I’m curious. What’s your favorite yoga style? And has it changed since you started practicing? With so many yoga styles and even variations within styles, finding your groove may take some time. It’s not even clear what counts as a style and what is more of a whim.
At a studio where I practice, for instance, one teacher offers “heavy metal yoga” from time to time. I’m not sure where that trend—he insists he’s not the only one to offer it—came from, but it’s not something I associate with the yoga masters of old.
When we refer to yoga styles, we usually mean styles of physical asana practice. There are some universal aspects of yoga that can be adapted to fit an individual style. For example, there are styles that emphasize relaxation and styles that are more physically challenging. Some styles are more spiritual than others. Some have been around for a long time, while others are relatively new.
There also seems to be a distinction between yoga styles and yoga brands. Obviously there are brands of clothing and , but there are also formally branded styles. There are flowing (vinyasa) styles and more static (hatha) styles. A lot of yoga classes are a mix of both hatha and vinyasa techniques. The formal names you may see for your yoga classes can be thought of more as brands; some literally are.
Yoga Styles: Go with the Flow or Hold the Pose
I love vinyasa-styled classes. Poses flow seamlessly from one to the next. My favorite vinyasa’s are sun salutations and anything involving warrior poses (except for warrior 3 when I’m feeling unsteady).
But my very first yoga class had a more traditional hatha style. It was more alignment-focused with a more devotional feel. This, by the way, was an Integral Yoga class, the style Sri Swami Satchidinanda taught.
Other Yoga “Brands”
I’m not sure “brand” is the right word for all yoga styles associated with a specific founder; the point is there are many types of yoga. Some, as I mentioned, have been around for more than a century, while others are relatively new. For example, power yoga fans gravitate toward Asthanga, the intense vinyasa style Pattabhi Jois created. If you enjoy your power yoga with heat, you may be a Bikram yogi.
B.K.S. Iyengar, of course, created the tough alignment-based style that emphasizes using of props to ensure that everyone can do the poses properly. Anusara, a more recent alignment-based brand, is the creation of John Friend, who was a student of Iyengar yoga.
If you’re more of an explorer, you may prefer the gentler Kripalu style, where the focus is often on self-expression and the interplay between mind, body, and spirit. The basis for Kripalu Yoga is the teachings of Swami Kripalu.
Another relatively new yoga brand is Jivamukti. David Life and Sharon Gannon created this physically challenging yet devotion-based style in the 1980s. Jivamukti focuses on five tenets: scripture, devotion, kindness, music, and meditation.
And then there is Kundalini, which Yogi Bhajan brought to the West in the 1960s. In Kundalini classes, where devotees often wear white, students practice specific sets of exercises called kriyas. There is also an emphasis on chanting, mantra, and lots of breath work.
What’s your yoga style?
Do you have a favorite kind of yoga, or do you practice several different styles? Maybe you don’t even have a name for your yoga (other than yoga, that is).
If you have a favorite yoga style, did you find it right away, or did it take some trial and error? Whatever style you practice, remember what most of us yogis have in common: our desire to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. How you get there is up to you, though hopefully you’re enjoying the journey with others.