Last updated on September 23rd, 2023.
Here’s a good place to start: Is yoga just one thing?
What does that mean? Let’s dig a little deeper. How is yoga only physical or is it mental too? What about styles? As interconnected of a world as we have with all of the different cultures there are similarly different styles of yoga.
In mainstream yoga (think yoga in major cities) there are even a number of diverse styles.
In this article we put together primary research for the styles being sought by beginning yoga instructors as well as those styles throughout history that have risen to the top.
Popular styles being taught: For consideration when pursuing Yoga Teacher Training
We’ve conducted some primary research, looking at 3 majors cities across the US and almost 100 yoga studios to get the lay of the land on yoga styles being taught.
Below, you’ll see data from New York, Austin and Las Angelas and what the combined graph displays is the various types of styles being practiced across those nearly 100 yoga studios. As you can see, most studios practice a variety of styles, typically offering various sequences to meet a mix of interests and needs across students.
Ashtanga is the single most popular style which we felt was no surprise as it’s foundational in nature.
A Historical Guide to Styles of Yoga Training, Whether Pursing Online Yoga Teacher training or an In-Person Certification
Making the decision to pursue your yoga teacher training can seem daunting at first, however, there are really just 12 main styles of Yoga Training that have remained prominent throughout history. It’s true, some of them have evolved and especially with the invention of the internet and the difficulty of always being able to meet in person at consistent times many of these training are available for you to pursue your Yoga Certification Online or even the best Y12SR certification program online. With that said, we decided to do a little research and give you a relatively thorough table showing the history of the main styles of yoga to help you narrow into the practice you believe is the right first step towards your teaching journey.
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|Yoga style||Yoga Training in the Past||Yoga Training Today|
|Ashtanga||"This dynamic, physically demanding practice synchronizes breath and movement to produce an internal heat designed to purify the body. Ashtanga yoga, with its many vinyasas, is great for building core strength and toning the body. Prepare to sweat as you briskly move through a set sequence.|
It is currently traditional not to alter any of the Ashtanga sequences. Even though Guruji and Sharath did and do allow occasional variations the general rule is no one else should. The sequences are not to be changed. This includes doing any other kind of practice outside of your regular Ashtanga routine. If you practice Ashtanga, the ""tradition"" is that you are not supposed to do any other method, whether it be another Hatha Yoga style such as Iyengar or such things as meditation practice. So if you are doing any kind of variation, in or out of the practice, in effect you are not being traditional."
|"Ashtanga Yoga is a wonderful practice for the body and mind. It is an evolving practice that is changing and growing to suit people of all ages and abilities.
At some point in this process, a student will have difficulty, physically or otherwise, and either needs to be encouraged to keep going, to focus on the standard technique, or needs to be given an alternative in order to facilitate greater ease of practice.
Realistically everyone I know modifies or changes the tradition and sequences to suit themselves, whether it is a posture, a breath or an attitude. What you think is appropriate is different to what every other teacher and student thinks - the tradition is interpreted differently by everyone. Having said that, I do think it is beneficial to attempt to follow the basic structures, to learn the order of the postures, the Vinyasa counting, the combinations of movements and breath. I just don’t think it needs to be applied as a “one-shoe-fits-all” kind of practice."
|Jivamukti||"""Jivamukti yoga is a modern hybrid style of yoga that was created and branded by artist David Life and musician/dancer Sharon Gannon.|
The name comes from the Sanskrit jiva (individual living soul) and mukti (the freeing from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth). Therefore, the full name implies liberation while still living on Earth.
The five basic principles of Jivamukti yoga are:
It is a highly physical and vigorous style of yoga that takes its basic moves from traditional Hatha yoga."""
|"The Jivamukti Yoga® Teacher Training will provide you with a blueprint for incorporating the physical, psychological, spiritual and mystical aspects of yoga into modern life, without losing sight of the universal goal of the practice: liberation. Jivamukti Yoga’s® teaches skills to confidently achieve those goals for oneself as well as lead others to live in harmony with the planet.
The month-long training program covers yoga philosophy and scriptures, history of yoga, introduction to Sanskrit, introduction to anatomy, practice teaching sessions, study groups, mentor guidance, quizzes, midterm and final tests, and all aspects of Jivamukti Yoga. The training focuses not only on the physical postures, but also on how the postures evolved. We explore yoga’s ancient sacred texts and five-thousand-year-old traditions, as well as the psychotherapeutic benefits that develop with a steady practice and the spiritual power that is set free when energy flows throughout the heart, body and mind."
|Viniyoga||Viniyoga is a style of Hatha yoga that promotes the personalization of yoga practices to suit each individual yogi. From Sanskrit, the prefixes, vi and ni, denote “adaptation” or “appropriate application.” It involves adapting the methods of yoga to ensure they are exactly what the yogi needs in mind, body and spirit.||"Viniyoga ™ is a comprehensive and authentic transmission of the teachings of yoga including asana, pranayama, bandha, sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual and study of texts. Viniyoga ™ (prefixes vi and ni plus yoga) is an ancient Sanskrit term that implies differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application.
