Different Types of Yoga and Their Benefits
What are the different types of Yoga and their benefits?
There are so many types of Yoga; it's impossible to cover them all in one blog post. The most common kinds of Yoga we see in the West are generally dominated by asana - the physical elements of the practice. But asana vinyasa is actually quite a recent addition to the Yoga practice. Well, recent is maybe the wrong word; physical postures have always been a part of various Yoga practices and philosophies, but they certainly weren’t the main focus until recent decades.
A brief history of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Pattabhi Jois is largely to thank for the rise of Yoga as a mode of exercise. During the twentieth century, K. Pattabhi Jois - inspired by the Ashtanga system passed down from his teacher, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, and the principals of sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras - blended elements of classical Indian Yoga with gymnastic style movements. Alongside building strength and increasing the flow of Prana (energy or life-force) through the use of internal muscle engagements and energetic holds, Ashtanga Vinyasa encourages discipline and stability of mind, body, and spirit.
Now, drawn from Ashtanga Vinyasa and beyond, we have numerous types of physical yogic systems that all offer multiple benefits.
So, where do we start? You might well be asking yourself: what is the best kind of yoga for me? Read our mini-breakdown of yoga styles below to help find the best practice for you.
Different types of Yoga and Their Benefits
The term Hatha means force in Sanskrit. It is used to rebalance the energies in our physical and subtle bodies through physical movement, promoting harmony between the Chakras and various energy centres within us.
Hatha Yoga combines multiple pranayama practices, like in Ashtanga, and blends breathing exercises, sensory withdrawal techniques, and meditation to cleanse the body and mind.
Vinyasa comes from a Sanskrit phrase denoting connecting breath with movement. The word itself is made of Vi, meaning variation, and Nyasa, meaning within prescribed limits.
In this way, Vinyasa Yoga classes enable practitioners to pursue balance and explore the limits of body, mind and spirit as they flow through a series of postures connected by their breath.
Yin Yoga is a slow practice involving long-held floor-based postures with the aim of increasing blood circulation in the joints and releasing deep muscle tissues/fascia to improve flexibility and muscle tone.
Pioneered by B.K.S Iyengar, Iyengar Yoga focuses primarily on postural alignment and physically and energetically opening up the body. Yoga blocks and straps are often incorporated into the practice to help refine the pose.
Similar to Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga involves long holds but propped up by plenty of pillows, bolsters, and props to support the practitioner in finding deep relaxation and release. This is particularly useful for injury rehabilitation and those seeking pure stillness and quiet.
Kundalini Yoga is often referred to as the Yoga of awareness or awakening. It includes repetitive, energising postures said to rouse the base of the spine where the Kundalini Shakti, coiled like a snake, resides.
Practitioners draw energy up from the base of the spine to enhance spiritual well-being through chanting, controlled breathwork, and kriyas (cleansing techniques to remove unwanted bodily fluids and energetic blockages).
Pre & Postnatal Yoga
Pre and Postnatal Yoga take a variety of Yoga styles - such as those listed above - and adapts them to suit pregnant or postpartum practitioners.
Pre and Postnatal Yoga offers a safe and inclusive practice for pre or postnatal yogis to maintain or regain strength and mobility, calm the mind, and ease anxiety.
Inspired by the Mandala universe, in Mandala Yoga, practitioners move around the mat in circles, transitioning and holding asanas (postures) in a 360 degree way. Mandala Yoga flows are typically based on one of four elements: fire, water, earth, or air- to bring about a particular mood or energy and help practitioners connect with the universe.
Benefits of Practising Yoga Regularly
And the yoga-sphere just keeps on expanding... there's also Chair Yoga, Yoga for Cancer, Rocket Yoga, Yogasana, the list goes on. We suppose this is testament to how adaptable the yoga practice is insofar as it can help anyone and everyone on their journey.
Whether you're practising Yin Yoga, Mandala Yoga, or Kundalini Yoga, here are some benefits of a regular practice:
- Improved blood circulation
- Enhanced muscular endurance
- Better joint mobility
- Improved gut health and digestion
- Enhanced reproductive health
- Improved sleep cycles
- Stabilised mood and energy levels
- Better levels of concentration and focus
- Reduced stress and anxiety (often linked to low immunity and energy levels and poor sleeping patterns)
- Deeper connection with others
- Deeper connection with nature
All of the above can help us better care for our bodies and minds, be more present with ourselves and the world around us, and contribute to the healing and coming together of local and global communities.
That said, the benefits above make up just a handful of the gifts provided by a regular Yoga practice.
The possibilities offered by a regular Yoga practice are endless. It's down to you to experience the wonders of the practice yourself next time you roll out your Yoga mat or simply breathe.
Sophie Heatley (she/her) is a Content Writer and Yoga Instructor based in London. She has been teaching at various studios, on retreat, and online since 2018. On the side, she creates online and editorial content for a variety of clients within diverse industries, from the arts, to wellness, to financial law. Discover where she's teaching and what she's writing by following her on social media @sophieheatley_