12 types of yoga for body and mind
Yoga is a 5000-year-old practice, which is loved and lived by millions of people worldwide. Over time, yoga has evolved and there are now countless types of yoga. Although most yoga styles have common roots, each has its own unique characteristics and focus, catering to the diverse needs of yoga practitioners. Find out which type of yoga suits you best! We put together a brief overview of 12 different types of yoga.
In general, yoga is known as the physical practice of Hatha Yoga. The yoga technique, which strengthens body and mind through meditative body movements and fosters the flow of the universal life energy (prana).
Traditional Hatha Yoga includes positions to increase flexibility and strength (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), cleansing exercises (kriyas) and energy closures (bandhas), as well as hand positions (mudras) to direct and improve prana. In general, the term is used to describe a practice of slow and calm body postures. Hatha Yoga is a very good introduction to yoga because it is the foundation of other types of physical yoga practice.
Vinyasa is Sanskrit and means the connection between breath and movement. Although this very connection is an integral part of any yoga practice, as it involves conscious and controlled breathing, in Vinyasa Yoga every movement is specifically stimulated by inhaling, exhaling and holding the breath, thus supporting the flow of the body movements.
Many yoga classes call themselves Vinyasa Yoga in contrast to the traditional Hatha Yoga, which is very slow and meditative. Vinyasa movements are faster and more exhausting for the practitioner.
This yoga includes elements of both Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga. Ashtanga in Sanskrit actually means "eight steps", the elements of yoga which Patanjali, the father of yoga, describes in the Yogasutra, the written guide of yoga. For this reason, yoga is always Ashtanga from a traditional perspective, as all its practices are part of a broad system.
It emphasizes the physical aspect of yoga, the movements of Hatha Yoga. Yet unlike the slow rhythm of Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga is based on postures and flowing movements which, just like in Vinyasa Yoga, are linked to the breath and build a system of strengthening and challenging movements.
Kundalini Yoga is a specific discipline of yoga whose central technique is to awaken the Kundalini: the etheric force, which is situated at the base of the spine.
Kundalini Yoga is a style of spiritual and devotional yoga, which often includes songs, mantras, candles, and incense. Through the practice of body postures (asanas) combined with breathing, pranayama exercises, energetic closures (bandhas) and mudras, the practitioner tries to open and balance the chakras to prevent and heal physical and emotional ailments.
Bhakti Yoga is one of the oldest types of yoga and its roots can be traced back to the holy scriptures of the Vedas. The word "Bhakti" itself derives from the word "Bhak," meaning "united with God." It is the devotional path to God and the focus is not on the physical practice of asanas, but the loving devotion to God, for example, through singing mantras, spiritual practice and prayer.
Bikram Yoga is a rather new style. It was created by the Indian guru and billionaire Bikram Choudhury, who founded the first school in San Francisco in 1972. This yoga style consists of a series of 26 asanas that derive from Hatha Yoga and challenge the entire body, as well as two pranayama exercises.
Kripalu Yoga is a relaxed, meditative Hatha Yoga style focused on self-observation and connection with the divine. Kripalu Yoga was founded in the 1980s by Amrit Desai, who named it after his Indian teacher Sri Kripalvananda. In the practice of Kripalu Yoga, the body takes center stage because the body is the best teacher. Kripalu Yoga also includes practices like pranayama and meditation aiming to get prana to flow.
Yoga Nidra is the yoga of conscious sleep. It is a state of deep meditation in which physical relaxation takes place and greater peace is achieved than during sleep. While asleep the mind continues working, generating emotions and thoughts, which, however, come to rest during the practice of Yoga Nidra. It is a technique with self- induced relaxation and positive visualizations, which affect the nervous system and induce deep rest, physical relaxation and inner silence.
Often practiced in gyms, Power Yoga derives from Ashtanga Yoga. Just like Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga is a dynamic, physically demanding and invigorating practice. Both are based on the Vinyasa style of sequences that are part of traditional Hatha Yoga. Thus, it is a style in which the practitioner moves fluently from one posture to another, doing intense cardiovascular exercises, which requires a lot of strength and fosters endurance and flexibility.
Laughter Yoga has its origins in India and from there, made its way around the globe. It is a powerful form of yoga that promotes a happy attitude, inner peace as well as physical and mental wellbeing. Laughter has a proven positive effect on health. It is also a form of yoga that brings us into the present moment, fuelling us with life energy and assisting to let go of tensions. Laughter helps us to live more joyfully and in a much lighter way.
Water Yoga is a very gentle, therapeutic type of yoga and offers a good dose of fun. With a particular focus on complete breathing and body alignment, it is a yoga practice with low physical stress that is exercised in a swimming pool.
The body weight drops by up to 90%, so there is no pressure in the joints, less risk of injury and the muscles stretch more deeply.
Acroyoga is beautiful, slow and an art which is impressive. Acroyoga is not only popular with yoga practitioners, but also with dancers and lovers of circus arts.
Acroyoga involves balance, teamwork and coordination. It is a yoga style that requires some strength and flexibility, but above all, challenges the practitioner to overcome physical and mental limits as well as fears, and to trust in people.