It is one of the mistakes we often make to think that there is only one correct method of doing yoga, although we have taken yoga lessons from different trainers or sports centers, they are all the same yoga. If you want to learn the type of yoga that you have been unaware of before, if you want to start yoga but do not know which type of yoga might be suitable for you or if you want to learn more about the different types of yoga and you want to know more, you are in the right place! Do you wonder which yoga is best for you? Here is the answer.
Before you start choosing which type of yoga might be right for you, the first thing you need to decide is for what you want to do yoga. Before choosing a type of yoga that suits your personality and fitness level, it is necessary to decide whether you want to start yoga in order to gain a healthy life, provide strength and flexibility to your body, relieve stress, lose weight or relieve your pains. Once you have decided on this, it remains only to discover which of the various types of yoga you need! The types of yoga you can do include different types such as Hatha yoga, Iyengar yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Asthanga Yoga, and Vinyasa Yoga. Let’s examine them together.
Basic Yoga Principles and Types: Choosing the Best Yoga for Yourself
Although there are different types of yoga, the main goal of all is to achieve a soul-mind-body balance. In addition, different types of yoga affect our personal and physical development in different ways and use different techniques. For example, “Hatha yoga” focuses more on the physical body, while “Bhakti yoga” concentrates on divine love. You can think of the types of yoga as different ways to reach the same goal. Although the goal and basic principles of yoga are the same, some techniques and movements differ. The question “Which is the best?” here is actually wrong. Instead, a question such as “What type of yoga is most suitable for me?” can be asked. The type of yoga philosophy to be followed may vary depending on the person’s physical and spiritual development level, needs, goals, and principles.
To decide which of the types of yoga is most suitable for you, you must first learn about all of them, then feel for which type you are “pulled” internally. “Intrinsic withdrawal” is the most important criterion at the selection stage. Because your essence always knows which path will serve you better for your development. However, if you have trouble hearing your inner voice, you can experience several different types of yoga that you find close to yourself. However, some yoga instructors argue that focusing on a particular type of yoga, and working on it will yield faster results to support physical and spiritual development.
The important point to keep in mind is always “intrinsic attraction”, so after years of experience and expertise in one type of yoga, you may want to try one of the other genres. In short, you hear an “intrinsic attraction” to experience the other genre. This is just like completing one of the life lessons that you have to complete and is similar to a different adventure calling you. In order to guide you in this article, I will mention some differences, similarities, and basic yoga principles among the most basic types of yoga.
The Most Familiar Types of Yoga Which Are Best For You
You decided to start yoga and started researching. You have heard a lot of foreign names and you have no idea yet: “What are these types of yoga?” There are many different yoga styles you can try depending on what you want. By attending a few lessons, you can easily find out which school appeals to you more. Maybe you have attended classes once or twice but don’t like it, don’t give up and try other schools.
Although yoga practices are essentially all created for the same purpose, they differ in many areas, from their content to pose types for different physical needs and situations. If someone is going to do yoga for the first time in his life, a yoga lesson he/she enters may cause him to completely remove yoga from his life because the lesson does not suit his tastes. In addition, since the needs of the body change every day, blending different practices at different times knowing their contents can be the basis of a good yoga practice.
- Ashtanga Yoga
Also known as the Power Yoga, breathing techniques and exercises have an important place in this yoga branch. In Asthanga Yoga streams, synchronization of breath and asanas is emphasized. With the combination of breaths and asanas, blood circulation is accelerated, the body is purified from toxins. In addition to being in search of calm, it is a suitable type of yoga for those who aim for a balanced and strengthening practice. In addition, Astanga Yoga is especially recommended for beginner yoga enthusiasts.
Ashtanga Yoga is formed by the sequencing of certain poses such as Vinyasa Yoga. The pose series does not change, unlike in Vinyasa. The poses are again fluidly aligned one after the other. Basic series is practiced by placing them fluently one after another. It is a strict practice. It increases the stretching and breathing control especially. Opposed to these yoga types, there are also yoga types that can stay in each pose for a long time, stretch without increasing the heart rhythm or shape the tone of the body.
