Despite popular belief, yoga is more than just stretching. Yoga is a mental, physical and spiritual practice that originated in India. Yoga can help increase your flexibility, align your spine, clear your mind, and assist in healthy sleeping patterns. In addition to increasing flexibility and clearing your head, yoga can be very healing.

And America is figuring this out. Yoga has exploded. It is currently a $27 billion industry that has reinvented American spirituality.

There are many various forms and schools of yoga. Here are some of the popular ones:

Hatha yoga

Hatha represents opposing energies. In Sanskrit ‘Ha’ means sun, and ‘tha’ means moon. Hatha yoga develops strength – physical and mental – by focusing on the strength building asanas and practices.

Hatha joins slow and gentle movements with the deliberate breath work. Often Hatha is recommended for yoga beginners as a way to ease into the yoga lifestyle. Hatha is a good foundation for aspiring yogis as Hatha focuses on perfect alignment.

Traditionally Hatha is a holistic approach to yoga by combining poses (asanas), gestures (mudra), purification processes (shatkriya), breathing (pranayama), and meditation.

Anusara

Anusara is a form of Hatha yoga developed in 1997 in hopes of bringing a more health-oriented yoga to the west. Anusara practice urges practitioners to attain a higher quality of heart and mind. Anusara emphasizes five major alignment principles. When assuming a yoga pose, practitioners make refinements on the pose’s alignment by performing the principles in order, and within each principle, there are further refinements.

Judgement is a non-starter in an Anusara class as students of all levels of ability are honored accepted and respected for their unique talents.

In Anusara, your actions and movements are often coordinated with your breath. This class is also recommended for beginners.

Iyengar yoga

Also a form of Hatha yoga, Iyengar is a form of yoga developed in he 1970s that focuses on precision and alignment. Iyengar often – but not always – utilizes props like belts and blocks to help practitioners achieve better alignment. Props make the poses accessible to people who have health ailments or are new to yoga while minimizing the risk of injury to all who use them.

Iyengar yoga places emphasis on the sequence in which the poses are practiced. Following this sequence is important to achieve the desired results.

This type of yoga is a good starting point for beginners.

Ashtanga Vinyasa

If you are looking for a strong physical practice, consider practicing Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga is geared towards people who are looking for something a little more rigorous than Hatha. Ashtanga focuses on aligning the breath with the movement with each pose lasting aproximately one inhalation or exhalation.

Unlike most yoga forms in the west, Ashtanga Vinyasa asanas are done in a predetermined order. A practice consists of four main sequences that have remained unchanged for decades.

Derived from the traditional form of Ashtanga Vinyasa is Vinyasa Flow, often just called vinyasa. Vinyasa denotes a flowing form of yoga.

In both Ashtanaga Vinyasa and Vinyasa Flow, attention is placed on the movement between asanas instead of just perfect alignment.

Bikram Yoga

In the 1970s Bikram Choudhury took the traditional practice of hatha yoga, modified it, and repackaged it as a new fitness franchise. All Bikram classes are the same, and the practitioners perform the same combination of 26 postures and two breathing exercises within 90 minutes every single time.

The poses can’t just be performed in your living room though.

Bikram must be performed in a 105-degree room with 40% humidity to allow the body to stretch, detoxify, relieve stress, tone, and heal chronic pain.

All Bikram classes are licensed and taught by certified Bikram instructors, and these instructors are required to recite the Bikram dialogue to the class as opposed to demonstrating poses.

These are just a few of the popular forms of yoga. Check out our free video library to see these styles in action. What is your favourite form of yoga?