Untangling yoga styles!

2013July15_YogaGeneral_ATo the uninitiated, Yoga is a catch-all phrase and easy to define, or at least stereotype. A practice for healthy people who can contort and twist their bodies into eye-watering postures while seeking spiritual enlightenment and chanting Ohm!  Well, the reality is that there are many styles of yoga which differ from each other greatly and they are practiced by people from all walks of life: from business leaders to builders, and French polishers to farmers. Yoga styles may share some characteristics but they are practiced for a variety of reasons and are suited to different people. What they have in common is that they are all great ways to stay in shape.

When it comes to health and fitness, yoga has many advantages. By training your body to reach and hold certain yoga postures, you are really improving the flexibility of your joints and the strength of the muscles used. A flexible strong body is less susceptible to injury and the benefits don’t stop there. You will also enjoy improved balance, a better range of bodily motion, more stamina, and, depending which type of yoga you are doing, improved breathing and circulation. In addition, yoga can increase focus and perhaps even bring greater peace of mind. Some yoga styles will appeal more than other, so if you’re not totally sure of what each style is about, here’s a quick lowdown:


The origins of Hatha can be traced back to 15th century India and there is definitely a focus on meditation and breathing in this form of yoga. It is a rather forceful and slow paced yoga and perhaps the best known in the West. There is an emphasis on practicing postures (asana), control of breathing (pranayama) and meditation.

  • Purpose: To align bones and muscles and introduce mindfulness and a sense of calm.

  • Benefits: Hatha can help relieve stress by imparting inner focus. It can also improve bodily ailments with poses that strengthen and stretch bones and muscles.

  • Ideal for: People new to yoga who want to learn the basic poses and techniques.


Like Hatha, Vinyasa concentrates primarily on asanas and movements that are synchronized with breathing. One of the differences is that the movements are more flowing and there is an emphasis on ‘sun salutations’, a series of 12 ancient poses that are aimed at building flexibility and strength of flexibility in the spinal column, as well as toning the body and core. By speeding up the flow you can also burn calories.

  • Purpose: To link the breath with flowing movements and to build up lean and firm muscles throughout the body.

  • Benefits: As well as improving strength, flexibility and coordination, Vinyasa Yoga ¬†targets several muscle groups and reduces the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

  • Ideal for: Beginners and experienced yogis and people looking to get stronger and enjoy better balance.


Ashtanga yoga has a spiritual element but is still physically challenging for beginners and experienced yoga practitioners alike. Ashtanga means ‘eight limbs’ and represents the eight aspects of the practice:morality, purification, posture etc…The yoga’s intense and fast-paced postures are aimed at cleaning and purifying the body through heating and sweat. Many of the poses are unique to Ashtanga.

  • Purpose: This physically challenging yoga is not only great for building strength but also for helping promote self-awareness.

  • Benefits: Ashtanga can help lower stress levels and weight, boost your immune system and help you to fight stress.

  • Ideal for: Anyone who wants to learn about correct alignment, improve their strength and stamina and to get in touch with their spiritual side.


Iyengar, named after its developer B.K.S Iyengar, is a form of Hatha Yoga that has systemised over 200 classical yoga poses, and 14 breathing exercises from basic to advanced. Students can develop from simple to more challenging ones and chart their progress. Props are often used to attain and hold the postures and this type of yoga is often used to combat serious medical problems.

  • Purpose: To aid bodily alignment and relieve aches and pains via correct alignment and pose.

  • Benefits: Iyengar can help speed up recovery after an injury, build strength and improve balance.

  • Ideal for: Iyengar Yoga is good for beginners who want to build up their skills and for people with injuries, balance problems and chronic illnesses like arthritis.


Bikram is a type of Hot Yoga but not all Hot Yoga is Bikram. The common element is a heated room though. In Bikram sessions are made up of 26 postures and breathing exercises that strengthen your joints and muscles and help restore balance to your body. Often it is practiced in a room heated to a 95 to 100 degrees. Both Bikram and Hot Yoga in general are an exhilarating way to maintain good health both physical and mental.

  • Purpose: As well as strengthening specific muscles, tendons and joints, Bikram can help to flush out toxin and really stretch the muscles deep down.

  • Benefits: Bikram is good for healing after an injury, it can enhance your flexibility and improve your circulation and cleanse the body.

  • Ideal for: Beginners and experts alike, Bikram is good for weight loss, suppleness and its breathing exercises help people who are stressed or who lack focus. It’s ideal for those who feel comfortable in the heat too!

Find out which yoga style suits you by dropping us a line. With yoga it isn’t about what’s right or wrong but about what suits you and what style of practice feels right for you. It’s not about being able to get into a complicated pose and it’s not reserved for those who want to meditate during exercise or focus more on the body-mind connection than the core. Let us help find the right yoga class for you!

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