Yoga is a form of art. It enhances the body, mind, and soul equally. Embraced by millions worldwide, it is one of the most popular health and fitness practices. But there are many types of yoga. All of them come with unique benefits to offer you. So how do you choose between them?
This article explores the origin of yoga and further elaborates on its ten best forms. Read on to find out which one is the right fit for you.
Origin of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise, which was developed in India. Finding its roots in Hindu philosophy and religion, its origin dates back to over 5000 years. It was practiced by the sages of ancient India to achieve Nirvana (salvation) until today.
Yoga is believed to have been formulated by Lord Shiva, who imparted this knowledge to his consort, Parvati. Hence, it has often been called Shiva-sastha yoga.
As time went on, many more evolved forms were created, which are still popular among people worldwide. There are several schools of yoga, but all of them focus on the common goals of improving mind and body wellness through various physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation exercises.
The Ten Types Of Yoga To Choose From
A popular form of yoga, it was formulated by Yogi Bhajan. The word Kundalini means ‘coiled like a snake. It focuses on awakening kundalini energy (life force) or “chi” to achieve spiritual enlightenment. With complete physical and mental control, it can be awakened to bring about positive changes in an individual’s body, mind, and behavior.
This type is characterized by a series of postures, controlled breathing, and chanting of mantras. The goal is to achieve Nirvana through chakras or energy centers present within our body. The best part about this yoga form is that you can put it into practice even without following any strict diet regime or lifestyle changes. You can feel its benefits with regular practice for just 15 minutes.
Ashtanga Yoga was made popular by K. Pattabhi Jois, who was a great Indian yogi and scholar. It is a dynamic type of yoga that follows a set series of postures that include asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises). The first-ever Ashtanga Yoga lesson on the planet earth, “Mysore Style,” was organized by ‘Guruji’ Pattabhi Jois in 1975 for his students worldwide. As per Guruji, this type is based on eight forms, namely anga, asana, dharana, dhyana, pranayama, pratyahara, bandha and samadhi.
The aim is to achieve self-realization alongside a good mind-body balance. According to this path, every individual has the potential to become a god, no matter what religion they follow. In fact, it can be practiced by anyone without any religious beliefs as well.
Also known as Hatha vinyasa yoga, it was developed in India around 1450 AD. The aim is to harness the inner potential of the human body and mind through physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation exercises. It follows a set series of physical postures (asanas) that focus on specific areas, like the back, joints, and internal organs.
The term Hatha means gentle or slow pace while practicing asanas. Thus, Hatha Yoga mainly involves stretching and strengthening muscles to improve flexibility and help develop body awareness. It is helpful for individuals looking forward to getting relief from stress, common colds, etc. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is one of the best examples which follows this path.
A type of hot yoga, it was first started by Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yoga guru, and businessman. It is a set of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises done in the same sequence to improve flexibility and build stamina. The series of asanas are performed inside a room where the air temperature is kept at 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Apart from getting relief from common colds and stress-related ailments, it also helps individuals achieve their overall wellness goal with regular practice. It has been beneficial for people who have asthma, back pain, etc. The uniqueness of this style lies in maintaining your target heart rate zone (60-80% of maximum heart rate) while doing these poses.
Bikram yoga is mainly divided into four series — A, B, C, and D. These are further classified into ten groups, with each group constituting two workouts.
Yin yoga is the most recent form of yoga. It goes slow where poses are held for 2-3 minutes each to get full benefits out of this type. The main focus behind Yin Yoga is to circulate energy between opposing forces like flexible and stiff tissues, Yin and Yang, etc., through meditation exercises
The philosophy behind Yin Yoga states that you can experience spiritual growth independent of any religious or cultural practices. This path mainly involves deep stretching, which involves long holds on few select postures to achieve required goals with better results. Since it requires you to hold certain positions for longer periods, you should not do these exercises if you suffer from high blood pressure, heart problems, etc.
Baron Baptiste first introduced power yoga, an American hailing from Texas. It is a combination of three paths — Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Hatha Yoga. This style mainly helps you achieve a balance between both mental and physical wellness with regular practice.
The path involves flowing through a continuous series of different poses, which are generally faster in the beginning but become slower as you progress. The breathing techniques are similar to those of Ashtanga Yoga, along with better flexibility due to static holds at times on some selected postures.
Sivananda Yoga is a 5,000-year-old medical system from India which Swami Sivananda, a spiritual leader, founded. It focuses on the purification of the body and mind through different asanas with a combination of pranayama techniques. This path mainly helps you achieve mental and physical wellness through the free flow of energy between your body cells.
The main objective behind this form is to cure various diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, etc., apart from achieving overall good health for individuals with regular practice. The unique style follows an eight—limb path propped up by five Yamas (abstinence), five niyamas (observances), asanas (yoga poses), pranayama (breath control), and meditation practices.
This type focuses on adapting different poses to individual needs to provide the maximum benefits of this style of yoga. Also known as ‘yoga Nidra, the primary purpose behind practicing these exercises are reducing stress levels, overcoming health issues related to heart problems, etc. One has also to make sure that your diet plays a crucial role in helping you achieve all these goals simultaneously.
The main focus is on gentle stretching, which helps you put yourself in total relaxation mode. This helps your muscles get rid of toxins and get better sleep at night after practicing these exercises daily. It also involves holding specific yoga postures using props like bolsters, belts, etc., further strengthening the body parts. This path provides its participants with physical and emotional benefits.
Pregnant women practice prenatal yoga to make their journey towards motherhood a happy and healthy one. It reduces stress levels, provides you with better flexibility, improved breathing techniques, etc. while helping you prepare the mind as well as the body for labor.
Many times, these exercises are done in groups, under expert supervision. This helps provide maximum benefits post-delivery period, including other benefits like improving sleep quality, reducing blood pressure levels, etc., and providing mental clarity to its participants. Also, studies have shown that this path has given good results when performed regularly. It ensures the safety of both mother and baby during pregnancy. Hence, prenatal yoga is considered one of the best ways to naturally enhance your overall wellness goals.
A relatively new form of yoga, it has gained immense popularity among people who want to pursue this path to achieving wellness goals. It is often called anti-gravity yoga, it involves using fabric hammocks and straps hanging from the ceiling while practicing different pose movements like swinging, wrapping, etc. It enhances your overall wellness level. It helps you overcome stress levels, develop flexibility, gain better body awareness, improve energy levels, etc., and provide mental clarity and relaxation to its participants. Hence, it is considered the best means to improve your mental and physical well-being without spending long hours practicing basic exercises.
India gave the gift of yoga to the world. Being the most ancient of all Indian sciences, it is rightly called ‘the mother of all sciences. It can provide you with various health benefits, including mental relaxation to achieve better overall well-being goals.
One has to understand that different paths have been developed over time to suit people with different requirements. So one form of yoga might not provide the same benefits for everyone. Hence, it’s important to pick the right path that helps you develop your body and mind in tandem.