Yoga Styles – A Guide to the Various Types of Asana Practice

Posted by on Sep 9, 2012

Yoga, in one form or another has been practiced on this planet for a few thousand years. With time, our understanding and interpretations of the physical practice have evolved, distinct schools and Yoga lineages have developed and now there is more yoga available than ever before. The following is designed to be a concise overview of the various styles of Hatha (Asana) practice that can be found in studios, gyms and everywhere else that yoga is practiced. For more information on a specific style, please visit the link provided and stay tuned for future post that will examine specific styles.

Ananda Yoga- Born out of the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, founded by Swami Kriyananda. A gentle style of static (longer held postures) asana practice where you come back to center before moving into the next position. In Anada style there is an emphasis on Meditation and lifestyle.

Anusara/Anusara Inspired Yoga (TM)- Founded by American Yogi John Friend in 1997, Anusara is a Vinyasa (flowing) style that includes Tantric philosophy. This style provides modifications to postures that allow individuals of varying abilities to comfortably practice.

Ashtanga/Ashtanga Vinyasa- A traditional system of Yoga, currently taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, where there is one breath for each movement and specific series of postures that increase in difficulty. Ashtanga in the Mysore method, involves a more individualized practice where each student moves through a series and the instructor offers guidance and adjustments.

Bikram Yoga (TM)- is a vigorous style of Vinyasa Hatha Yoga created by Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury. A unique feature of Bikram Yoga is that it is practiced indoors to a high level of heat 105°F/40°C and humidity 40%. Bikram classes follow a series of 24 traditional asanas, starting and ending with Pranayama exercises. Sometimes referred to as ‘Hot Yoga’.

Chakra Yoga- Brings together aspects of Asana, Meditation, Mantras, Pranayama to activate the chakras moving energy in the body and can be described as a form of Kundalini yoga.

Forrest Yoga (TM)- A physical style of Hatha Yoga Developed by Ana Forrest that works to awaken the senses. Asanas are practiced in a warm room and include vigorous sequences and long holds. There is an emphasis on breathing in the asana practice.

Integral Yoga (TM)- A yoga style that integrates Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana and Japa Yoga systems. Founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda in 1966, Integral Yoga promotes a natural life and includes the practices of meditationmantra.

Iyengar Yoga- Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this style is based on ancient Hatha Yoga teachings and emphasizes correct alignment in the asanas. Props and bolster supports are often used in Iyengar style classes to assist with safe and proper positioning.

Jivamukti Yoga- Created by David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1984 this style is inspired by Ashtanga Vinyasa and includes an emphasis on living and practicing yoga philosophy. Classes include the asanas, chanting and meditation.

Kripalu Yoga (TM)- Founded by Amrit Desai or Gurudev and based on the teachings Swami Kripalvananda. Includes Asana, Pranayama, Meditation and compassion. The Asanas are never rushed in this gentle and relaxed practice.

Kundalini Yoga- Based on Tantric Yoga, this style works to build and raise Kundalini energy upwards through the chakras. The methods relied upon in Kundalini Yoga include Asanas, Pranayama, Mantras, and Meditation.

Laughter Yoga (Hasya Yoga)- Developed by Dr. Madan Kataria and Madhuri Kataria in 1995 going with the notion that laughter is the best medicine. Hasya, or laughter wisdom in Sanskrit, brings together laughter, yogic breathing and stretching.

Loknath Yoga– Originally developed by Sri Baba Loknath Brahmachari and since 1981, further taught and developed at the Sri Baba Loknath Brahmachari Mahamandal Ashram under the guidance of Sri Janakinath Bramachari. In this style, Asanas are held for longer and include a period of rest following each pose. Pranayama (yogic breathing), Mudras, Bandas (locks), Mantra, Meditation and yogic diet are all important components of this path.

ParaYoga (TM)- Founded by Rod Stryker, this style includes the use of many yogic techniques and teachings to work with the body’s energy. Classes may include Asana, Pranayama, Bandha, Mudra, Kriya, Mantra, Kundalini, visualization, Meditation and chanting.

Prana Flow Yoga- An energetic vinyasa style developed by Shiva Rea, to cultivate the flow of prana.

Restorative Yoga- A general term for a slower paced Yoga practice with long gentle holds. It is intended for those who want to relax with deep stretches and utilizes blanket or bolster supports and props.

Sivananda/Vedanta Yoga- Based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati and Swami Vishnudevananda. This style focuses on spiritual development and the well-being of the mind and body. Teaches the “Five Points of Yoga”; Asanas, Pranayama, relaxation, diet (vegetarianism), positive thinking (Vedanta) and Meditation.

Tantra Yoga- A yoga system based on ancient scriptures called Tantras that is sometimes considered to be an alternative yoga system. Tantra Yoga adopts a more feminine view but acknowledges the value of both the masculine and feminine. A style of Kundalini, or energy moving yoga.

TriYoga (TM)- Founded by Kali Ray, a Kundalini-inspired Vinyasa style that uses the trinity of breathing, concentration and focus in the asana practice that uses dance-like movements. Props and supports can be used when needed to help ensure comfort and proper alignment.

Viniyoga- Taught by Sri. T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V. Desikachar, this is a gentler form of yoga, that adapts for individual students, and is usually taught in small groups or one-on-on. This style emphasizes alignment with an importance placed on the spiritual aspects of the practice. Viniyoga classes usually include chanting and meditation.

Vinyasa Yoga- A style that practices flowing between asanas in timing of breath and movement. This style can be vigorous and challenging. Sometimes considered to be a less-traditional form of Ashtanga with an emphasis on physical fitness.

Yin Yoga- A style of Hatha Yoga focused on stretching deep tissues (fascia) in the body and focuses on floor postures. This practice is slow with very long holds in the postures that work with the Meridians (lines of energy) of the body, a concept associated with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. This style may be recommended for physical therapy.

I hope that this provided you with some useful information for your Yoga Journey. I recommend trying out as many styles of yoga that you can find in order to deepen your understanding and personal practice.

Have a wonderful day,

by Ashley Freeman RYT

Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on


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    September 14, 2012

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