The Breadth of Yoga
Yoga will take you on such a beautiful and personal journey, whether you do it in a class or in the privacy of your own home, in pajamas or a dedicated outfit. It is an ancient and proven system of promoting overall wellness for those who practice. Although yoga appears to be mostly focused on poses, there is a lot more going on than just that. The breath is intricately tied to the movements and poses. In fact, some types of yoga focus more on the breath than the poses. Meditation is central to many styles of yoga. In fact, its most ancient purpose is the expanding of the spiritual body and the development of mental focus.
The Branches of Yoga
The different types of yoga are often referred to as branches. The six branches focus on different characteristics, but each is still yoga. They are:
- Hatha yogadevelops both the body and the mind.
- Tantra yogafocuses on ritual, ceremony and relationships.
- Raja yogaincorporates meditation and adheres to the eight limbs of yoga.
- Bhakti yogaattunes to emotional health and seeks to create healthy ways of processing emotions while nurturing acceptance and tolerance.
- Karma yogafocuses on service and creating a positive and healthy future.
- Jnana yogais all about developing the mind and intellect.
Each of these branches are on the same tree, and yoga practitioners may notice that sometimes elements of another branch can be found in every branch. So if you are wanting to address a specific area of your being, knowing the branches can be helpful in choosing what kind of yoga you want to anchor your practice in. Keep in mind that modern yoga tends to be more integrative and that you will likely need to put forth considerable effort into finding and embarking upon some of these paths.
Different Styles of Yoga
It is well documented that there are many benefits to having a daily yoga practice. Reducing stress, improving cognition and concentration, lowering blood pressure and mitigating depression and anxiety are just a few of them. If overall health is your main goal, then you will probably benefit from any style of practice. Here are some styles that may interest you.
Bikram is often called hot yoga. It centers on 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. And it all happens in a room heated to around 100 degrees with about 40 per cent humidity.
This style of yoga focuses on physical poses and is what most people think of when they envision yoga. It's great for beginners and those who are interested in exploring the mind-body connection.
Iyengar yoga is very similar to Hatha yoga, but it focuses on the use of props and various supports to ensure proper alignment for optimal energy movement and results.
The goal of Kundalini is to release pent up energy through meditation. Practitioners of Kundalini often begin with a chant, followed by varying poses, breathing exercises and meditation.
This is a very gentle and quiet style of yoga. It is very meditative and helps to relieve tension in specific joints, like the shoulders and hips. Yin yoga poses are very passive and allow gravity to do most of the work.
Sivananda takes a whole body approach based on a 5-point philosophy. Proper breathing, a healthy diet, relaxation, exercise and positive thinking are the five keys to an optimal yogic lifestyle. It usually centers around 12 poses, sun salutations and savasanas.
There are plenty of other yoga styles to explore, so if none of these are of interest to you, keep digging. Remember, yoga is for everyone. It's not about how good you look doing the poses or in your outfit, nailing a pose on the first try, the design on your mat or the space you practice in. Of course, those things are nice and affirming, but yoga, at its core, is all about you and achieving a new and improved version of yourself. It's about growing and expanding as a physical, spiritual and mental being. What's your favorite style of yoga?