Yoga is a practice that dates back to over 10,000 years ago, and the earliest evidence indicates that, at the very least, people were practicing the sukhasana seated yoga position. This gives us an insight into the timelessness of the practice, as well as how vital it was and continues to be to humankind. Yoga seems to have always been a way to exercise both the body and mind while achieving a higher sense of self and of the world around oneself.
Because yoga has been around for so long, it has had a chance to evolve in outstanding ways. What might have started off as simple, meditative poses thousands of years ago has turned into full-blown workouts that leave you sweating and feeling incredibly energized. Granted, the meditative and contemplative aspects of yoga are essential to the practice and will probably always be a part of it, but it is truly fascinating learning about its progression throughout history.
For the sake brevity, I am forced to give you just a peek of a few of the most popular types of yoga today as well as why you should try at least one (if not all) of them. Keep in mind that while they each differ in their own ways, at the core they incorporate the spirit of one of the oldest practices known to humankind.
Kundalini is often considered the umbrella of which all other yoga practices fall under. This is because the poses and exercises that are part of the practice are the basis for so many other types of yoga out there. It is a favorite not only for its timelessness and accessibility, but because it’s designed with the beginner and advanced student in mind. Seriously, your grandma could do almost all the exercises and come out feeling like a million bucks. Furthermore, the practice focuses on “uncoiling your snake” at the base of your spine, which is meant to bring you tremendous power, strength and happiness through the exercises, poses, chants and deep breathing exercises.
Hatha yoga is sometimes known as the “dual” yoga since it connects the opposing forces of the Sun (ha) and the moon (tha). It also incorporates the opposing forces of the male and female (yin and yang) and tries to bring a balance to them that is essential to every human being. We so often think of individuals in such specific male or female terms that we forget that we need both sides to find restoration within ourselves. Hatha is also great for beginners and for the yogi who is simply looking for a space in which to relax through basic postures, breath work and meditation.
Vinyasa yoga is probably the most widely practiced form of yoga in our society today, probably because there is a beautiful flow involved that people truly enjoy. More specifically, it requires a certain ebb and flow between breathing and postures, meaning that with practice you’ll match your breath to the workout itself. This is appropriate since the word vinyasa literally means connection in Sanskrit. Vinyasa is also an incredibly versatile practice since the teacher can adjust the poses as he or she sees fit, making it more of a spiritual practice or a deep workout routine. That said, vinyasa has different levels involved, some more rigorous than others, so you’ll really want to keep that in mind when you’re looking into joining a class.
Ashtanga, or power yoga, is a lot like vinyasa in that you are joining poses with breath work, but it differs in that there is a certain regime you have to adhere to. The word ashtanga means eight limbs, and it refers to the eight limbs of yoga that date back to the beginning of the practice. There are different levels involved in Ashtanga, and you must start at the beginning in order to work your way up to the tougher levels. The first level, for example, deals with breath work and alignment, or rather, learning the basics, while the fourth level builds upon that and incorporates complex balancing, inversions and backbends. This type of yoga is for the truly devoted yogi who is willing to put in the time and effort to move their way up the ashtanga yoga ladder.
Last is bikram yoga, or what is also known today as hot yoga. This is appropriate since bikram classes are taught in rooms at hot temperatures usually ranging at about 100 degrees. This means, of course, that there is plenty of sweating and calorie-shedding involved. There are 26 poses practiced in sequential order, sometimes repeated over and over again depending on how long one wants to work out for. The poses are meant to give you a full-body workout since they touch the organs, veins, ligaments and muscles. This class is not for the faint hearted. Only look into it if you’re really wanting an intense yoga experience.
Regardless of the type of yoga you eventually decide on, with over 10,000 years of practice to draw from, there’s surely a form to fit you.