If you are interested in trying yoga or practicing a new form of it, you have probably realized that the ancient discipline comes in many forms. Many types of yoga common in the United States are rooted in tradition, while others are very modern twists on the classic practice.
Classic yoga styles
Because these are among the more common forms of yoga in the U.S., it is likely you can find classes in your community, whether at a gym, yoga studio or community center. If you have questions or concerns about whether or not a class is appropriate for you, speak with the instructor before you participate.
Translated as “eight-limbed” yoga, Ashtanga is an ancient form of yoga that was brought to the West in the 20th century. This style of yoga incorporates six sequences of asanas (i.e., poses), and all movements are linked by the flow of breath—this makes it a vinyasa-style yoga.
Ashtanga is often described as physically challenging, vigorous and athletic. A more fast-paced form, you can expect the experience to be non-stop motion without time to adjust poses.
2. Hot yoga
The name explains itself. Hot yoga is yoga performed in a heated room—anywhere between 85 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the style of hot yoga in which you are participating. As you would expect, you sweat a lot during a hot yoga class. The sweating releases toxins, and the asanas help increase strength and flexibility.
A type of hot yoga that many are familiar with is Bikram, which involves a 26-asana sequence that has been trademarked—the sequence is followed twice during a 90-minute class. Classes that deviate from this sequence in even the smallest way are not supposed to use the Bikram name and are instead called hot yoga.
In Sanskrit, the word kundalini means “coiled one” and, in yogic theory, this word refers to the primal energy located at the base of the spine. Using constant motion, invigorating asanas, dynamic breathing, chanting and meditation, Kundalini yoga helps practitioners awaken that energy and draw it up through the seven chakras.
Once a secret practice, Kundalini was brought to the West in 1969 by a yogi who wanted to “help spiritual seekers from all religious paths tap into their greater potential.”
If you are looking to slow it down and focus on proper alignment, then Iyengar yoga might be worth checking out. This form was developed in the 1930s by B.K.S. Iyengar and is intended to strengthen muscles, support joints, improve flexibility, increase stability, and cultivate awareness.
While Iyengar yoga does not move briskly as other styles do, it can be quite challenging. Yoga props (i.e., blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, bolsters and rope) are used to help students with varying abilities achieve a variety of standing, seated and twisting asanas, which are held much longer than in other types of yoga.
If you are looking for something less traditional, you might want to consider these more recently developed styles, which may be less readily available in most communities:
Long before we learned about bunny yoga—yes, for real—there was doga. As you might expect, Doga is dog yoga—yoga practiced with a canine companion. By no means an ancient form, Doga was created in 2001 yoga instructor Suzi Teitleman, who was then living in New York City.
In a doga class, people and their dogs engage in massage, meditation and gentle stretching. If you would like to practice doga at home, there is a website with poses and instruction.
2. Beer Yoga
Another type of yoga that might get a side-eye from purists, beer yoga is a newer fitness fad. It seems to have surfaced sometime within the last couple of years when breweries started hosting yoga classes. BrewAsanas sessions last one hour, cost $15 and are followed by a pint. Those interested in teaching yoga in breweries can register for a how-to guide and post events at www.brewasanas.com.
A yoga practice that is all about teamwork, AcroYoga was founded in 2003 by Jenny Sauer-Klein and Jason Nemer. AcroYoga.com defines it as “a dynamic partner practice that blends the wisdom of yoga, the dynamic power of acrobatics, and the loving kindness of healing arts” and says the practice “cultivates trust, playfulness and community.” Learn more at www.acroyoga.org.
4. Aerial Yoga
Not to be confused with AcroYoga, Aeriel Yoga involves a fabric hammock rather than a partner. Unnata Aerial Yoga was established by Michelle Dortignac, a longtime yoga instructor and professional aerial acrobatics performer, whose website explains that the practice “works with gravity to relax and realign the body, center the mind and uplift the spirit.” Learn more at www.aerialyoga.com.
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 Unnata Yoga. “The Unnata Aerial Yoga Difference.” http://www.acroyoga.org/about/the-acroyoga-practice