Differences Between Yoga Styles
Before drawing the big differences between yoga styles it is essential to mention that yoga is not only physical. There are many other yoga practices, such as meditation, and postures are just one component of a complex system.
The yoga styles mentioned here focus exclusively on the different currents of physical yoga (asanas), in which hatha yoga has been diversified and transformed.
Hatha yoga is at the origin of the practice of yoga postures (asanas). All styles of physical yoga come from this tradition, which originally consists of a discipline composed of postures, breathing exercises, purification techniques, meditation, and other recommendations of yoga as a way of life.
At present, however, this concept has been simplified. It is commonly called hatha yoga only to practice soft postures, which hold postures for a few seconds and in which we bring attention to the interior.
In addition to this, it is important to clarify that most yoga styles can be included in more than one of these large groups. Thus, there may be a spiritual style that is both dynamic, or one that is soft and at the same time classic. These classifications are fluid and do not intend in any way to establish strict classifications or cover all yoga currents, which are hundreds.
They are only meant to give a general idea of the great variety of yoga form today.
Traditions and styles of physical yoga
There are styles of yoga that are something deeper: they are traditions. These usually come from the teachings of an Indian guru, impart an integral formation and transmit a spiritual system that usually encompasses different aspects of the four paths of yoga.
The yoga practices that are based on the most authentic tradition, we usually call them classical yoga. As yoga is a whole system, these can have a component of physical yoga, or postures (although not always), but they also have other yoga practices such as meditation or pranayama (breathing exercises). They can include devotional practices, such as songs, and can give greater relevance to other practices such as meditation or breathing techniques.
Some examples of these classic schools are Satyananda, The Art of Living, Sivananda, Iyengar, Integral Yoga or Kundalini Yoga. There are other contemporary versions that, although they do not come directly from an Indian guru, try to follow their ethical and philosophical guidelines, as is the case of Jivamukti or Dharma yoga, originated in the United States, but inspired by tradition.
Others are more recent and may have other, freer interpretations. Some are less mystical than styles, or what is more common: more focused on strengthening, body flexibility and the conquest of postures. Within these more contemporary styles there are dynamic and vigorous yoga styles (like Vinyasa, Anusara) and others eminently physical and demanding (Power yoga, Bikram Yoga, or Forrest Yoga).
Ashtanga yoga comes from India but is a more contemporary interpretation that focuses almost exclusively on physical work. Yin yoga combines Chinese Taoist yoga with hatha yoga, holding the postures for several minutes.
One of the main differences between a physical yoga class and another is if it is based on hatha yoga, that is, that it holds the postures, usually more meditative and traditional, or if it is vinyasa style. Vinyasa is not properly a tradition.
It is called dynamic yoga styles, composed of fluid sequences, synchronized with breathing. To recite some examples here are some vinyasas Anusara, Ashtanga yoga, Jivamukti, Power yoga and etc. Usually the character of the class depends on who teaches it, because it lends itself to different interpretations.
There are some teachers who have managed to give a deep and spiritual connotation to this fluid style.
Another difference between yoga styles lies in the sequences. There are some traditions that always repeat the same sequence of postures (such as Ashtanga yoga, Sivananda or Bikram Yoga), which has been designed by a teacher to create a complete practice. Other styles are more flexible in this sense, so that the practice is designed by each teacher according to his criteria and according to the guidelines of the current to which he belongs.
These forms of yoga allow you to adapt the practice around a particular intention (for example, do an energizing or meditative practice, or that emphasizes working certain aspects of the mind or body).
There are other forms of therapeutic yoga, personalized, that use the wonderful healing qualities of yoga to treat specific pains and diseases: these include yoga-therapy, Iyengar, restorative yoga, Ayurvedic yoga, or viniyoga.
There are also many contemporary versions that have included heat, such as hot yoga or Bikram yoga. Restorative yoga and Iyengar include yoga accessories, such as bands, brackets and other accessories.
Today there are aerial yoga, water yoga, laughter yoga, acroyoga and many other forms of yoga. There are those who use music in their classes, candles or incense.
What style should I choose?
That depends on each. It is advisable to start with the style that most appeals to us, or according to what we are looking for, but always with a class for basic level or beginners. At the beginning we can try different teachers, styles and traditions. We will always have some yoga styles that we like more than others. It is totally relative.
However, beware of harmful forms of yoga that have dangerous practices because they are too severe and that mistreat us mentally, as can happen with some traditional schools, or other contemporary ones that are dangerous because they have a frivolous interpretation of the tradition and promote the competition or vanity.
Remember that to be always safe and profitable, yoga should be practiced listening to the body, treating us well and accepting the process, without competition and comparisons, with love and conscience.