Yoga styles – The wide variety of traditional & modern practices
There is a wide variety of schools of yoga, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and other traditional and modern yoga styles practiced worldwide.
Within the major branches of yoga such as haṭha, lāya, rāja, jñāna, and bhakti there are many different schools and lineages, both extant and defunct.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Yoga styles practiced around the world
- 1.1 - Anuyoga
- 1.2 - Kundalini yoga
- 1.3 - Bhakti
- 1.4 - Dream yoga
- 1.5 - Kum Nye
- 1.6 - Iyengar Yoga
- 1.7 - Bikram Yoga
- 1.8 - Jivamukti Yoga
- 1.9 - Yin Yoga
- 1.10 - Ashtanga vinyasa yoga
- 1.11 - Hot yoga
- 1.12 - Power Yoga
- 1.13 - Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga
- 1.14 - Kashmir Shaivism
- 1.15 - Integral yoga
- 1.16 - Pranava yoga
- 1.17 - Mysore style
- 1.18 - Restorative Yoga
- 1.19 - Sivananda yoga
- 1.20 - Ananda Yoga
- 1.21 - Post-lineage yoga
- 1.22 - Strala yoga
- 1.23 - Trauma-sensitive yoga
- 1.24 - PiYo
- 1.25 - Paddleboard Yoga
- 1.26 - Yoga as therapy
- 1.27 - Naked yoga
- 1.28 - Yoga for children
- 1.29 - Yoga for movement disorders
- 1.30 - Nāda yoga
- 1.31 - Accessible yoga
- 1.32 - Laughter yoga
- 1.33 - Kemetic yoga
- 1.34 - Aerial yoga
- 1.35 - Integral Yoga (Satchidananda)
- 1.36 - HeavyWeight Yoga
- 1.37 - Doga (yoga)
- 1.38 - Competitive yoga
- 1.39 - Cardiac yoga
- 1.40 - Body & Brain
- 1.41 - Beer yoga
- 1.42 - Bando yoga
- 1.43 - Anusara School of Hatha Yoga
- 1.44 - AntiGravity Fitness
- 1.45 - Agni Yoga
- 1.46 - Aghor Yoga
- 1.47 - Yoga of Synthesis
Yoga styles practiced around the world
Since the late 19th century, a great number of distinct new styles of “Yoga” have been introduced by individual teachers.
Some schools and traditions are occasionally referred to as yoga or yogic for their similar practices, despite having no foundation in the Indian tradition; these include Shin Shin Tōitsu-dō, and Daoyin.
This is a non-exhaustive list of well-known Yoga styles practiced around the world.
Anuyoga is the designation of the second of the three Inner Tantras according to the ninefold division of practice used by the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. As with the other yanas, Anuyoga represents both a scriptural division as well as a specific emphasis of both view and practice.
Kundalini yoga is a school of yoga that is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga or meditation. Kundalini yoga is often identified as the most dangerous form of yoga because of the involvement of subtle energies.
Bhakti literally means “attachment, participation, fondness for, homage, faith, love, devotion, worship, purity”.
In Hinduism, it refers to devotion to, and love for, a personal god or a representational god by a devotee.
In ancient texts such as the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, the term simply means participation, devotion and love for any endeavor, while in the Bhagavad Gita, it connotes one of the possible paths of spirituality and towards moksha, as in bhakti marga.
Dream Yoga or Milam —the Yoga of the Dream State—is a suite of advanced tantric sadhana of the entwined Mantrayana lineages of Dzogchen. Dream Yoga are tantric processes and techniques within the trance Bardos of Dream and Sleep Six Yogas of Naropa. In the tradition of the tantra, Dream Yoga method is usually passed on by a qualified teacher to his/her students after necessary initiation. Various Tibetan lamas are unanimous that it is more of a passing of an enlightened experience rather than any textual information.
Kum Nye and sKu-mNyé are a wide variety of Tibetan religious and medical body practices. The two terms are different spellings in the Latin alphabet of the same Tibetan phrase, which literally means “massage of the subtle body”. Some systems of sku mnye are vaguely similar to Yoga, T’ai chi, Qigong, or therapeutic massage. “Kum Nye”, Ku Nye, and Kunye are also used to transcribe the Tibetan phrases dku mnye and bsku mnye, which are pronounced identically to sku mnye. dKu mnye and bsku mnye manipulate the physical body, rather than the subtle (energetic) one.
Iyengar Yoga, named after and developed by B. K. S. Iyengar, and described in his bestselling 1966 book Light on Yoga, is a form of yoga as exercise that has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of yoga postures (asanas).
