There are many pathways to Yoga and many of these are intertwined, to the extent that most Yoga practiced in the western world stems from Hatha (pronounced Hah-ta, meaning sun/moon) – The eight pathways to yoga are
- Bhakti Yoga – of devotion/worship of a higher power
- Jnana Yoga – of Wisdom
- Karma Yoga – of Action (meditative, selfless)
- Raja (Royal) Yoga – based on Astanga Yoga Asta=8 & nga= limb so 8 limb yoga the third limb of which is Asanas, or postures.
- Mantra Yoga – chanting, the sound of Om or a-um
- Hatha Yoga – Most common in the Western world and where most famous yogas come from e.g Astanga, Iyengar, Bikram and Vinyassa – its about the balance & unification of energies.
- Kriya Yoga – again, of Action, but more of self study & spiritual action.
- Tantra Yoga – expanding consciousness, liberating energy (the ‘sex teaching‘ part only makes up about 10% of whats its about I’m afraid!)
So, from these we can see straight away connections, as in Astanga comes from Hatha but also forms the basis for Raja Yoga. The Sun Salutations form what is the Vinyassa flow, which is also a large part of Power Yoga, here is a clearer run down….
- Hatha – can be enjoyed by anyone, & is great for calming down and getting de-stressed
- Astanga – originated in Mysore, India – works with the breath in and exhalations, fast paced and is great for weight-loss, quite athletic
- Bikram – (from Inventor Bikram Chounhury), this is a series of 26 fixed poses (performed twice) but done in a heated room to around 100 degrees. This is not for everyone, but it will be the same all over the world so you’ll know what you’re getting -its too hot for me though! Be warned, the heat will improve your flexibility, but leave you open to injury if you overstretch.
- Iyengar (founder B.K.S Iyengar) – a slower style, so not for those with fast metabolisms like me! Good for l levels this type uses props to help get you into the poses which are held for longer, good if you’re a bit inflexible!
- Kundalini – consists of poses combined with breath control, body locks, chanting and meditation. It is precise & is designed to activate the Kundalini (serpent) energy in the spine & to work on your ‘chakras’ so more spiritual than just a workout.
- Power Yoga – again based on Astanga and Hatha, the focus here is on conecting each movement with the breath, its fast paced but does not follow a fixed routine so is always different. This ‘new’ form has become popular in Hollywood as a way of trimming down & getting a spiritual fix!
Most places offering Yoga classes with issue you with a free class pass of some sort and it really is worth taking advantage of these – try different styles (& teachers) until you find one that suits you. Not that you need to stick to just one style, try as many as you can.