What is yoga?
Yoga is more than just an exercise system, for many it's a way of life. It's a system which exercises the body, mind as well as the inner spirit. Over the centuries many different types of yoga have emerged and it's up to us as individuals to experiment and find the path which works best for us.
Yoga is often associated with the practice of meditation as this develops the mind and enables us to reach a higher state of consciousness. Daily practice of yoga is believed to benefit the mind, fighting off depression and enhancing concentration. Its many body benefits include greater flexibility, improved posture and increased strength.
As it's fairly easygoing, yoga can be practiced by anyone and is safe to do even in pregnancy when the right exercises are incorporated into a pre-natal programme. For all of these reasons, yoga has many fans and is a popular form of exercise.
It has developed a lot and the past couple of decades have seen new types of yoga developing out of the traditional systems.
Here is an overview of the different types of yoga systems...
This is the popularised form of yoga which is known to Westerners. Consisting of a series of flowing exercises, the emphasis is placed on the breath and it's popularly taught to beginners. Hatha yoga focuses on:
- Asanas (postures)
- Purification (shatkriya)
- Pranayama (breathing)
- Gestures (mudra)
When all of these areas are combined, the practice of Hatha yoga is designed to balance the opposing energies of yin and yang.
Ashtanga yoga is a modern form of classic Indian yoga. Power or vinyasa yoga are other types derived from this system of exercise.
Designed by K. Patthabi Jois, the Ashtanga system was made popular in 1948 in his school, known as the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute based in India.
Ashtanga yoga is about the alignment of your breath with the movement, to make static asanas flow. The asanas have to be held for a number of breaths before moving into the next in a series of movements.
A typical one hour session can burn around 300 calories.
Corepower yoga isn't like traditional yoga. Instead it's been given a modern twist. Being set to energising music, Corepower is designed to be both detoxifying and exhilarating. You will sweat but you'll also learn to strengthen your body and enhance your focus.
Combining various styles and different types of routines, Corepower yoga will increase your endurance levels and redefine how you see your body.
Bikram Yoga is derived from Hatha Yoga and has been made popular over four decades. Bikram or Hot Yoga as it's known is performed in a room of 105 degrees which has a humidity of 40%. A 90 minute session consists of twenty-six asanas and two breathing exercises.
Its creator, Bikram Choudhury was known for practicing yoga from the age of four and later went on to win the National India Yoga Championship. The twenty-six asanas include Pranayama which is a standing deep breathing pose, half-moon pose, awkward pose, eagle pose, standing head to knee pose, standing bow pose, triangle, cobra, locust, tortoise, camel and rabbit to name just a few.
Bikram yoga is known to be an excellent way to lose weight with the average session burning around 630 calories.
Another form of Hatha yoga, Iyengar yoga is named after B.K.S Iyengar who has been teaching yoga since 1937.
The Iyengar yoga system consists of over 200 poses along with 14 different varieties of Pranayama which range from basic to more advanced. Iyengar is devised so as to enable the student to gradually progress to the next stage while also developing the body, spirit and mind simultaneously.
Iyengar yoga uses props in the form of belts, blankets and blocks as an aid to the asanas, or postures as they are otherwise known. At every stage, the idea of the props is to improve the asanas to ensure they are performed correctly.
A one hour session of Iyengar yoga will burn around 200 calories.
There are many different types of yoga, probably too many to include here. Other types include Sivananda yoga which focuses more on the health and vitality of the person who practices it. This incorporates asanas as a form of exercise, Pranayama, proper relaxation as well as eating vegetarian foods, positive thinking and meditation.
Hopefully this article will give you an insight into the various types of yoga available to suit your lifestyle. Whichever method you decide to use, remember that yoga is all about stretching yourself without straining yourself. It's more than just physical exercise, it's a workout for the mind and spirit too.