Bikram Yoga is a system of hot yoga, a type of yoga as exercise, devised by Bikram Choudhury and based on the teachings of B. C. Ghosh, that became popular in the early 1970s. Classes consist of a fixed sequence of 26 postures, practised in a room heated to 105 °F (41 °C) with a humidity of 40%, intended to replicate the climate of India. The room is fitted with carpets and the walls are covered in mirrors. The instructor may adjust the students’ yoga postures. Choudhury’s teaching style was abrasive.
The Jivamukti Yoga method is a proprietary style of modern yoga created by David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1984.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga as exercise with asanas (postures) that are held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more.
Ashtanga vinyasa yoga
Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is a style of yoga as exercise popularised by K. Pattabhi Jois during the twentieth century, often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. Jois claimed to have learnt the system from his teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. The style is energetic, synchronising breath with movements. The individual poses (asanas) are linked by flowing movements (vinyasas).
Hot yoga is a form of yoga as exercise performed under hot and humid conditions, resulting in considerable sweating. Some hot yoga practices seek to replicate the heat and humidity of India, where yoga originated. Bikram Choudhury has suggested that the heated environment of Bikram Yoga helps to prepare the body for movement and to “remove impurities”.
Power Yoga is any of several forms of energetic vinyasa-style yoga as exercise developed in America in the 1990s. These include forms derived from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, namely those of Beryl Bender Birch, Bryan Kest, and Larry Schultz, and forms derived from Bikram Yoga, such as that of Baron Baptiste.
Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga
Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga is a modern style of yoga as exercise created by American yogini Sadie Nardini in 2006. Central to this style is a movement referred to as a ‘wave’ (softening). The structure of this practice includes a 7-step framework which is applied to each pose within a sequence. Nardini incorporates aspects of Kundalini Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, and portions of movement sequences from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Maintaining an internal focus on joy in the moment is part of the practice philosophy. This style integrates postures with learnings from many disciplines including physics, biology, and geometry, influenced by the works of Leslie Kaminoff. It incorporates traditional yoga philosophy from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It emphasizes muscles that are deep within the body and includes the use of ‘waves’ in order to enter and exit poses. Examples include physical moves that activate muscles that are close to the spine—such as psoas and quadratus lumborum in order to build support for the body from within before generating outward expression of that movement. The purpose of deep core focused poses in this practice is to improve and deepen breathing. This perspective differs from other styles in which the purpose of deep core work is to stabilize the back. In this practice, keeping belly soft and core strong improve breathing. “Belly Bonfire” breath is one example of a deep core breath technique that involves focus and target of attention and breath with softer abs. Pelvis is viewed as the body’s physical center of gravity in this system.
Kashmir Shaivism, or Trika Shaivism, is a nondualist tradition of Shaiva-Shakta Tantra which originated sometime after 850 CE. Since this tradition originated in Kashmir it is often called “Kashmiri Shaivism”.
It later went on to become a pan-Indian movement termed “Trika” by its great exegete, Abhinavagupta, and particularly flourished in Orissa and Maharashtra. Defining features of the Trika tradition are its idealistic and monistic Pratyabhijna (“Recognition”) philosophical system, propounded by Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta, and the centrality of the three goddesses Parā, Parāparā, and Aparā.
Integral yoga, sometimes also called supramental yoga, is the yoga-based philosophy and practice of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Central to Integral yoga is the idea that Spirit manifests itself in a process of involution, meanwhile forgetting its origins. The reverse process of evolution is driven toward a complete manifestation of spirit.
Pranava yoga is meditation on the sacred mantra Om, as outlined in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
It is also called Aum yoga and Aum yoga meditation. It is, simply put, fixing the mind on the sound of the mantra “Aum” – the sacred syllable that both symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality – as the mantra is constantly repeated in unison with the breath.
The purpose of pranava yoga is to become free from suffering and limitation.
The Mysore style of asana practice is the way of teaching yoga as exercise within the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga tradition as taught by K. Pattabhi Jois in the southern Indian city of Mysore; its fame has made that city a yoga hub with a substantial yoga tourism business.
Restorative Yoga is the practice of asanas, each held for longer than in conventional yoga as exercise classes, often with the support of props such as folded blankets, to relax the body, reduce stress, and often to prepare for pranayama.
Sivananda Yoga is a spiritual yoga system founded by Vishnudevananda; it includes the use of asanas but is not limited to them as in systems of yoga as exercise. He named this system, as well as the international Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres organization responsible for propagating its teachings, after his guru, Sivananda with the mission ‘to spread the teachings of yoga and the message of world peace’ which has since been refined to ‘practice and teach the ancient yogic knowledge for health, peace, unity in diversity and self-realization.’
Ananda Yoga, or Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness is a system of Hatha Yoga established by Kriyananda, a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, and is based on Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) and Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS) teachings. Ananda Yoga emphasizes inner awareness; energy control; and the experience of each asana as a natural expression of a higher state of consciousness, which is enhanced by the use of affirmations.
