Yoga has a history that is over 5,000 years old. The practice has roots that date back to ancient civilisations where it was thought to have first been developed by the Northern Indian Indus-Sarasvati civilisation in line with the emerging philosophy of Buddhism.
Fast forward to today however and there are now over thirty different types of yoga! Yoga’s adoption into the mainstream has meant that different variations continue to emerge as tastes, fitness levels and more meditation practices develop.
Despite the different branches of yoga now available, there are 5 types of yoga which are considered to be the main branches of the practice and which still influence modern yoga practice.
These five types of yoga are considered fundamental to the practice of yoga, and so it is these that yogis are likely to experience in studios and in general practice, unless they specifically sign up for a yoga class which is geared toward one of the newer variations.
However because there’s so much variation in practices it’s becoming increasingly important that yogis make sure they are following a practice which suits them, their bodies and their goals.
As the five main branches are likely to be the ones that a yogi encounters the most, we’ve shed more light on the type of practice and their benefits below.
Some of the 2021 Yoga Trends introduce even more types of Yoga! Learn about them here.
1. Bikram Yoga
Bikram Yoga, often referred to as Hot Yoga, is a variation of yoga that is practiced in a hot and humid environment, or in a room where the temperature is set to around 40 degrees.
Bikram Yoga was first invented by Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yogi who became somewhat of a controversial celebrity in the USA, in 1970.
There are 26 different poses in Bikram Yoga and if you hadn’t already guessed, the increased temperature is purposeful: The practice is designed to make students sweat, because the overall objective of the variation is to help people lose weight. It’s estimated that in one class alone you can burn up to 600 calories!
For Bikram Yoga, it’s essential that yogis dress properly in light and breathable clothing, and that they also hydrate throughout the practice (there are opportunities to in any class).
Bikram Yoga is mostly suitable for those looking for an intense workout, who are looking to either lose weight, develop strength, improve flexibility and tone their muscles through increased cardiovascular strain caused by the heat and the exercises.
Bikram Yoga Benefits:
Performing this type of exercise in a hotter environment helps the body to relax, improves breathing and promotes a better mental focus
Improves flexibility through its range of movements
Burns more calories compared any other form of yoga
Reduces stress from the heat of the environment
Has positive effects on mental wellbeing
Provides extra cardiovascular fitness
Through sweating, it refreshes and nourishes the skin (sweating naturally exfoliates the skin, freeing it of bacteria, dirt, oils and any other impurities)
2. Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is a variation of yoga seeped in traditional history as it dates back to around the 15th century.
Hatha Yoga is practised at a much slower, relaxed pace when compared to other forms of yoga because it primarily focuses on meditation.
Hatha Yoga is also the perfect yoga for beginners because it introduces brand new yogis to relaxation techniques and the main asanas (the postures or positions involved in atypical yoga) which yogis will encounter in a number of different yoga practices.
The common asanas introduced in Hatha yoga practice include Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, Vrikshasana, otherwise known as Tree Pose, Uttanasana, Standing Forward Bend, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-facing Dog Pose and Setu Bandhasana, Bridge Pose.
Hatha Yoga Benefits:
Improves both balance and flexibility
Maintains mobility in older people
Slower pace allows time to perfect, learn and relax into each pose
Provides a full body workout through a mixture of standing and seated poses
Breathing exercises and final relaxation poses promote relaxation and unwinding
Reduces stress levels through relaxation techniques
Improves and promotes core strength
3. Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa Yoga, also known as Ashtanga Yoga or the Yoga of Warriors, is a yoga practice designed to increase strength and build lean muscle mass throughout the body.
Similar to Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga can be practiced in hot and humid environments to enhance the intensity of the practice.
In Vinyasa Yoga all muscle groups receive an equal amount of attention through a series of continuous and flowing movements. This sequence creates a balance which is made to build muscle mass in all muscle groups.
Vinyasa Yoga also nods to its traditional, ancient roots by incorporating Sun Salutation sequences, a series of asanas first performed at dawn to honour the sun's power and energy.
Vinyasa Yoga Benefits:
Increases strength and lean muscle mass in the body
Boosts the immune system through elimination of stress
Increases body flexibility
Decreases stress through its “movement meditation”. Repetitive sequences refocus the mind and decreases anxieties
Negates stress and lowers blood pressure
Promotes good body posture
Increases lung capacity through breath practice
Improves balance and stability
Looking to start yoga at home? Read our complete How to Guide.
4. Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga is another form of yoga which has its roots in ancient history, originating at around the same time as Hatha Yoga.
Kundalini yoga is known as the “yoga of awareness” because of its associations with unlocking a strong current of energy within the body.
Unlike other yoga practices, Kundalini yoga uses sounds as well as movement, breath and meditation practices to restore both the mind and body.
Kundalini yoga is a type of yoga with a particular focus on the spiritual, which means that with enough practice yogis can use the meditation techniques to give greater awareness to their emotional responses to thoughts, feelings and events.
Kundalini Yoga Benefits:
Improves strength, flexibility and endurance
Strengthens the nervous system
Purifies the blood and glands
Decreases anxiety and stress
5. Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is a practice of yoga based on ancient Chinese philosophies and Taoist principles. These philosophies and principles believe that there are paths of Qi (energy) that run throughout our bodies and that by performing Yin poses we open up blockages and release the stifled energy.
Yin yoga primarily targets the deep connective tissues of the body such as the bones, fascia, joints and ligaments.
Similar to Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga is also slower and much more meditative which also makes it a great introductory practice for new yogis. It teaches all students to turn inward however and emphasises the importance of tuning your mind.
As its poses are held for a considerable amount of time, Yin yoga also helps to lengthen rarely-used tissues, which makes for an overall stronger and more flexible body.
Yin Yoga Benefits:
Lengthens connective tissues
Reduces stress levels
Promotes good posture
Slower pace results in a deeper, more meditative practice
With so many variations of Yoga it’s important that those of all abilities and experience levels find the practice that will best align with them. Different yoga practices ultimately have different objectives, and so depending on an individuals own goals and motivations will depend on which yoga practice will be most beneficial for them.
At Firefly Yoga we run a range of different yoga classes. We run Hatha Yoga classes, Yin Yoga Classes, Hot Yoga Classes, Vinyasa Flows and even Yoga Tone classes so you’re bound to find the practice that best suits you. Why not give one of our classes a try?