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Learning the Popular Styles of Yoga

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
May 21, 2008
There are many styles of yoga, but teachers should be familiar with the nine main forms of yoga, from India, and their relationships to contemporary styles. The nine main styles are: Bhakti, Hatha, Jnana, Karma, Kundalini, Mantra, Raja, Tantric, and Yantra Yoga. Bhakti yoga is widely practiced in India, yet barely known by the masses outside of India.

If you're looking to become a yoga instructor, you must be thoroughly trained and ready to cater to a variety of student needs. A competent yoga instructor should be well-versed in many aspects of yoga. Different styles emphasize varying aspects of yoga. Some may focus on the coordination of breath and movement, while others focus on the proper alignment of the body. Others use atmospheric conditions as the basis of the style.

Globally, one of the most popular styles is Hatha yoga. This is a style that focuses on slow, meditative breathing and relaxed postures. A yoga instructor will slowly guide students through poses one at a time. Many people, who attend Hatha classes, appreciate the relaxed feeling they get from the exercise aspects. Some people, who try Hatha classes, do not like the slow-pace and are searching for a higher-intensity exercise.

Vinyasa yoga, sometimes called Flow or Power yoga, contains a completely different focus, in comparison to the meditative Hatha. Vinyasa is called, Flow or Power, because of its emphasis on smooth and powerful movements. The teacher will guide students through a series of poses, changing them in rhythm with the breath.

The poses run together like a dance. Vinyasa classes can be either, high or low intensity, depending upon the yoga instructor's emphasis. Vinyasa can be very diverse because it allows the yoga instructor to interject their personality into the routines.

Vinyasa, Flow, or Power yoga, draws sequences from Hatha or Raja yoga, depending upon the instructor's lineage. Raja is the form of yoga, which Maharishi Pantanjali describes in the Yoga Sutras. It should be noted that Raja is sometimes called, Ashtanga, which means "eight limbs."

Ashtanga yoga can also be an athletic style of yoga. It is based on a demanding series of pose changes, sometimes connected by jumps. Designed for flexible, and usually young, bodies, Ashtanga has gained popularity in the Western world because of its intensity. Some popular students of this style are Madonna and Sting. An advantage of this style is that it can be self-led.

Usually the yoga instructor will teach students a series of poses and lead them in the routine. After mastering the poses and changes, the students can go through the routine at their own pace. Since this is done in the company of the yoga instructor, and other students, progress can be monitored and mistakes corrected.

For a completely different experience, there is Bikram yoga. Also known as Hot yoga, Bikram is a modern style, focusing on a set series of poses performed in a heated room. The creator of the style, Bikram Choudhury, designated twenty-six poses that constitute the Bikram style. The temperature of the room is ideally set to 105 degrees.

By keeping the room at a high temperature, the muscles of the body are more flexible. This is a controversial style because of an intellectual property lawsuit by Choudhury. Only those yoga instructors, certified in his method, are permitted to teach Bikram yoga.

On the other end of the timeline is Kundalini yoga. An ancient form, that is relatively new to the West, Kundalini focuses on the spiritual aspects of yoga. The yoga instructor leads students through a series of poses, making sure that movement is linked with breath.

The idea behind this discipline is to cause dormant energy in the lower body to become free and move upwards. For students seeking an athletic workout, Kundalini is not the place to look; but it is still an important style for a yoga instructor to understand.

From the purely physical yoga, to the more spiritual forms, a yoga instructor must be well versed. If you want to be a great yoga instructor, you should understand the basics of each major style, even while you focus on your favorite style. In this way, you'll be ready to answer any student's question and guide them to the right style.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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