Post-lineage yoga, also called non-lineage yoga, is a contemporary form of yoga practised outside any major school or guru’s lineage. The term was introduced by the ethnographer and scholar-practitioner Theodora Wildcroft. She states that with the deaths of the pioneering gurus of modern yoga such as B. K. S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, yoga teachers, especially women, are reclaiming their practice through their yoga communities, resisting commercialization as well as lineage.
Strala yoga is a modern form of yoga that was founded in 2008 by Tara Stiles.
Trauma-sensitive yoga is yoga as exercise, adapted from 2002 onwards for work with individuals affected by psychological trauma. The goal of trauma-sensitive yoga is for trauma survivors to develop a greater sense of mind-body connection, ease their physiological experiences of trauma, gain a greater sense of ownership over their bodies, and augment their overall well-being.
PiYo is an 8-week exercise program that is a blend of Pilates and Yoga. Developed by Chalene Johnson as part of The Beachbody Company, PiYo is marketed as a low-impact workout that strengthens and sculpts the body, and enhances flexibility.
Paddleboard Yoga, invented by 2009, is the practice of modern yoga as exercise, and sometimes specific transitions between postures, while stand up paddleboarding, usually with the board in calm water, such as a lake. Beginners may practice this yoga hybrid on the beach or in a swimming pool to gain the strength and flexibility to maintain the balance necessary when the board is afloat. Beginners may practice a sequence of asanas either on a normal length surfboard or a specially designed stand up paddle board; some, described as “forgiving”, are inflatable. Paddle board yoga is celebrated at the Wanderlust Festival in Hawaii. One of the pioneers of Paddleboard Yoga, Rachel Bråthén, lives and teaches yoga in the island of Aruba in the Caribbean Sea; she began teaching Paddleboard Yoga in 2009.
Yoga as therapy
Yoga as therapy is the use of yoga as exercise, consisting mainly of postures called asanas, as a gentle form of exercise and relaxation applied specifically with the intention of improving health. This form of yoga is widely practised in classes, and may involve meditation, imagery, breath work (pranayama) and calming music as well as postural yoga.
Naked yoga is the practice of yoga without clothes. It has existed since ancient times as a spiritual practice, and is mentioned in the 7th-10th century Bhagavata Purana and by the Ancient Greek geographer Strabo.
Yoga for children
Yoga for children is a form of modern yoga designed for children. It includes poses to increase strength, flexibility, and coordination. Classes are intended to be fun and may include age-appropriate games, animal sounds and creative names for poses.
Yoga for movement disorders
Yoga for movement disorders includes focused breathing, flow of poses, and meditative practice of yoga, specifically designed to benefit individuals whose voluntary movement is challenged. Though the symptoms defining movement disorders stem from neurological bases, the term has expanded to include a variety of conditions.
Nāda yoga (नादयोग) is an ancient Indian metaphysical system. It is equally a philosophical system, a medicine, and a form of yoga. The system’s theoretical and practical aspects are based on the premise that the entire cosmos and all that exists in the cosmos, including human beings, consists of sound vibrations, called nāda. This concept holds that it is the sound energy in motion rather than of matter and particles which form the building blocks of the cosmos.
Accessible yoga is a form of modern yoga as exercise with adapted asanas designed to be suitable for people who are unable to follow a standard yoga class through age, illness, or disability. It includes various forms of chair yoga, and has also been described as adaptive yoga.
Laughter yoga (Hasyayoga) is a modern exercise involving prolonged voluntary laughter. This type of yoga is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides similar physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. It is usually done in groups, with eye contact and much playfulness between participants. Intentional laughter often turns into real and contagious laughter.
Kemetic yoga is a system of yoga which involves a combination of physical movements, deep breathing techniques and meditation. This form of yoga is inspired by Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and has a larger emphasis on breathing patterns, while also inculcating the philosophies of self-development, healing of mind-body-spirit and self-discovery.
Aerial yoga is a type of modern yoga developed in 2014 combining traditional yoga poses, Pilates, and dance with the use of a hammock.
Integral Yoga (Satchidananda)
Integral Yoga is a system of yoga that claims to synthesize six branches of classical Yoga philosophy and practice: Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, and Japa yoga. It was brought to the West by Swami Satchidananda, the first centre being founded in 1966. Its aim is to integrate body, mind, and spirit, using physical practices and philosophical approaches to life to develop the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of individuals. The system includes the practices of asana, pranayama, and meditation to develop physical and mental stillness so as to access inner peace and joy, which Satchidananda believed was a person’s true nature. It also encourages practitioners to live service-oriented lives.
