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Yoga Explained With 6 Different Types
Yoga teacher, Jasmine Sara, has been staying with us from England and teaching classes here at Rosemary Dream. After many conversations with people in our bustling international community who were keen to know more about Yoga, Jasmine decided to write a simple online guide introducing a few different styles.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a Sanskrit word from ancient India meaning “to yolk” or “union”. The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali are considered the guidelines of this spiritual path. Yoga philosophy is also rooted in various traditions and ancient scriptures such as Tantra, Hinduism and Buddhism. Yoga is universally recognised as a wellbeing practice which can help maintain mental and physical health. For me, it is about connecting to a sense that we are all one, taking care of the self to take care of the whole.
When people who are completely new to the world of Yoga ask me where they should begin or what style I would recommend, I always say that Yoga is so much more than the physical postures. Yoga can be taking a few deep breaths at any time of day. It can be dancing or meditating, connecting with another person or stretching. It can be singing, chanting, the words you speak or listening to the sounds of the forest.
Another common question I get asked is “What type do you practice yourself?” My answer to this is that it completely depends! For me, my asana (posture) Yoga practice provides me a safe space to check in with my body, mind and spirit so I can listen in closely to parts of myself that can sometimes be difficult to hear around all the distractions of modern living.
Different Types of Yoga
If I am feeling exhausted and drained maybe I will practice Yin. If I’m feeling in need of structure in my life and to connect to my inner power source, then I might practice Astanga. If I’m feeling creative I’ll just roll my mat out and let the movement flow freely.
Do you know what the best part is? Lying on your back on the floor and simply relaxing the body is actually one of THE most important Yoga postures! It’s called Savasana and is taken at the end of every class.
Maybe you’re new to Yoga and don’t know where to begin, or perhaps you’ve been going to one particular class and are curious about all the other types out there. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to try going to a local studio but are a bit overwhelmed by the huge variety of different names on the schedule.
So, let’s simply introduce a few different styles:
Astanga is the sanskrit word for “8 Limbs” which refers to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that state the postures (asana) as just 1 part of a wider system of practices.
The practice of the postures is very structured. If you go to an Astanga class you can expect to follow The Primary Series which is a set sequence that is heat building. Astanga can have a bit of a reputation in the Yoga world as being hardcore but you can always adapt the sequence to your own level.
Yin is slow paced and passive. It unites meditation with posture for a deep practice where you can really turn the focus inwards. Postures are typically long-held, floor based and can be supported by props.
Yin works with fascia (the deep connective tissues) in the body, increases the natural range of motion in joints and can help to downregulate the nervous system into its soothing state of rest and digest. Think of it as a group nap with a few gentle Yoga postures thrown in!
The word Hatha can technically be used to describe any kind of physical practice of Yoga. But Hatha tends to be used in the Western world to describe a gentle, accessible class combining posture and breathwork. There will generally be more focus on slow paced static postures than on flowing between the postures with continuous movement.
B. K. S. Iyengar is a famous Yogi that created this type of Yoga which is best known for having a strong focus on alignment. It’s about paying close attention to every aspect of each pose, taking notice of the little details. Props are often used in Iyengar to aid in this process.
Vinyasa in Sanskrit can translate to ‘to place in a special way’ which describes how in flow yoga the postures are placed together to consciously move through the sequence.
In vinyasa yoga, the breath initiates the movement and connects each posture together. Practicing in this way can feel a bit like a dance, with a string of postures carefully weaved together in a fluid sequence.
Acro Yoga combines yoga and acrobatics and is a group or partner activity. It’s all about communication, building trust and trying out new things in a supportive and safe environment.
There are two parts to Acro Yoga, Solar (acrobatics) and Lunar (therapeutics). This provides a balance between more active, challenging postures and relaxed, passive postures. If you ever get the chance to try Acro, I’d highly recommend it. It’s interactive, fun and connected.
There are so many more types of Yoga classes that you can find. There’s also a whole lot more to say about the philosophy behind it all but this was just a brief introduction, aiming to share a little bit more about what Yoga is and how varied the practice can be. Hopefully it’s inspired you to try something new and hop on the mat. Happy Yoga-ing!
If you’d like to receive an instructional yoga flow that you can do at home then sign up to our free online guide called 7 days of optimal living. This is a gift from us to you to share some of the beautiful practices we use here at Rosemary to live our lives well. Sign up for free here.
Feel free to save the below graphic to keep in your personal wellbeing tool box!
Written by Jasmine Sara
Photographs of group classes by Bruna Brandão