: Moving through poses while suspended in a silk hammock. Works heavily with core strength and traction for the spine.
      • SUP Yoga: Stand Up Paddleboard yoga is practiced on top of a paddle board atop water.

It can be extremely daunting to start your yogic journey before you even know all the different types of yoga. But have no fear! If none of them call to you clearly, you may choose to dabble in your practice until you settle in on a style or two that best suits your unique physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual needs.  Enjoy!

 

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