Ashtanga yoga, one of the most basic systems of yoga, is a classic, so to speak. The 8 basic principles of this yoga system apply to almost all other systems. It is a complete system that covers all ethical, emotional, mental, and spiritual teachings. Here are 8 basic principles of Ashtanga yoga:
1) Yama: This principle includes 10 basic rules that everyone must follow:
Not to commit violence and not be violent,
To be honest in any case,
Not to steal,
The correct control of sexual energy,
Trying to forgive,
To be able to be patient,
To have a sense of compassion,
Being honest and honorable,
Cleanliness and purity (emotional, spiritual and physical),
Following a moderate and healthy diet
2) Niyama: It contains 10 applications required for self-discipline.
Opinion and satisfaction,
Faith and commitment,
Benevolence and helping,
To be friendly and sociable,
Being able to control the mind,
Repeating appropriate mantras,
Faith and devotion to God (sacred creator and sacred union),
Fulfillment of the vows
3) Asana: Yoga movements known as yoga postures. There are about 84 varieties. However, what should not be forgotten when doing yoga movements is that these movements are not only acrobatic movements but serve a certain purpose. You should concentrate on breathing while doing yoga movements, followed by light muscle contractions and light muscle relaxations.
4) Pranayama: It is the breathing techniques applied to increase and correctly control “Prana”, known as life energy so that we will have enough energy to reach higher states of consciousness.
5) Pratyahara: This method is based on “pulling the senses from material objects and directing them in.” It is based on the belief that the human mind gets limited to the senses that are perceived by the senses, and that their development is limited when it is delivered to the senses. With some techniques applied in this step, the person’s feelings are taken under control by removing them from material objects. The mind is free from being captive of senses and emotions.
6) Dharana: It is based on focusing the mind to achieve concentration. The concentrated mind can meditate and perceive the truth.
7) Dhyana: Meditation with concentration. Being able to meditate, or to dive into the nature of events/things, helps us understand the mysteries of all existence.
8) Samadhi: Thanks to regular and concentrated meditation, the integration of the perceiver and the perceived is provided. In this way, we provide integrity with what we concentrate on or pay attention to. In this way, we can experience the “unity consciousness” inherent in “pure consciousness”.
- Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga is perhaps the most popular type of yoga in the west. Hatha yoga is the most concentrated type of body, except that each type of yoga focuses on the physical body. In this type, especially in which the physical aspect prevails, other philosophies of yoga are also mentioned, but more focus is on yoga postures. It is a species that is thought to have a close connection with Ayurveda. The word Hatha is a united word and consists of the words “Ha” and “Tha”. “Ha” is known as the sun or sun principles, and “Tha” is known as the moon or moon principles. Solar principles are believed to be dominant in the right half of the body and lunar principles in the left half. It is believed that the state of health will only occur if there are harmony and integrity between these two.
Hatha yoga includes vinyasa and ashtanga poses. However, each pose is practiced with a few breaths, not one breath. It is a practice that works large muscle groups of the body. However, it is ideal for those who do not like sweating because it is slower-paced than vinyasa and ashtanga, and it improves the body considerably. In each pose, the direction of that pose, namely the places where the hand, arm, leg, hip, etc. should be located, are directed. It serves as a ladder to reach “Raja yoga”. Hatha yoga is the unification of the sun and the moon metaphorically and the human and god in real terms. It is claimed that Hatha yoga facilitates the process of maturation and enlightenment of the person thanks to physical movements and breathing exercises.
Hatha yoga has many benefits for both physical body and spiritual being. It helps a slim and flexible body, a radiant face, a clear voice, shining eyes, control of sexual energy, a healthy digestive system, purification of nerves, and “Nadi.” The person becomes much more active, awake, alive, and energetic. Mental clutter is prevented and clarity is provided. All this eventually contributes to the development of the higher self. In the early stages of Hatha yoga, dullness disappears, and dependence on the physical body decreases. However, in order to achieve all this, one has to feed and develop a way of behavior as recommended by this discipline. People who want to go on the hatha yoga path should avoid over-eating, excessive effort, talking too much, frequent in very crowded social settings, excessive social contact, and fluctuations of the mind.
- Karma Yoga
Karma yoga means “duty” or “service” (Seva). According to this understanding, one should try to fulfill his duty in the best way by ignoring the benefits to be gained in line with his own interests or desires. The person does the best he can, dedicates himself to the task he has done, and in the meantime, by preventing his mind to think about the benefits that his task will provide for him, he avoids centrism and prevents the energy of the mind from dissipating.
