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There are many different types of yoga and all of them benefit a different category of people. When you say you do Yoga, you should also be aware of what kind of yoga you are doing, for only then will you be able to figure out the right benefits of all these yoga types and do the one that would suit your needs the best. Here is a list of the biggest types of yoga – the ones you must know about.
1. Ashtanga Yoga : Ashtanga Yoga is one of the oldest kinds of yoga. This branch of yoga has been mentioned in the Patanjali, a Sanskrit verse book. This type of yoga has 8 branches, which is why it is called Ashtanga yoga. It includes processes such as yoga positions, postures, breathing, concentration on objects, withdrawal of senses, meditation etc. The main benefit of this kind of yoga is the fact that it is supposed to purify the body and the mind at the same time and it is recommended for those people who are looking for a branch of yoga that would let them become physically and mentally fit as well.
2. The postures and stances practiced under this type of yoga have to be done in different sets. There are six such sets. These sets are supposed to increase the heat of the body, hence remove impurities from the body, which will eventually lead to mental and spiritual wellness.
The well- known sun salutations or the “Surya Namaskara” form a part of this type of yoga. This is how Ashtanga yoga has to be started, followed by the sets that the person is practicing at that point of time. The first stage of Ashtanga yoga is known as “Yoga Chikitsa” or Yoga Therapy. The second stage is known as Nadi Shodana or Nerve cleansing and the last stage is Stirah Bagah, which is steady strength. The new fad in yoga- Power Yoga is actually adapted from this kind of yoga. It is also one of the most popular yoga types right now.
3. Hatha Yoga : Hatha yoga relies extensively on postures and asanas for its benefit. In fact, the combination of the syllables ha and tha itself is supposed to awaken the two governing energies of life. Of all the types of yoga, this is the one that focuses on the need of advancing the life forces, energy, the chakra and the kundalini the most. Hatha Yoga is all about promoting the spiritual and mental well- being of a person. It consists of asana, that is followed by the six shatkarmas. Both these put together form the physical and mental detox. It also includes Pranayama, bandhas, which are spiritual awakening and energy revealing practices. Hatha yoga is done in combination, by combining all these practices.
4. The asanas are supposed to rid the body of diseases, following which one can focus on making the body and the mind fit. The shatkarmas aid in cleansing the body, so that none of the energy is restrained or kept back. The Pranayama helps in spiritual awakening, which would definitely help a person lead a healthier and happier life, mentally and emotionally. However, it is suggested that people practice Pranayama only while under the guidance of a guru or a teacher.
5. Mantra Yoga : Mantra Yoga is the type of yoga that is practiced through the chanting of mantras. Thousands of mantras exist and it is believed that the vibrations released by these mantras can really help a person achieve their dreams and even cure diseases. What mantra yoga focuses on is learning these mantras in the right way. These mantras are believed to have a lot of power and it will not do for people to just chant them any way they want. Some guidance is required in this sphere, to practice this branch of yoga in an effective manner. Practice of mantra yoga requires some items as well- such as incense sticks, rosaries, etc. There are two ways in which the mantras in this type of yoga are divided.
a. Tantric Mantra : Thousands of Tantric mantras exist and these are the mantras that people can use to attract wealth, health, money, success, etc. for themselves. But these mantras have a lot of restrictions on them, because of the power they have. It is suggested that people learn the Tantric mantras only with the guidance and help of a guru.
b. Pouranic mantra : These are simpler mantras that can be practiced by people without any guidance. These are basic mantras that are used for salvation and better emotional life of the people.
6. Bhakti Yoga : This branch of yoga is based completely on faith and belief. While practicing yoga, it is generally suggested that the person place their faith and belief on some supreme power such as God or any higher consciousness. One of the most important prerequisite for doing this kind of yoga is to be actually interested in it and invested in it. People have to believe in this kind of yoga when they are doing it or the emotional flow and the energy derived from the yoga will not be beneficial at all. The biggest benefit of practicing Bhakti Yoga, out of all types of yoga is the fact that this can help cure a person’s mental and emotional problems in such a way that their relationships with other people can also be improved.
Emotional benefit is something one can gain from all branches of yoga, but with Bhakti yoga, it is different. One can reduce the attachment they have with any negative entities with the help of these kinds of yoga. They can also prevent any excess ego, fickleness or any negative emotion or character trait, because the meditator or the yoga practitioner is relating themselves to a higher power, which will cause realization and inner peace as well.
