Posted by: Cindy | 2010-05-25

Different types of yoga

I hope this isn''t a silly question, but I''ve heard that there are many different types of yoga - what is the one that most people do for stretching and exercise? And what are the other forms?

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Our expert says:
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Hi Cindy,

To put it into perspective, what we know as the yoga postures constitute about 1% of the practices of yoga. Yoga means union, and it’s aim is bring about self-realisation or union between the individual and the universe. It’s aim is to help one develop all the positive aspects of ones untapped potential and explore the deeper meaning and purpose of life. So many many practices and styles have developed over thousands of years, with this aim in mind.

The yoga that includes the postures that most classes teach is part of a branch of yoga called Hatha Yoga. This yoga is concerned primarily with balancing the solar and lunar energies in the body, purifying them and improving their flow. This branch tends to lead towards physical health and well-being. 90% of classes taught worldwide are based on Hatha yoga whether it is called Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram, Kundalini, Hatha Yoga, etc.

Other branches of yoga include:
Raja yoga – the 8 fold path of yoga, principally concerned with mind-management and includes meditation practice as it’s main type of practice. The aim of this branch is to become established in your true nature.

Karma Yoga – Yoga of action. This yoga is concerned with our daily actions and performance, using all aspect of your life including your job, relationships, life circumstances as means to enlightenment.

Bhakti Yoga – Yoga of management of emotional expression. This yoga helps one open the heart, connect with the divine creation and to feel the connection with everything. It includes as practices – service, prayer, chanting, singing, dance, etc.

Jnana yoga – yoga of knowledge. This is path of introspection, of asking ‘who am I’ and trying to discover the answer through mind and intuition.

There are also many smaller branches of yoga that fit into the above 5 main branches, like Nada Yoga – Yoga of sound, Swara Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini yoga.

There are certain schools of yoga that teach Integral Yoga – this style incorporates practices from all the branches of yoga into a lifestyle that aims at development of the entire personality. It is impossible to teach them all in a yoga class, so it implies more a yogic lifestyle, with consistent daily practice. Examples of Integral yoga are Sivananda Yoga, Satyananda Yoga, Ishta Yoga, etc.

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