”Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” - The Bhagavad Gita
More and more people are choosing to do yoga. A lot of gyms offer yoga sessions and there are also outdoor yoga classes and yoga centres. Originally from India, yoga has started to become a popular activity all over the world.
With the International Day of Yoga on 21st June, you might be tempted to work on your poses, techniques, and breathing exercises. Whether you decide to do a yoga retreat or not, India is still a huge influence on yoga.
With all the types of yoga popping up each year, which ones are actually from India? Is there still a typically Indian style of yoga? Which styles of yoga are preferred in India?
Here’s an overview of yoga practised in India.
Hatha Yoga, Typical Indian Yoga
So while some types of yoga focus on a particular technique like breathing, spinal alignment, or pranayama, hatha yoga is based on one of the limbs of yoga. Hatha means “force” in Sanskrit. It was inspired by an Indian philosopher and teacher who died in 1989: Krishnamacharya. He taught some of the biggest names in yoga with his teaching becoming codified as hatha yoga.
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This 20th-century yoga became very popular over the world. So what does it involve?
It’s very simple. Hatha yoga involves a variety of poses (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and physical strength. A typical hatha yoga session lasts around 90 minutes.
The codification of hatha yoga has made it one of the most popular types of yoga in the world. With meditation, relaxation, concentration, and yoga poses, it's accessible to everyone.
That’s what you’re after, right?
Find out more about doing yoga in India.
Kundalini Yoga, Straight Out of India
Kundalini yoga is one of the original types of yoga from India. Inspired by Swami Vivekananda and created by master Bhajan in the 1970s, Kundalini yoga draws upon the most effective elements of yoga.
The goal is to carry out yoga poses regularly to make the practice more effective. This type of yoga is better suited to experienced yogis who have a better understanding of how to harmonise their body and mind.
While some may say that Kundalini Yoga focuses on our sexual energy, it focuses on your spinal column, which is believed to be the centre of our energy. The goal is the master the flow of energy through this channel and to let go.
Kundalini Yoga draws upon mindfulness, breathing exercises, and Indian mantras. The term “Kundalini” means “circular” in Sanskrit and appears regularly in sacred Hindu texts. A genuine Indian style of yoga!
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Sivananda Yoga, Created by and for Indians
Swami Vishnudevahanda, a student of Swami Sivananda, created this type of yoga in the 1960s which focuses on breathing, relaxation, and positive thinking.
This increasingly popular style of yoga is based on 5 main pillars:
- Regular practice
- A healthy vegetarian diet
- Positive thinking through meditation
Throughout a 90-minute session, you’ll “unite” your body and mind (the translation of the Sanskrit word Sivananda).
Based on Hatha Yoga, this type of yoga uses asanas, breathing exercises, and meditative practices. Regularly doing this type of yoga can have a positive effect on your mind, body, spirit, and overall well-being. As with everything else, no pain, no gain.
Check out the best Indian yoga retreats.
Bikram Yoga, a Popular Indian Yoga Style
You may be familiar with Bikram Yoga. In recent years, this has become one of the most popular types of yoga. It involves chaining together intensive and quick yoga poses.
The main difference is that you do this in 40-degree heat! Bikram yoga works on the body and also helps to eliminate toxins from the body. The goal is to physically condition yourself as long as you don’t pass out in the first five minutes. Adapted from Hatha Yoga by Bikram Choudhury, each movement is accompanied by a particular breathing technique.
Yoga Nidra, Yoga for Sleep
Also known as “yogic sleep”, Yoga Nidra is a type of yoga developed by Swami Satyananda dating back to the 1940s. The goal of this discipline is to improve the quality of your sleep.
Yoga Nidra is related to sophrology and works using a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. It can be done either seated or lying down for a 90-minute session and includes meditation and breathing exercises designed to achieve this state of consciousness.
The goal is for our consciousness to take control of our body and influence our movements while relaxing. There are benefits to learning to better control your body through yoga and meditation. It generally works through guided meditation, reciting mantras, visualisation, and yoga poses. Yoga Nidra combines meditation and mindfulness.
Iyengar Yoga, The Body as an Actor
Iyenger Yoga gets its name from its creator B. K. S. Iyengar who made a style of yoga that focuses on alignment. Thanks to yoga blocks, belts, bands, etc., you can be mindful of your body under the guidance of a yoga instructor.
Thanks to sequences of exercises, Iyengar Yoga can help you to better position your legs and align your spine and is related to Yin Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. This novel way of teaching yoga takes place in 90-minute sessions.
Ashtanga Yoga, Dynamic Indian Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga was created by Pattabhi Jois in the south of India and uses six series of poses and breathing techniques including Ujjayi diaphragmatic breathing techniques. It was designed to train young men for war. These quick sequences make the most of Ujjayi.
So what exactly is Ujjayi?
It’s a breathing technique where you contract your throat. The poses work on flexibility and alignment. In Sanskrit, “Ashtanga” means “Eight Limbs”, referring to the eight aspects of yoga described in the Yoga Sutra. This is a sporty brand of yoga which is popular amongst young healthy people.
Vinyasa Yoga, Powerful Yoga
Also known as “Power Yoga”, Vinyasa Yoga gets its name from “Nyasa” meaning “to place” and “vi”, which means “in a certain way”. You need to move your limbs in a particular way, synchronising your movements with the main principals of yoga and breath control. The goal is to chain yoga exercises together and harmonise your body and mind. When doing this yoga, you need to listen to your needs and wants, much like with Ashtanga Yoga. Vinyasa Yoga involves rebalancing your emotions and energy while deepening your understanding of yoga. India has a lot to offer!
As you’ll have understood, there are various types of yoga from India and there’s a style for everyone that can bring your body, mind, and spirit together.
So which style is the one for you?
If you'd like to get started with yoga, try the talented tutors on Superprof. There are plenty of tutors offering plenty of different types of yoga. Similarly, there are three main types of yoga tutorial available, too: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. Each type of yoga, tutor, and tutorial has its pros and cons so you need to think carefully before you pick your tutor.
Face-to-face tutorials are between you and your tutor, allowing you to benefit fully from the tutor's expertise every second you're with them. They'll put together sessions and courses that are tailored to you. Of course, this bespoke service tends to come at a cost but since it's all done with you in mind, it makes this type of tutorial the most cost-effective you can get. If you've got the budget for them, these are the ones to go for.
Online tutorials are also between just you and the tutor but your tutor won't be there in the room with you. Thanks to the internet, anyone with a decent webcam, microphone, and internet connection can get tutoring from anyone, anywhere. With fewer expenditures for travelling and the ability to schedule more tutorials each week, online tutors tend to charge less per hour than face-to-face tutorials. You may even get a tutor from India!
Finally, group tutorials are available for those that are happy to share their tutor's time with others. Whether you and a group of friends opt to practise yoga together or you start attending tutorials with a group of strangers, these tutorials tend to cost less per person per hour since the whole group is paying for the tutor's time and expertise.
You need to think about your needs and your budget before you choose your private tutor and remember that many of the tutors on Superprof offer the first hour of tuition for free so you can see whether or not you get along and whether their teaching approaches are right for you.