7. Jnana Yoga : This kind of yoga is something related to the knowledge and the wisdom derived from practicing yoga. It is the tradition that is used to achieve meditative strength and wisdom as well. In Jnana yoga, a person derives his knowledge and his awareness through meditation. Meditation will help the person introspect and find rational answers to all questions that plague the body and mind. Of course, Jnana Yoga can be practiced by people alone or with the help of a guru. The basic goals that this branch of yoga wishes to achieve is the experience of knowledge, developing wisdom and inner peace, realizing the truth and one’s own nature and self- awareness. There is no need for any materials or things to practice this kind of yoga, for it is almost entirely about the mind and the soul.
8. Kriya Yoga : This type of yoga focuses on bodily activities or physical activities. It’s main intention is also to achieve inner peace and realization, but it does not really do much to calm mental tension or issues. Kriya yoga is a kind of yoga that would help people maintain some amount of physical fitness or even lose weight.
There are around 70 kriyas that are a part of this kind of yoga, but only 20 of them are commonly known and practiced by people- for they are the ones that are the easier ones. Pranayama is a popular part of this yoga as well. This is not really a popular kind of yoga, even though there are mentions of it in Puranic texts. It has been revived recently and hopefully the revival is here to stay. People who are doing yoga for physical as well as mental and emotional fitness can combine this yoga with any other kind for the optimum benefit.
9. Swara Yoga : This is also not a popular kind of yoga, but it is highly important. Swara, in Sanskrit means a sound or a note. Yoga means union. So the combination of Swara and Yoga depicts a cosmic consciousness through which people can learn how to control their breath and thus lead a better life. Yoga is based on the belief that if people learn how to breathe properly, half their problem will be solved. This is true to an extent- breathing exercises are a part of all branches of yoga. But this is a form of yoga that focuses primarily on the breathing and the manipulation of the swara through breathing. This type of yoga also ties people with the nature around them, so it is very vital in today’s world. Swara yoga is not tough to do and it can calm a person easily. It can also improve their concentration. People of all ages can indulge in these breathing exercises.
10. Kundalini Yoga : Kundalini Yoga is one of the most practiced branches of yoga. It deals with the psychic centers in the body or the “chakras” that are in all individuals. There are six such chakras in the body and Kundalini yoga hopes to reach all of them. Kundalini yoga believes that there are no other chakras in the body than the six main ones- the Sahasrara, Ajna, Visuddhi, Anahata, Manipura, Swadishtana and Mooladhara. These are the chakras that connect us to the realms of our mind and heighten our consciousness. The Kundalini yoga concept says that all these chakras can be awakened if there six centres are awakened through Pranayama, bandha, asanas, mudras etc. In fact, it is suggested that people practice this kind of yoga with some other branch of yoga- such as Mantra Yoga or Swara Yoga to get the most benefits.
11. Kripalu Yoga : This is the yoga that deals with the consciousness. Of all the branches of yoga, this is the most relaxed one- it is there to make sure that people release all the emotional and spiritual blockages that are stopping them from achieving their goals. As a result of this, the main focus of this kind of yoga is not getting perfect stance or procedure, as in Ashtanga yoga, but it is getting the right kind of emotion. There are three stages in this kind of yoga- learning the postures and your body’s limits, holding these postures and developing awareness of one’s own self and body and the last stage is a meditative one in which the person learns how to shift from one posture to another fluidly, without disrupting their mental processes or thoughts.
12. Raja Yoga : This is yoga that was initiated by the Sage Patanjali. This branch of yoga consists of eight stages, all prescribed by Patanjali. Raja Yoga is a yoga system that deals with the personality and the body. It deals in the practice of pranayama, asanas, yamas (restraint) etc. After the physical fitness of the body is achieved through asanas, this branch of yoga deals with mental and emotional benefits through pratyahara (Sensory withdrawal) and dharana (concentration). This is followed by dhyana (meditation) which finally leads to samadhi (or absorption with the universal conscience). This type of yoga is concerned with mental and physical well-being. It’s basis is the fact that humans will be able to achieve spiritual fitness or emotional fitness only after their body is devoid of diseases and has become fit.
These are the traditional kinds of yoga, the ones that have been in existence for a long time now. Of course, these are just the major branches of yoga. There are many other kinds of yoga that people do practice now- yoga that has been developed by new teachers and by western influences as well- such as Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga,Power Yoga etc. But all these new kinds of yoga have been influenced by the traditional kinds of yoga.