Karma yoga is only about keeping the mind busy with its essential tasks. This type of yoga is also called “kriya yoga”. Sometimes it is defined as “a state of goodness, compassion, cleanliness and avoiding greed.” Emphasis is placed on the impossibility of completely abandoning the action in Gita and that it is not useful. Therefore, what is important for the individual is to eliminate the desire to act and not to think about the benefit to be obtained afterward.
According to Karma yoga, the only source of unhappiness and sadness in life is possession. However, when the person expects no gain from his duty and the desire to possess disappears, he is freed from all sorrow and sadness. He advocates that the way to achieve this is possible by “surrendering to the will of God” and “feeling God in our heart, not inside, but outside.” “Ayurveda” and “Karma yoga” are two systems that are intertwined with each other.
- Bhakti Yoga
In its most basic definition, it is known as love yoga. Bhakti is “devotion” or “unconditional love of God”. Bhakti yoga teaches us how to worship and meditate to integrate with the holy in love. Bhakti yoga includes sacred worship, mantra, sound, song, and dance exercises. Thanks to this yoga, we achieve the peace of mind by developing control over emotional imbalances. It is usually done in combination with Karma yoga. Commitment to the divine allows us to provide every task without any interest and service to us.
Bhakti yoga is the easiest type of yoga and is common among those who do not belong to the clergy class. It is the basis of this yoga to believe in the weakness of human power and the existence of supreme power. Bakti yoga is a way of faith and devotion to this supreme power. This is frequently referred to in Upanishads and is considered one of the definitive ways to reach samadhi. In Gita, it is presented as a third way together with karma and jnana to reach Brahman. It is stated that those who adopt and apply the way of Bhakti will be friendly to everyone, will not remain loyal to the world, and will move away from all sorts of pain and pleasure.
- Jnana Yoga
Although Jnana means “knowing the knowledge of real nature” or “information path”, it helps us to recognize the “I” that lies behind our mind and does not deal with ordinary knowledge and ideas. Jnana yoga instructors teach you the right thinking and correct reasoning techniques for free meditation. Thanks to these methods, a person has a keen mind to find the “absolute truth”. By expanding our human memory limited to this yoga, we can integrate with the eternal and eternal consciousness behind the universe.
- Raja Yoga
Raja yoga means “enormous path.” It is a versatile and integral yoga system. The mission is aimed at controlling the mind, based on devotion and wisdom with the holy. When the mind is brought under control, it is believed that the consciousness will reach much higher levels. Basically (especially Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi), there are even those who say Ashtanga yoga’s other name is Raja.
This yoga type is also given different names such as jnana, Samkhya, Dhyana, Patanjali, Asthanga yoga. As a matter of fact, in the eighteenth part of Gita, this is called dhyana yoga and buddhi yoga. Unlike karma and bhakti, this type of yoga is not a yoga type that everyone can practice, but it is stated that only people with high ability and understanding can be practiced. Raja yoga begins with the process of eliminating ignorance, which is the cause of pain and suffering. According to most researchers, when the word yoga is used alone, this type of yoga is usually meant.
- Kundalini Yoga and Tantra
Kundalini Yoga takes its name from the energy called kundalini, located at the bottom of the spine. In this type of yoga, purification is aimed by increasing the kundalini energy over the chakras by giving weight to meditation. Kundalini Yoga, which is studied as a whole on mind, body, and senses, is also known as Awareness Yoga. In addition to physical exercises, it is one of the most suitable types of yoga for yoga enthusiasts who want to have a spiritual experience.
Kundalini yoga teaches how to wake up the sleeping Kundalini energy and master it. Kundalini is the psychic energy required for transformation. It is believed to be located in the coccyx region of the kundalini, at the intersection of three psychic nerves (Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna). Once the kundalini is awakened, it rises from the coccyx by drawing spirals along the entire spine and reaches the top “crown chakra”. It awakens many hidden powers along the path it travels and increases the inner angels and mystical experiences. It allows us to experience the cosmic principles and reach the highest level of “self-cognition.” It is emphasized in many tantric principles such as Kundalini, Laya yoga, and Mantra Yoga.
Other Yoga Varieties That May Be Best for You
- Vinyasa Yoga
The word Vinyasa means “to place in a special way” in Sanskrit. In Vinyasa Yoga, different asanas are applied in a flow accompanied by breathing. The transition between asanas is breath-related in Vinyasa Yoga, the most energetic branch of yoga. Each pose is taken in one pose and each pose is passed to another pose. Vinyasa Yoga is a type of yoga suitable for yoga enthusiasts who aim to condition with high energy, to develop their muscles as well as connective tissues, who want to experience as many asanas as possible.