We honor the integrity of ancient yoga teachings while making them relevant and practical today. We are connected by the teachings of Viniyoga™ through Gary Kraftsow, MA, E-RYT 500, who evolved this approach to yoga from the teachings of T.K.V. Desikachar and T. Krishnamacharya of Madras, India."
|Iyengar||Iyengar yoga was made popular by B.K.S. Iyengar, a guru from Pune, India. This style is largely alignment-based, and makes use of various yoga props such as blocks, straps and blankets. Great attention is given to the details of each asana as the poses are held for longer periods of time than in an Ashtanga or Vinyasa yoga class. It’s considered to be the ballet of yoga and is the perfect yoga for those who need therapeutic asanas for various health conditions.||The Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India, is the mother institute of Iyengar Yoga worldwide. Prashant Iyengar, Abhijata Iyengar and others who studied and trained directly with B.K.S. Iyengar for decades continue to teach and refine the constantly evolving method that is one of the world’s most widely practiced yogas. Here, too, teachers from around the world come to practice and hone the skills they will take back to their own Iyengar Yoga communities.|
|Anusara||"Anusara yoga is a modern-day Hatha yoga system founded by John Friend. Anusara means “flowing with grace,” “going with the flow,” “following your heart.”|
Anusara Yoga is rooted in a non-dual Tantric philosophy that we are all inherently good. It draws from this that life is a gift that we are invited to remember and celebrate in our yoga practice.
Anusara emphasizes “Universal Principles of Alignment” as the focal point of its practice, which underlie all of the physical asanas. These principles are important in the practice of yoga as they give you guidelines on how to align your body, heart and mind in a way that provides both integration and safe opening so circulation is optimal and strength, good health and wellbeing are fostered.
Yoga is about finding our centre. These principles are tools to guide you into balance."
|"Many Anusara yoga teachers teach in the vinyasa flow style with holding some (key) poses for a longer time. A flow practice helps to connect you to your breath and the breath serves as a guide in your asana practice. Vinyasa flow warms up the body and links the focus of the class to the physical expression. Holding the poses allows for more explanation of the key alignment principle and the linking of the spiritual intention to your body.
Anusara yoga is designed for students of any level or ability. There are over 250 poses included in Anusara Yoga but there are no set postural routines. Most yoga teachers end the class with a meditation/relaxation."
|Kundalini||Kundalini Yoga is a dynamic system combining breathing, movement, stretching, postures, meditation, the use of sound and rhythm, relaxation and meditation. Each class includes pranayam, a sequence of postures for specific effects, relaxation and meditation. Kundalini Yoga was brought to North America in 1968, but has evolved over thousands of years, originating in India. As there are a wide variety of exercises and meditations utilized in Kundalini Yoga, it can be adapted to address many specific health applications.||"A well-taught Kundalini Yoga class leaves you feeling like you’ve gone to therapy, had an awesome workout in the gym, made it to your yoga mat and enjoyed a fun singing session with friends. The purpose of Kundalini Yoga is to provide a modality by which people can achieve their maximum creative potential, free themselves from Karma (the lasting effects of past actions) and realize their Life Purpose. Experiencing a Kundalini Awakening is like being given the secret code to always winning a blue ribbon, along with a get-out-of-jail-free card, at which point you gleefully fire your Life Coach because now you know more than he does.
These days Kundalini yoga is a synthesis of many traditions, and the kriyas and meditations in Kundalini Yoga are designed to raise complete body awareness to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini Rising. Many of the physical postures are designed to activate the navel, spine, and focal points of pressurization on meridians (energy points). Through breath work (pranayama) and the application of yogic locks of energy (bandhas), the release, direction, and control of the flow of Kundalini energy is achieved."
|Vinyasa||Kundalini Yoga is an ancient art and science dealing with the transformation and expansion of consciousness,the awakening and raising of Kundalini Energy up the spine through energy centers called Chakras. The activation and balancing of the chakras is accomplished by the mixing and uniting of Prana (cosmic energy) with Apana (eliminating energy) which generates pressure to force Kundalini to rise, by means of Pranayama (breathing exercises), Bhandas (body locks), in Kriyas (exercise sets), using Asanas (postures), Mudras (gestures), and Mantras (sacred sounds).||"Though there are many different types of yoga, Vinyasa Yoga is by far the most popular form in the U.S. Vinyasa is moving with your breath. The movements can be slow or dynamic and challenging depending on the class.
