A guide to yoga styles by YogaSite.com
Yoga Styles Guide
Although there are many styles of yoga, the differences are usually about emphasis, such as focusing on strict alignment of the body, coordination of breath and movement, holding the postures, or the flow from one posture to another. All of the styles share a common lineage. In fact, the founders of three major styles -- Astanga, Iyengar and Viniyoga -- were all students of Krishnamacharya, a famous teacher at the Yoga Institute at the Mysore Palace in India. Two other styles, Integral and Sivananda, were created by disciples of the famous guru Sivananda. No style is better than another; it's simply a matter of personal preference. More important than any style is the student-teacher relationship.
Ananda Yoga is a classical style of hatha yoga that uses asana and pranayama to awaken, experience, and begin to control the subtle energies within oneself, especially the energies of the chakras. Its object is to use those energies to harmonize body, mind, and emotions, and above all to attune oneself with higher levels of awareness. One unique feature of this system is the use of silent affirmations while in the asanas as a means of working more directly and consciously with the subtle energies to achieve this attunement. Ananda Yoga is a relatively gentle, inward experience, not an athletic or aerobic practice. It was developed by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi.
Anusara (a-nu-SAR-a) means, "to step into the current of Divine Will", "following your heart", "flowing with Grace", "to move with the current of divine will." A new style developed by John Friend, Anusara yoga is described as heart-oriented, spiritually inspiring, yet grounded in a deep knowledge of outer and inner body alignment. Each student’s various abilities and limitations are deeply respected and honored.
For those who want a serious workout, Ashtanga may be the perfect yoga. Developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga is physically demanding. Participants move through a series of flows, jumping from one posture to another to build strength, flexibility and stamina. It's not for beginners or anyone who's been taking a leisurely approach to fitness. The so-called Power Yoga is based on Ashtanga.
Bikram Choudhury's yoga is hot, hot, hot, so be prepared to sweat, sweat, sweat. In class, they crank the thermostat up high, then perform a series of 26 asanas designed to "scientifically" warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons. Founder Bikram Choudhury studied yoga with Bishnu Ghosh, brother of Paramahansa Yogananda
Developed by Swami Satchidananda, the man who taught the crowds at the original Woodstock to chant "Om," Integral classes put almost as much emphasis on pranayama and meditation as they do on postures. Integral yoga is used by Dr. Dean Ornish in his groundbreaking work on reversing heart disease.
Ever think standing was just a matter of keeping your body on top of your legs? It's hard to appreciate how involved a simple thing like just standing can be, how much concentration and how many subtle movements and adjustments it takes, until you take an Iyengar yoga class. Of course, the point is that you're not just standing. You're doing Tadasana, Mountain pose, and in yoga in the style of B.K.S. Iyengar, Tadasana is an active pose. B.K.S. Iyengar is one of the best-known yoga teachers and the creator of one of the most popular styles of yoga in the world. His style of yoga is noted for great attention to detail and the precise alignment of postures, as well as the use of props such as blocks and belts. No doubt part of Iyengar's success is due to the quality of teachers, who must complete a rigorous 2-5 year training program for certification.
Kali Ray TriYoga
Kali Ray TriYoga, founded by Kali Ray, brings posture, breath and focus together to create dynamic and intuitive flows. The Tri Yoga flows combine flowing and sustained postures that emphasize spinal wavelike movements, economy of motion, and synchronization with breath and mudra. The flows are systematized by level and can be as gentle or as challenging as desired. Students may progress from basics to advanced as they increase their flexibility, strength, endurance and knowledge of the flows.
Called the yoga of consciousness, Kripalu puts great emphasis on proper breath, alignment, coordinating breath and movement, and "honoring the wisdom of the body" -- you work according to the limits of your individual flexibility and strength. Alignment follows awareness. Students learn to focus on the physical and psychological reactions caused by various postures to develop their awareness of mind, body, emotion and spirit. There are three stages in Kripalu yoga. Stage One focuses on learning the postures and exploring your bodies abilities. Stage Two involves holding the postures for an extended time, developing concentration and inner awareness. Stage Three is like a meditation in motion in which the movement from one posture to another arises unconsciously and spontaneously.
Kundalini yoga in the tradition of Yogi Bhajan, who brought the style to the West in 1969, focuses on the controlled release of Kundalini energy. The practice involves classic poses, breath, coordination of breath and movement, meditation.
Sivananda is one of the world's largest schools of yoga. Developed by Vishnu-devananda and named for his teacher, Sivananda yoga follows a set structure that includes pranayama, classic asanas, and relaxation. Vishnu-devananda wrote one of the contemporary yoga classics, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. First published in 1960, the book is still one of the best introductions to yoga available.
Developed by Rama Berch, Svaroopa Yoga teaches significantly different ways of doing familiar poses, emphasizing the opening of the spine by beginning at the tailbone and progressing through each spinal area in turn. Every pose integrates the foundational principles of asana, anatomy and yoga philosophy, and emphasizes the development of transcendent inner experience, which is called svaroopa by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. This is a consciousness-oriented yoga that also promotes healing and transformation. Svaroopa is not an athletic endeavor, but a development of consciousness using the body as a tool.
Viniyoga is not so much a style as it is a methodology for developing practices for individual conditions and purposes. This is the approach developed by Sri. T. Krishnamacharya, teacher of well-known contemporary masters B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi, and continued by his son, T.K.V. Desikachar. Key characteristic of the asana practice are the careful integration of the flow of breath with movement of the spine, with sequencing, adaptations and intensity dependent upon the overall context and goals. Function is stressed over form. Practices may also include pranayama, meditation, reflection, study and other classic elements. Personal practices are taught privately. Given the scope of practice, the inherent therapeutic applications and the heritage of the lineage, the training requirements for teacher certification are extensive.