For the body, mind & soul

For the body, mind & soul


For the body, mind & soul

With yoga studios mushrooming in almost every part of the world, there is a problem of plenty. Wondering which style will work best for you? Pragya Bhatt offers to help.

Are you looking to lose weight? Perhaps, improving your immunity? How about lowering blood pressure? Or fighting chronic pain? No matter what your reason for embarking on the path of yoga, it’s important you choose the right style (one that works best for you) and a competent teacher. Here’s looking at some of the most popular schools of yoga:

Pursuit of perfection

A traditional style taught in the guru-shishya parampara, Ashtanga yoga consists of different levels of classes.  Practitioners have to start at level one even if they’ve been long-time yoga practitioners in some other styles. The home of Ashtanga happens to be Mysuru and the tradition was started by Shri K Pattabhi Jois. Every year thousands of practitioners from around the world come to Mysuru to learn under the tutelage of the best
Ashtanga teachers in the world.

Each level has a set sequence of asanas and practitioners must master an asana before moving on to the next one in the sequence. Needless to say, mastery of this style can take years. But if you are looking for a physically challenging style, this one is for you. Expect to sweat a lot in each session (students carry along a change of clothing and towels). Also, being certified and authorised to teach this style is a long and arduous process. So, if you are a student looking to learn this style, do ask your teacher about his/her certification.

Slow and steady

Named after Shri BKS Iyengar, the pace of Iyengar yoga is slower than that of most other styles. It is heavily alignment-based and extremely therapeutic. Various props such as bolsters, wooden blocks, blankets, ropes, belts, chairs etc are used in the classes to ensure that all levels of practitioners are able to practise the poses. Often, classes consist of a limited number of asanas practised in detail.

This style is more of a study of the asanas and practitioners are expected to be very precise in their movements. You may not sweat a lot, but the intense stretches will leave you feeling light and easy after the class. As with Ashtanga yoga, becoming certified to teach in this style is a long process and it may take several years for a teacher to become certified. So, before joining a class, check out the credentials of your teacher.

Best of both worlds

Baptiste yoga was started by Baron Baptiste after he spent time in India learning under the guidance of BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois.  Therefore, a Baptiste yoga class is a combination of these styles. There is no specific sequence of asanas to be followed and classes are conducted in a heated room.

As in Iyengar yoga, Baptiste yoga also aims to make yogasanas accessible to all ages and capabilities. Although not very popular in India, Baptiste yoga had a good run in the US. It’s on the decline now, though, after newer styles have emerged.

Feel the heat

Bikram yoga combines a hot room of about 40 degree Celsius with a sequence of 26 postures. Because of the elevated temperatures, some believe that the joints become loose and it becomes easier to practise this style. However, from personal experience I would say that relatively simple poses become difficult to perform in the heat.

Bikram Choudhury and his fleet of luxury cars (totalling about 100) have come under a lot of criticism, even before the sexual harassment cases came to light. While Bikram yoga is really popular in the West, there are not many takers in India.

Hot favourite

Hot yoga evolved out of the Baptiste and Bikram styles of yoga where the room was artificially heated to facilitate sweating, loosening up of the body and (it is believed) the release of toxins. These classes do not follow any specific asana sequence. Teachers customise and modify sequences for their classes. But one needs to get comfortable with the elevated temperatures.

Smooth moves

‘Vinyasa’ basically refers to the coordination of movement with breath. Vinyasa yoga classes also work up a good sweat because the movements are constant, smooth and continuous.

Have the power

Power yoga is a dynamic class where yoga sequence is done in a flow. These may
include repetitive movements designed to increase your heart rate. Expect to sweat a lot during these sessions. Whether you’re looking for weight loss, improved flexibility or increase in stamina, you’ll get it all from a power yoga class.

The right balance

It’s a comparatively slower form of yoga, Yin yoga focuses more on holding asanas for longer periods of time. Started by a martial artist called Paulie Zink, who was inspired by both his Kung Fu and yoga practice, the full name for this style is Yin and Yang yoga as it works on balancing the Yin (slow) and the Yang (dynamic) components of a human being. This style of yoga aims at increasing flexibility.

Healing touch

Restorative yoga is a term used for yoga classes for the infirm or the injured. This style borrows heavily from the Iyengar school to heal and restore the body. Popular amongst athletes since it helps in undoing damage brought about by heavy physical exercise, this can also be used in conjunction with physiotherapy.

Restorative yoga classes make heavy use of props. Although asanas are held for a long time, instead of being strenuous, restorative yoga poses are relaxing. These classes work on the principle of getting you back into alignment, centredness and focus by keeping the pace of the classes slow and restful. Great for those who lead frazzled work and personal lives.

In the right spirit

The precursor to all forms of yoga, the asanas and philosophies comprising Hatha yoga have evolved into the different styles that we see today. This style was defined by Swatmarama in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a text published in the 15th century.

Hatha yoga focuses on the eight limbs of yoga, taking this style beyond just the practice of the physical asanas on to the idea of cultivating the mind and the intellect and the spirit. It lays great emphasis on how we conduct ourselves and treat others.

God of all things

‘Bhakti’ means devotion, and Bhakti yoga focuses on complete devotion to God. Different sects have different deities but on the whole, the principle of Bhakti yoga is the union of the ‘soul’ with the ‘supersoul’ (God). 

Unlike other practices, this form doesn’t focus on asanas. The cornerstone of this yoga is on cultivating devotion and meditating upon God. Practitioners remember and pay homage to God before any action and attribute all their success to the supreme one. Every action is a tribute to God.

Matter of karma

‘Karma’ means action, and Karma yoga focuses on actions as a means to achieve liberation. It focuses on selfless action and duty above all. Proponents of Karma yoga practise becoming unattached to the fruits of their actions. This helps in maintaining
utter equanimity and detachment to the earthly life.

Of five principles

Founded by Swami Sivananda, Sivananda yoga comprises 12 postures practised by members every day. It also comprises the philosophy of traditional Hatha yoga. The aim is to keep the practitioner physically and emotionally healthy by following five principles —
proper exercise (asanas), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (consuming vegetarian food) and good thoughts (dhyana). 

Alignment and attitude

Started by John Friend, an erstwhile Iyengar practitioner, Anusara yoga derives its philosophies from Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagvad Gita. The cornerstones of this style of yoga are attitude towards the asana and then towards life; alignment of the asanas and how it integrates the mind and body; and action, which will naturally flow from a sense of alignment and attitude to bring more stability and freedom.

In 2012, though, this style was mired in controversy following allegations of sexual harassment, which finally led to the founder resigning from the board of directors.

Go with the flow

Flow yoga refers to any yoga class which combines breath and movement in a flow, with relaxation also incorporated in between the flow. The relaxation and the movement are coordinated and timed, with the main relaxation usually happening towards the end of the class. Expect to get your heart rate up and get all sweaty. It’s a great way to torch calories and build muscle.

(The author is a Bengaluru-based yoga instructor)