Main styles of Yoga
Why are there so many styles of yoga? What should not be the same essence regardless of style? In the end, all yoga consists of doing poses on a mat, isn’t it? Yes and no. The essence of yoga actually goes far beyond a few semi-circus positions. Yoga as such is over 5,000 years old and did not start with a group of people doing sun salutation sequences.
It began as a philosophy in South Asia, illustrated in the Patanjali Sutras, which over the years has evolved into the popular physical, mental and spiritual discipline that we know today around the world. Let’s review the main styles of yoga.
As we have seen, the structure of the body and the asana is dual. Ha means sun and tha means moon. The practice of Hatha Yoga seeks to balance these opposing forces through the asana, in the way we have explained in this manual. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a text written by the Indian yogi Svatmarama in the 15th century, is the fundamental reference of this system. “Asanas will make you strong, disease-free, and more flexible,” he says. There is no age limit to practice asanas, because they are performed slowly, always coordinated, of course, with deep and conscious breathing.
Hatha Yoga has as its starting point that the asana has a positive impact on the entire body; all the benefits that we have talked about in this text, starting with the health of the spine, as it governs the central nervous system. Proper exercise is also like a lubrication for the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Hatha Yoga also studies all the effects of the asana on the organs and in the more subtle dimensions, which we have also mentioned.
In traditional Hatha Yoga the asana is maintained for a long time, so that these effects are enhanced. On the other hand, when you slowly and consciously undo a posture, asanas provide physical well-being. These exercises promote concentration and meditation. Actually, all the practice that involves the physical dimensions and part of them is Hatha Yoga.
Hatha Raja Yoga
Following the path of the eight limbs (Ashtanga Yoga as the definition of the Yoga process), we have seen that Hatha involves the physical planes of duality and Raja, the more subtle planes, also dual, that approach the Self. Hatha Raja Yoga the it combines all, taking into account the ultimate purpose of Yoga, the supreme self-realization of the Being or the supreme knowledge; in the same practice and constantly, attention is directed to all planes, physical and non-physical in an integral way.
Conscious and deep breathing, aligned with visualization (kriya Pranayama) within physical practice – and as a technique in itself – is a fundamental tool of this system. The Yamas and Niyamas are the root in the fusion process of the asana, Pranayama, pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana.
Ashtanga Yoga is a style of great strength and intensity created by Master Sri Pattabhi Jois. It is a dynamic system of postures that are intertwined with each other by breathing. The system, which has several series of fixed sequences, is based on the coordination of breath with movement (vinyasa), to create a continuous flow. Practiced in its correct sequential order, it gradually leads the practitioner to rediscover his true human potential, with his correct Ujjayi breathing, postures (asanas) and gaze focuses (dristis).
The body becomes stronger and increases its resistance; the mind calms by increasing its ability to concentrate. Ashtanga unites each of the asanas through vinyasas or half vinyasas, as groups of three postures or less are also called, the same ones always, which serve as links between asanas or sequences and keep the body warm and suitable for dynamic flow. of practice; Chaturanga, Urdva Mukha Svanasanay and Adho Mukha Svanasana usually come together in this vinyasa. One of the main functions of the Ashtanga system is to generate an intense internal heat called Agni, which produces a physical and energetic purifying effect.
Vinyasa, as defined by T. Krisnamacharya, is every cycle that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The cycle of our breath, the cycles of the moon or the seasons would be examples of vinyasas. Practice is then seen as another cycle that has its phases and stages. But it is also very flexible, which can change, slow down or become more active, according to individual needs or the purpose of a particular session. In this sense, Vinyasa is an open practice system that allows each one to follow the needs of her body, or adapt to their own mental state.
To establish an analogy, we could compare the practice of Vinyasa as a ‘tailored suit’, specially designed for each person and for each occasion. So there is no fixed series of postures as there are in Ashtanga, but the fundamental basis is the synchronization of breath with movement. Links that link one sequence to another are also called vinyasa. These links are groups of three postures, the same ones always, that keep the body fit for the dynamic flow of the practice.