It is a practice that involves fluid and breath-motion synchronization. The poses are lined up one after another in a meaningful and fluid way. It has a choreographic pose sequence. As one breath is dependent on one movement, it can be quite high-paced, and there are many moments that are paused in the vinyasa flow series today.
- Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga asanas aim to develop connective tissues by applying streams that last longer than other types of yoga. In Yin Yoga, not only connective tissues but also muscles are stretched. It involves gentle stretching of the connective tissues rather than strengthening the muscles. Yang Yoga types contain high energy flows, while Yin Yoga contains more stable flows to balance them.
In a lesson practiced in Yin yoga practice, the number of poses is very low compared to others. However, it is practical to stay between 5 and 10 minutes in each pose. The pose deepens step by step and the transition to deep relaxation with breathing is practiced. Unlike other yoga styles, it does not contain any standing poses, all poses are on the ground. It is a very slow practice that calms the nervous system.
- Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar yoga is a type of yoga that intensely researches the alignment of the pose, getting into the perfect state of each pose, using plenty of auxiliary material. Based on Hatha yoga principles, it is inevitable that you will use plenty of auxiliary materials such as blocks, belts, chairs, and wide pillows in any Iyengar yoga class. Auxiliary materials aim to establish the alignment of the poses more accurately and spread the pose deeper into the body. Also, in cases of old age or the presence of a certain type of disease, therapeutic poses can be made with auxiliary materials.
- Bikram Yoga
In this yoga practice, which is also called Hot Yoga, there are 26 fixed poses and poses are performed one after another in a heated room up to 40C. Since the poses are performed in a high-temperature environment, the relaxation and stretching range of the body opens up a lot with the temperature. If you like routine and love heat, I recommend you to try Bikram Yoga.
The idea behind this type of yoga is that the connective tissues can flex more easily through the increased temperature and the purification of toxins is accelerated. The risk of hurting or injuring muscles, joints, and ligaments is minimized. Thanks to the temperature of the room, there is no need to apply warm-up and stretching exercises at the beginning of the session. It is applied to 26 traditional asanas in Bikram Yoga, which aims to actively run the glands by providing plenty of sweat.
- Restorative Yoga
Active relaxation plays an important role in this type of yoga, also known as Healing Yoga. Repairing the nervous system and balancing consciousness are among the objectives of Restorative Yoga. In asanas, which stay longer than other types of yoga, connective tissues and muscles are deliberately relaxed with the accompaniment of breathing practices. Asana and breathing exercises applied to make the spine healthier, body and soul are relaxed.
- Laya yoga
Laya means “bringing the mind to calm by controlling the breathing process”. This happens either by the mind silencing or by controlling the breath. In Hatha and laya yoga, the aim is to bring the individual to the raja yoga, which is accepted as a higher level.
- Mantra yoga
This type of yoga, which is similar to Bakti yoga, is for ordinary people. Here, it is suggested that the person repeatedly repeats the glazed words called mantras. It is argued that this practice will help the mind reach calm by reducing mental anxieties and tides, but just repeating words without providing indifference (vairagya) to the outside world will not benefit spiritual development. Because it is not possible to talk about yoga without Vairagya and Abhyasa.
The Yoga Culture: Deciding Which Is Best for You
Yoga is the way of purification of the mind in the beliefs of Far Eastern origin, the control of bodily movements, and the recovery with the help of meditation. Yoga, which is believed to bring salvation to the person by providing divine knowledge and abilities, is one of the most basic concepts and techniques of Hindu, Buddhist, and Caynist / Jainist teachings. Yoga, Buddhism, and Jainism, which is considered as one of the six orthodox thought/belief currents (astika) in Hinduism, is considered as an intermediary method for mental meditation/concentration within a narrower use.
Yoga contributed to the formation of a culture strong enough to affect a number of popular religious movements in modern times as well as some practices in the Sufism of Islam in the Middle Ages. In Sanskrit literature, the person practicing yoga is called yogi / yoginî. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit Yuj root, meaning “to connect, to unite”. For the first time in Yoga Sutra, which is the main source of yoga in the 2nd century BC, this word is used in the sense of “connecting God with man”. In the literature before Yoga Sutra (Upanishads, Gita), the word has been used in the context of mental concentration and hermit, but it has gained its classical meaning with Yoga Sutra. The origin of yoga is not exactly known which is a system with belief and philosophical features (path to the salvation) on the one hand, and bodily exercises (control of the body to control the soul) on the other.