HeavyWeight Yoga is style of yoga practice designed for obese men and women. The practice uses modifications of yoga’s 24 foundational yoga poses, accompanied by a customized use of supportive language. HeavyWeight students employ props to support obese and overweight bodies. These props can include blocks, chairs and other devices to accommodate for the extra body weight, weaker joints and diminished strength of the obese. HeavyWeight Yoga’s practice uses classroom lessons, yoga teacher training, and instructional DVDs for overweight and obese people which have been created by the founder of the style, Abby Lentz.
Doga is the practice of yoga as exercise with pet dogs. The yoga hybrid began in America around 2002, came to Britain in 2004, and had spread around the Western world by 2011.
Competitive yoga is the performance of asanas in sporting competitions. The activity is controversial as it appears to conflict with the nature of yoga.
Cardiac yoga is a system of stress management and health promotion designed specifically to focus on the needs of a heart patient. Cardiac yoga is basically artery gentle yoga exercises tailored to the special needs of people who have various cardiac problems, live with a cardiac condition or recover from cardiac diseases. Cardiac yoga allows for the participant to stay seated while learning the different movements, and eventually working their way up to a full yoga routine.
Body & Brain, formerly called Dahn Yoga, is a business founded in 1985 by Ilchi Lee that teaches a Korean physical exercise system called Brain Education. In Korean, dahn means “primal, vital energy”, and hak means “study of a particular theory or philosophy”. News sources have described its exercises as “a blend of yoga, tai chi, and martial arts exercises”. Body & Brain is taught through for-profit studios as well as community centers. Ilchi Lee’s Brain Education is considered pseudoscience.
Beer yoga is a yoga hybrid, created in America around 2013, in which participants practice yoga at breweries or taprooms, drinking beer during or after asana practice. It has since spread to other countries. The practice has been criticised as unhealthy and out of keeping with the spirit of classical yoga, but alcohol was sometimes used in yoga rituals in classical times.
Bando yoga or Burmese yoga is a form of yoga from Myanmar usually taught alongside bando. It is probably based on the internal training of Indian martial arts and is often referred to as peasant or slave yoga. It was for the common man and also used by ancient warriors of northern Burma to maintain health and protect from illness and disease. Today it is practiced by ethnic Burmese in parts of Southeast Asia, India.
Anusara School of Hatha Yoga
Anusara School of Hatha Yoga, also known as Anusara Yoga is the successor of a modern school of hatha yoga founded by American-born yoga teacher John Friend in 1997. Friend derived his style from the Iyengar style of yoga and reintroduced elements of Hindu spirituality into a more health-oriented Western approach to Yoga.
AntiGravity Fitness is a fitness company founded by Christopher Harrison in 2007 and based in New York City, specializing in hybrid aerial fitness techniques that combine silk hammocks with modern yoga, Pilates, ballet barre exercises, and traditional strength training techniques for aerialists into different exercise curriculums. Harrison first developed the initial program, AntiGravity Aerial yoga, based on warm-up exercises through which he would lead his athletes as director/choreographer of the performance troupe AntiGravity, Inc.
Agni Yoga or the Living Ethics, or the Teaching of Life, is a Neo-Theosophical religious doctrine transmitted by Helena Roerich and Nicholas Roerich from 1920. The term Agni Yoga means “Mergence with Divine Fire” or “Path to Mergence with Divine Fire”.
This term was introduced by the Roerichs. The followers of Agni Yoga believe that the teaching was given to the Roerich family and their associates by Master Morya, the guru of the Roerichs and of Helena Blavatsky, one of the founders of the modern Theosophical movement and of the Theosophical Society.
Aghor Yoga is a spiritual tradition that originated in Northern India around the 11th Century C.E. The word Aghor literally means “that which is not difficult or terrible”; according to its adherents, Aghor is a simple and natural state of consciousness, in which there is no experience of fear, hatred, disgust or discrimination. Accordingly, believers contend that any time that humans experience a state of discrimination, we limit our wholeness and fall prey to disruptive emotions such as anger, fear, jealousy, greed, and lust. The practices of Aghor Yoga today reflect reforms made in the 1960s, shifting the focus of Aghor to seeking a balanced life of selfless service and personal practice. Baba Bhagwan Ramji encouraged the practitioners of Aghor to follow the “left hand path” by embracing socially stigmatized and neglected people, such as street children and people with leprosy and other “untouchable” diseases. Today, the followers of Aghoreshwar Bhagwan Ramji have established a large network of schools, orphanages, medical clinics, or other social service projects.
Yoga of Synthesis
Sivananda Saraswati was a Hindu spiritual teacher and a proponent of Yoga and Vedanta. Sivananda was born Kuppuswami in Pattamadai, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. He studied medicine and served in British Malaya as a physician for several years before taking up monasticism. He lived most of his life near Muni Ki Reti, Rishikesh.