An Idiot’s Guide To Yoga Styles (Part I)

Posted by huihsien on 20 May 10

When yoga was starting to gain recognition in Malaysia, most of us thought it was an activity only taken up by elderly folks. That was 15 years ago. Since then, our perception and understanding of yoga has evolved tremendously. So much so that now, there isn’t just one style of yoga that fits all practitioners. Some like it fast, some like it slow, some like it relaxing and some like it challenging.

If you are new to the yoga scene and would like to know what lies beneath those fancy names, have a quick read through this guide on the various popular styles to help you understand and choose one that fits you best.

Hatha Yoga

Translated literally,  ‘Ha’ means ‘Sun’, or the vital force controlling our physical body and ‘Tha’ means ‘Moon’ or the mental force which exists within us. By practising Hatha Yoga, both these energies are awakened and brought together to harmonise, purify and prepare the body and mind for a higher state of awareness. Of all the different types of yoga, Hatha Yoga is most popular and focuses on the practice of asana (postures) and pranayama (breath control) to activate and energise the subtle channels. This paves the path, away from identification with the physical body towards unification with the energy source, ultimately revealing our true self. Technically, all other forms of posture based yoga are derived from Hatha Yoga.

These days, yoga teachers also offer Hatha Flow classes, which essentially means incorporating a seamless transition between each asana in a flow-like manner.

This style is  suitable for beginners.

Ashtanga Yoga

For those who are constantly looking for challenging postures that test your strength and concentration, Ashtanga Yoga would be your sure pick. Ashtanga Yoga is based on a fixed sequence of postures that are carried out in a smooth, uninterrupted manner. The three most important factors in Ashtanga Yoga are Vinyasa (breath-linked movements guided by specific counts), Bandha (narrowing and locking certain energy centres in the body to guide energy flow) and Drshti (specific gazing points to help with concentration). The Primary Series focuses on strong forward bends and twisting postures to detoxify and align the body. The Intermediate Series focuses on strong hip openers and intense backbends to purify the energy centres and connect with the subtle body. In the Advanced Series (subdivided into third, fourth, fifth and sixth sequence), clarity of your true self will be achieved.

Besides Ashtanga Yoga, we often also hear of the term Power Yoga, which is technically a spin-off from the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa. Power Yoga practitioners would similarly go through physically demanding postures, emphasising on strength and flexibility but unlike Ashtanga, does not follow a series of set postures.

This style is suitable for intermediate to advanced practitioners. Double thumbs up for sweat factor.

Sivananda Yoga

The Sivananda Yoga style which is based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda himself, focuses on 5 key aspects. They are are proper exercise, proper breathing, proper diet, proper relaxation and positive thinking and meditation. A traditional Sivananda Yoga class takes 90 minutes and includes 12 core postures (which is done in the same order), chanting, pranayama, meditation practices and relaxation. When the postures are done correctly and practised with meditative awareness, the practitioner will feel deeply refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated at the end of the session. Although the 12 core postures remain the same in each class, the teacher will usually introduce variations as the student progresses.

This style is suitable for beginners.

Contined in Part II…

Archived in the category: Yoga Poses & Styles

2 comments for “An Idiot’s Guide To Yoga Styles (Part I)”

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[…] …continued from “An Idiot’s Guide To Yoga Styles (Part I)“ […]


June 1st, 2010 at 9:11 am

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