Dharma Yoga is a fluid, yet demanding style created by the Sri Dharma Mittra school, which is based on the traditional Yoga practice of this teacher for more than 50 years, and which he continues to share at his center in New York. The foundations of this practice are the Yamas and Niyamas, especially Ahimsa (compassion towards all beings, avoid creating violence) as the root of everything else, and its meaning is highly devotional (devotion to that which is supreme in ourselves). A meditative and spiritual practice is promoted, even and especially in the practice of asana, because it is approached as an offering.
Sri Dharma Mitrra always highlights the ultimate purpose of Yoga as the goal of practicing it: the Supreme Self-realization of the Self, or the supreme self-knowledge. As the Dharma Yoga Center website says, Dharma Yoga incorporates “the nine forms of Yoga, including Hatha, Raja, Karma, Kriya, Bhakti, Japa, Laya and Jnana”, although in essence it is a practice of classical Hatha Raja. “A devotional practice that focuses on good health, a clear mind, and a kind heart.”
This style is based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh and one of his disciples, Swami Vishnu Devananda. These two Indian saints dedicated their lives to studying and practicing the philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta, as well as serving others with an innate feeling of oneness with humanity. Sivananda Yoga constitutes a way of life to achieve spiritual fulfillment. Sivananda is one of the most mystical and complete Yoga traditions that exist. In its practices and precepts, in addition to Yoga and Vedanta, the wisdom of Ayurveda, the ancient texts of India, and the knowledge of other psychological, medicinal, philosophical and spiritual branches are included.
As Swami Sivananda says, the body is the vehicle that takes us to the goal. To know the soul, having a healthy and strong body can be of great help. But we must not forget that the body is at the service of the soul and not the other way around. Sivananda Yoga thus has five basic principles: asanas: proper exercise (lubrication); Pranayama: Proper breathing (charge the battery); proper relaxation -savasana- (cooling system); healthy diet -Satwic- (good quality gasoline); positive thinking and meditation (good driver: the mind). The teaching is also based on the four paths of Yoga (bakthi, karma, raja, jnana).
Iyengar Yoga is the Yoga method practiced by those who follow the teaching of Master Sri B. K. S. Iyengar, who, together with his sons Geeta S. Iyengar and Prashant S. Iyengar, created the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (Pune -India). The term Yoga Iyengar was coined by the teacher’s own students to differentiate his teaching from other existing schools of Yoga, although the teacher himself always looked at that name with grace, saying that what he practices and teaches is simply “Yoga”, according with the tradition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. That is very clear in the extensive bibliography that this teacher left.
The Iyengar method is distinctive for the importance it gives to the correct alignment of the body in the asana and, once achieved, a prolonged stay in them. According to its precepts, a proper alignment of the bones and joints allows a better balance to be achieved with less muscular effort and this, therefore, provides greater stability, greater energy and greater well-being and more stillness and mental clarity. Another characteristic aspect of the Iyengar practice is the use of supports, materials such as blankets, belts, blocks, cushions, ropes, benches, which support and facilitate this alignment. This is intended to make the practice accessible to everyone, even those who have physical limitations or suffer from any illness.
Restorative Yoga is a very adaptable form of Yoga that teaches us to relax and gives us the benefits of complete relaxation: it nourishes us internally and gives us a state of deep calm. The asanas are performed with supports (ribbons, pads, blankets, cushions, towels, eye masks, chairs, the wall …) and are held for five to ten minutes, without necessarily activating the asana to the maximum. Because, unlike other types of Yoga practice, in Restorative Yoga the purpose is to let go, letting the supports bear the weight of the body, so that the muscles and deep tissues can relax and release tension at those levels. A small adjustment in the placement of a support can make a big difference in the comfort that we achieve.
The greatest benefit of Restorative Yoga is that it allows the part of our nervous system that governs relaxation to work. During deep relaxation, all the body’s organs benefit: blood pressure is lowered, sugar and triglyceride levels are lowered, “good” cholesterol levels are increased, digestion, fertility, insomnia and fatigue are improved. When the body is relaxed, you will be able to advance in the posture – in comfort – and gain in range of motion and flexibility. As in all Yoga practice, conscious and deep breathing is used to oxygenate the deep tissues and help calm the mind.