Although there are researchers who think that Yoga emerged in India before 3000 BC, when Hinduism was not yet formed due to figures sitting similar to the position of yoga in seal prints found in prehistoric Indian culture archaeological excavations such as Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, there are also many scientists who are refusing this theory. However, there is a general acceptance that some mental and spiritual psychological phenomena (tapas) experienced by the traveling ascetic, known as Sramana, originate in the occurrence of yoga. Possibly before the emergence of Buddhism (around VI century BC), a systemless yoga was practiced in India. Since the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism, seeing yoga as a meditation tool in the process of enlightenment and bringing it into a system has affected Hinduism in this direction. However, as it is known today, yoga has developed and spread mostly in Hinduism.
In the historical development of Hindu yoga, the Maurya and Gupta periods covering the period between the II century BC and V century BC are most important. Yoga Sutra of Patanjali was written at this stage. Bhagat Gita of the same period also contains extensive information about yoga. Jain, also known as Tattvarthasutra, interprets yoga in terms of Jainism. The Buddhist Yogacara movement, which emerged during the Gupta period, also contributed to the development of yoga culture. The Bakti Hindu movement, whose roots date back to the VI century BC, and completed its real development between the XII-XV centuries, enabled the yoga philosophy to take root in Hinduism.
The modern yoga concept took its final form when the yoga system, which was seen as a philosophical school in the XV century, included the tendency to reach salvation with the control of bodily movements known as Hatha Yoga that became very popular today. From the beginning of the XX century, more Hatha Yoga became representative of Hindu yoga. It is Hatha Yoga which is especially common in India and various countries of the world today. Apart from the Buddhist and Jainist approaches that interpret yoga as a mental and physical activity that contributes to the absolute vigilance of the mind in the process of enlightenment and liberation, yoga is practiced especially by the members of the Samkhya school, a dualist Hindu philosophy, in Hinduism where it has become more systematic and popular. Yoga performed in Hindu schools other than this is more systematic and it is based on advanced archaic practices under the influence of folk yoga.
8 steps of Yoga Sutra
According to Yoga Sutra, yoga practice consists of eight steps. First of all, yoga aims to balance, control, and direct one’s physical, mental, and spiritual activities to salvation. As a result of the process that starts from the body control and extends to the soul and mind control, a state of serenity called “samadhi” is reached. The mind that reaches Samadhi is one step closer to salvation in case of absolute happiness called “Prasada”. This process gives the person supernatural abilities.
The first two of the eight steps that will lead the person to this point are the “Yama” (preparatory steps) (not to kill, to avoid lying, to avoid theft and adultery, to not tolerate world goods) and to “Niyama” (to follow the orders of religion, to read regular worship and scriptures. gain a habit, keep the body clean). In the third row, “asanas” (comfortable and easy sitting) come to control the body. “Pranayama” (breath control), which is seen as a useful and effective exercise for the peace of mind and the acquisition of latent powers, is the fourth step.
It is claimed that regulating breathing has a hypnosis effect on the individual; however, it is suggested that breathing exercises can be dangerous for physically weak people and therefore pranayama should be hidden. It is the fifth step in the “pratyahara” yoga system, which is also defined as “the process/step of desensitizing feelings for the positive or negative effects of the outside world”. In fact, the practices in this step are exercises for the purpose of desensitizing the individual against internal factors such as lust, hate, anger, fear, as well as external factors such as hot, cold, crowd, and loneliness. This step, in which mantras are also used extensively, is also considered as preparation for deep thought or the initial step.
It is the sixth step in the “Dharana” yoga system, which can be described as the mind’s focus on a certain point or the entry threshold to meditation. After that comes the “dhyana” (the mind’s focus on a certain subject for a long time by getting rid of the effects of the outside world) and “deeper contemplation” where the object-subject separation ends, and which can be defined as the “necessary result of previous practices”. Each yoga student is encouraged to choose the type of yoga that best suits their own tendency. One of the main duties of the murshid, called guru, is to assist the disciple in this matter.
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