The word ""vinyasa"" can be translated as ""arranging something in a special way"" like yoga poses for example. In vinyasa yoga classes, students coordinate movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next. Vinyasa is also the term used to describe a specific sequence of poses (Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog) commonly used throughout a vinyasa class. Students can expect to be challenged in this class, but also offered choices and space to modify the class to their level.
Slow Flow Vinyasa Yoga is great as a beginner yoga class. However, even experienced students can benefit from learning how to slow down their practice and really get into the breath work and healing aspects of yoga.
Dynamic Flow Vinyasa Yoga is the most cardio of the yoga classes with greater emphasis on moving and linking one pose to the next rather than holding."
|Sivananda||Sivananda yoga is a more traditional form of yoga that focuses on the following principles: a sequence of 12 asanas, pranayama, relaxation, yogic philosophy, meditation and a vegetarian diet. Although it is a disciplined style, it is still accessible to most levels.||The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres organisation with locations around the world is dedicated to the teaching of classical yoga and vedanta to promote physical, mental and spiritual health. The Organisation is recognised internationally as one of the most important and authentic yoga institutions in the world. A global network of Ashrams and City Centres offer teachings on all aspects of yoga and meditation-including our world-renowned teacher training courses-yogic studies including raja yoga and vedanta and sacred culture programmes. Our founder Swami Vishnudevananda synthesised the essence of yoga into five principles that could be easily incorporated into daily life. These comprise the core teachings of the four paths of classical, traditional yoga and make the wisdom of the ancient sages easily accessible to beginner and the more experienced alike.|
|Bikram||Bikram yoga is that style of yoga also known as Hot yoga. It’s done in a room heated between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which gets the muscles, ligaments and tendons to loosen up. This is one of the most vigorous forms of yoga and not for the faint of heart.||"Bikram Yoga spread rapidly across America and the Western world, reaching a peak of some 1,650 studios in at least 40 countries in 2006. Choudhury attempted to copyright the Bikram Yoga sequence from 2011, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 2016, facing lawsuits and accusations of sexual assault, Choudhury fled to India, leaving Bikram Yoga, Inc. to be run by others.
Bikram Yoga Beginning Series classes run for 90 minutes and always consist of 26 postures, namely 24 asanas, one pranayama (breathing exercise), and one shatkarma (a purification) in a fixed sequence. The room is fitted with mirrors and carpets; students are not adjusted by the teacher, but are expected to adjust themselves using the mirrors.
The hot yoga style is practised in a room heated to 105 °F (41 °C) with a humidity of 40%, intended to replicate the climate of India where it was created. Bikram Yoga trains its own teachers. They are taught a standardized dialogue to run the class, but are encouraged to develop their own delivery style."
|Yin||"Yin yoga is a type of restorative yoga practice based on the traditional Daoist philosophy of yin and yang energies. The aim of the practice it to evoke the calming effects of yin energy, allowing the body to fall into a natural state of equilibrium and relaxation.|
Yin yoga is accessible to yogis of all levels of physical fitness. During a Yin yoga class, each asana is held for a long period of time, typically three to five minutes or longer. The goal is to reduce muscular engagement and target connective tissues instead. This leads to an overall deeper stretch and increased relaxation."
|This practice is designed to help you sit longer, and more comfortably, in meditation by stretching connective tissue around the joints (mainly the knees, pelvis, sacrum, and spine). A passive practice, Yin Yoga involves variations of seated and supine poses typically held for 3 to 5 minutes, accessing deeper layers of fascia. Yin Yoga was originally introduced by Paulie Zink.|
|Forrest||In turn, Forrest Yoga emerged in 1989 as a blend of efficient asana and First Peoples’ wise spirit medicine. It addresses modern physical ailments such as back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Through helpful coaching, Forrest Yoga strives to unite us with our spirits, which may have been slowly starved by life or shocked out of our bodies through trauma. Forrest Yoga is a path that calls the spirit home. It’s an evolving system, with a living founder and 14 senior teachers, called the Guardians, whom Ana has chosen to carry on Forrest Yoga’s tradition long after she’s gone. It also now includes Ana’s husband, musician Jose Calarco.||Forrest Yoga is not static. This can be unnerving to people who have learned how to do something a certain way, then are asked to try it another way. It can even create questioning within the teachers. Forrest Yoga is strong enough to take on this inquiry even from the people trained to carry on this system. By changing things up from time to time, the system stays fresh, adaptive, and relevant.|