What is Yoga?
According to Yoga Australia yoga is generally recognised as an ancient system of philosophies, principles and practices derived from the Vedic tradition of India and the Himalayas, more than 2500 years ago. It is a system that recognises the multi-dimensional nature of the human person, and primarily relates to the nature and workings of the mind, based on experiential practice and self-enquiry.
Yoga cultivates health and wellbeing (physical, emotional, mental and social) through the regular practice of a range of many different techniques, including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self-inquiry and meditation.
Yoga is an approach to life that values appropriate effort, based on balance and harmony, within each person and with each other.
There are so many yoga styles, here are just a few of the most common once, and those that I have explored in my own practice over the past 10 years.
Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic moving meditation. You learn key foundations of Sun Salutations, Standing Poses and more while moving with your breath. Each student is given a unique practice.
Anyone who likes routine or a more physical yet spiritual practice.
Vinyasa is often also called ‘’flow yoga” or “vinyasa flow”. It was adapted from the Ashtanga practice. The word “vinyasa” translates to “place something in a special way” which is often interpreted as linking breath and movement. You often find the words gentle, slow, power or hot paired with the word vinyasa to indicate the intensity of the practice.
Vinyasa is suitable for those who have never tried yoga and those who are more advanced in their practice. Anyone who wants more movement and less stillness from their yoga practice is drawn to this style of yoga.
Yin Yoga is a slower style of yoga where poses are held for up to 5 minutes or more. This type of yoga focusses on connective tissue, ligaments, fascia and joints. Holding the poses longer benefits the mind as well as the body, providing a chance to focus inwardly and practice stillness. During the practice you often use probs like bolsters, straps, blankets and blocks helping to relax and let gravity do the work.
This practice compliments a vinyasa flow and can be extremely beneficial as a recovery from a hard workout and for strong bodies. Anyone who is interested in a slow-paced practice might like this.
Power Yoga traces its roots to Ashtanga but is less regimented. It is usually done at a quicker paste than other styles of yoga.
Power Yoga suits those who want a good workout and a less spiritual yoga practice.
In this style of yoga, the goal is to completely relax into poses, which are held for at least five minutes but often longer. Many props are used to support your body to achieve complete relaxation. Although all different types of yoga can aid stress relief and brain health, restorative yoga places its focus on down regulating the nervous system.
Anyone who needs to de-stress, those dealing with pain, and someone who struggles to relax.
Subtle Yoga is a broadly applicable, person-centred approach to yoga practice which can be tailored to differing body types/physical abilities and various contexts – from wellness to mental illness to public health.
Subtle Yoga incorporates six key processes: mindful movement, breathing practices, meditation, awareness of values/ethical engagement, spiritual development, and service. Together these practices promote attention, mindfulness, body awareness, self-regulation, resilience, self-actualization, and pro-social behaviour.
Subtle Yoga calms the nervous system, improves breathing, increases the body-mind connection, and is trauma-informed. It is a holistic intervention which can complement and enhance traditional healthcare approaches through health promotion, prevention, treatment, or aftercare/recovery, from the individual through the population health level.
This style of yoga is suitable for everybody who is looking more for an innercise. Yoga as a therapy. A yoga practice that can assist in achieving a balance in the physical, mental, spiritual and social realms (biopsychosocial-spiritual).
There are many more e.g. Kundalini yoga, Iyengar yoga, Prenatal yoga, Aerial yoga, Acro yoga or you might find vinyin yoga which is a combination of vinyasa and yin yoga or different styles practiced as hot yoga. You often find the term Hatha Yoga, which is generally used as a blanket term for the physical side of yoga. To be classed as Hatha yoga a class must include poses (asanas) breathing exercises (pranyama) and meditation.
Which one is right for you?
This question can only be answered by you. Each style of yoga has its unique benefits and you might encounter a mix of many types of yoga in the same class. Try some different styles and see what feels best for you. You may even find that you like different styles on different days. Always remember the most important thing to reap all the benefits is a consistent practice. It is yoga practice not yoga perfect.