~Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
You have heard it called Hatha yoga, Asthtanga, Iyengar, or Bikram, and some people refer to Tantra, Bhakti or Karma Yoga. What’s the deal and the difference?
There are six branches of yoga:
- Hatha – Yoga of postures
- Jnana – Yoga of the mind, of knowledge and study
- Bhakti – Yoga of devotion and selfless love
- Karma – Yoga of service
- Raja – Yoga of control of the mind
- Tantra – Yoga of rituals to find spirituality (includes breathing exercises and mantras)
Most styles of yoga taught in the west fall under the Hatha category and include:
- Kripalu – developed by Yogi Amrit Desai who was inspired by Yoga master Swami Kripalvanandaji, his teacher in India.
Kripalu means “being compassionate” and is known as the “yoga of consciousness” with a lot of focus on inner wisdom.
The main goal is to integrate mind, body and spirit. There are three stages: the first is body alignment, breathing and movement, the second is meditation, the third is “meditation in motion,” where mind, body and spirit are united. At the last stage movement occurs naturally and spontaneously.
- Iyengar – based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar, this style focuses strongly on alignment, core strength, flexibility and breath control. It uses a lot of props to aid with alignment and support of poses.
- Ashtanga – generally fast paced and intense, Ashtanga focuses on control and core strength. It consists of Ashtanga Series A and B, a set order of poses from which teachers usually pick a set to do in their class. It is taught in Vinyasa style (breath-synchronized movement) and focuses on the Eight Limbs of Yoga as outlined by the sage Patanjali about 2,000 years ago:
- Yama – moral codes
- Niyama – self-purification and study
- Asana – posture
- Pranayama – breath control
- Pratyahara – sense control
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – contemplation
- Yoga Nidra – literally means “yogic sleep” and focuses on deep physical, mental and emotional relaxation. The goal is to reach greater awareness and supreme consciousness.
- Amrit – developed by Yogi Amrit Desai, it is a “meditation in motion” similar to Kripalu style and combines Hatha and Raja yoga by adding inwardly focused attention and meditative awareness to the practice.
- Kundalini – concentrates on awakening energy found at the base of the spine. It includes poses and meditation, but focuses more on chanting and breathing exercises.
- Jivamukti – taught in vinyasa style, it includes chanting Sanskrit mantras, meditation and some spiritual teachings into the physical practice.
- Anusara – created in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara means “flowing with Grace.” The style is similar to Vinyasa and unifies Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness with universal principles of alignment.
- Bikram – founded by Bikram Choudhury, it’s a series of 26 poses performed in the same sequence each time in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Power – western version of Ashtanga yoga, emphasizing flexibility and self-discipline. It provides a rigorous workout and promotes mental stability and concentration.