By Nick Jankel

Author, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Theorist, Transformational Coach, Wisdom Teacher, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice®

Decoding The Mind-Blowing Array of Yoga Styles

It can be a bit of a head spin trying to get a handle on all the different types of yoga out there, and figuring out where to start. So, here’s the low-down. We’ll look at Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Bikram/Hot Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga and talk about what you can expect in some of these different yoga classes. We’ll also talk a bit about what’s behind this whole yoga thing that people of all walks of life, from celebs to slobs, like to do so much. There’s got to be something to all the hype, right?

From Hatha Yoga to Ashtanga to Iyengar – Fast-Paced, Slow, and Everything In Between

Yoga is a phenomenal way to improve your health and well-being and get stress levels under control. Practicing yoga poses improves circulation and flexibility, massages your internal organs, detoxifies your body and has a load of other health benefits too numerous to mention. It’s great for your mental state too: it helps you let go, unwind from the stresses of the day, or set yourself up for a busy day, through connecting with your body and breath. Even if you think you can’t possibly get your foot behind your ears, you can find a yoga style and yoga class that’s right for you. A ‘Hatha Yoga’ class will generally be a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures: great for newbies. If faster-paced, more sweaty action is what you’re after, try Ashtanga Yoga or Bikram/Hot Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga involves doing the same sequence of postures, always in the same order, and timing the movements with the breath. Bikram/Hot Yoga has taken the world by storm recently and you’d be hard pressed to find a fashionable town without a Bikram studio, with people sweating it out in heated rooms while doing fast-paced yoga. Like Ashtanga, Bikram classes take you through a sequence of yoga poses in a dynamic fashion (though a different sequence from Ashtanga).

If you go for Iyengar, expect a physically and mentally challenging class, but you won’t get your heart rate up in a big way. Your strength and stamina will sky-rocket though if you practice regularly, and Iyengar is a good choice if you have an injury or chronic condition, because the instructors have such comprehensive training. With Scaravelli Yoga, the pace is very slow and the effect is of deep relaxation and connection with your spine, your anatomy, and your-self. If you like a faster pace but less rigidity than Ashtanga, both Vinyasa (or Flow Yoga) and Kundalini Yoga feature a lot of movement and fluidity in their yoga classes, as well as the use of music. And both are intense. If you’re recovering from an illness or just after the ultimate chill-out after a rough week, Restorative Yoga could be the ticket: it’s like a gentle workout and a nap combined. If you explore the complete aspects of yoga and not just the physical practice, you will find all kinds of wisdom practices to complement your journey, such as prayer, mantras  (sacred sound with powerful properties, particularly found in Kundalini Yoga) and affirmations (positive statements about ourselves, such as ‘I am loved’ and ‘I accept abundance now’).


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Yoga Classes, Yoga DVD’s & Yoga Books

Nothing beats having a teacher and attending a class (or a tailor-made one-to-one session if you have particular health issues or injuries) – you will get the guidance you need and the inspiration and motivation to keep going. It’s a no-brainer to find a class locally – the issue is more sifting through all the different ones available to find what you want. So, ask around for recommendations or go for yoga studios with a solid reputation. Bikram is usually the easiest class to find as it’s so popular, but Hatha Yoga classes are also available in abundance. When you’ve been going to classes for a little while you can start to try some yoga at home, and a good teacher will give you advice on how to design your home practice. Yoga DVD’s or videos allow you to get limber in your living room and mean that you can fit your practice around your lifestyle needs, whether it’s working shifts or just being a little too shy to sweat it out with strangers. And of course, there are yoga books to use as a reference and inspiration.

Yoga for Purification, Strength and Liberation

Yoga means ‘unite’ or ‘to yoke’ – the idea is to join your mind up with your body, using the breath, so both body and mind benefit and give you more of what they’re supposed to. There are eight different parts to yoga (or ‘limbs’), according to ancient scriptures: these include breathing and control over one’s behaviour, as well as meditation. The ultimate goal of yoga, and of all these practices, is to reach samadhi, or liberation/enlightenment. The physical part of yoga is what you will mostly experience in yoga classes: asanas – physical postures – that purify and strengthen your body. Hatha Yoga – the physical part of yoga – was also developed to clear the channels in the body through which energy flows. While all yoga classes are based on Hatha Yoga, many different schools have developed, with varying ideas about what’s really important in yoga practice. Some, like Kundalini Yoga, have a more spiritual emphasis, while many others are possible to participate in without any belief in anything. There’s literally something for everyone. As well as the physical benefits, what all yoga has in common is a way of bringing our attention to our inner world – away from the flashy outside world full of distractions – by helping us to focus on our breath and body, connecting the two together so that we can experience more peace and flow in our lives.

Sacred Trances, Patanjali & The Beatles: The History of Yoga 

About five million years ago, Indian mystics were inspired by ecstatic, sacred drink-induced trances to come up with the first yogic teachings. 2,000 years ago Patanjali, an Indian wise man, wrote about all the practices of yoga in the ‘Yoga Sutra’ – not the Kama Sutra – and this remains the basic guide for all yoga even in our Westernised world today. The various schools of yoga developed as different teachers brought out what they saw as important in the yoga wisdom. Yoga classes have become a big hit in the West since the study of yoga became more popular with health-conscious, often vegetarian Westerners in the 1930’s, and with the explosion of Eastern spirituality from the late 1960’s on, with pop culture icons like the Beatles popularising it. But yoga has only truly become more ‘mainstream’ since the ’90’s, when yoga classes began to move out of yoga studios and into workplaces, health clubs, and schools. For more on the recent history of yoga, see this article.

How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?

Yoga cultivates mind and body awareness and helps us to come into our own power and well-being by finding the wisdom within our bodies – and there is something for everyone in the many schools of yoga.


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