Yoga is yoga, right?
Yes and no.
The definition of Yoga means to unite, to tie strands together, to bind, to unite the mind body and spirit. Obviously this theme should reign over all yoga classes and styles. That being said, every yoga class is different and different styles have different approaches. Here is a list of styles and a short description of each.
Viniyoga: This is the type of yoga I have studied for the past 18 months. My instructor, the wonderful Cheryl Zak, also studied Iyengar for years, so I got tastes of Iyengar as well. The practice of Viniyoga is focused on bringing out the best in each individual no matter what your current condition is. If you have old (or new) injuries, Viniyoga may be the best approach for you because this style takes YOUR body into consideration and the teacher does not look at you like member of the heard. Viniyoga is adaptable enough to be a vigirous practice, or a calming practice. Viniyoga gives you the tools to discover more about yourself and enables you to transform through yoga.
Iyengar: Props, props, props. The class I teach on Thrusday evenings, Restorative Yoga, is actually an Iyengar style of yoga. Viniyoga and Iyengar are similar, yet different. In an Iyengar class, you may do more headstands etc…than a Viniyoga class. Iyengar focuses on alignment, the differences in each persons body, and using props like blankets, blocks, straps etc…to correctly align the body and make sure the student is safe in the pose.
Ashtanga: Ashtanga literally means the 8 limbs of yoga. The classes marketed as Ashtanga yoga are a vigorous, athletic style of practice. It appeals to those who like a sense of order and who like to do things independently. There are several different “series” of poses that do not vary from class to class. This style focuses on purification and building stamina.
Bikram’s Yoga College: Bikram yoga class is a twenty-six asana series designed to scientifically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched. This style of yoga is also sometimes called “hot yoga” because it is taught in a room that is 95 – 102 degrees. Expect pools of sweat! Due to the sweaty nature of this type of class students usually do not wear much, and Bikram has his own line of clothes to sell for these classes.
Kundalini: This is a more spiritual side of yoga. It is a physical asana practice but it is designed to awaken energy that is trapped a the base of your spine. Awakening this spinal energy is said to awaken your inner knowledge. The path of Kundalini is said to proceed from the Muladhara Chakra at the lower end of the spinal column up to the Sahasara Chakra at the top of the head. But its awakening is not thought to be a physical occurrence; it consists exclusively of a development in consciousness. According to some sources, awakening of kundalini brings with it pure joy, pure knowledge and pure love.
There are more styles out there, but this covers the main ones we see today in studios, plus I am running out of time! Hope this helps!
Love and Light,