In this lesson, we provide an overview of more than 60 styles of yoga.
Be familiar with the vast number of styles of yoga and different ways they may be categorized.
Describe a few general characteristics of the many styles of yoga. Explore the effects of different yoga styes from an Anyurvedic perspective, as taught by Mukunda Stiles. Name the primary branches or paths of yoga and how the various yoga styles relate. Provide an alternative way to categorize styles. Name and describe more than 60 styles of yoga.
For history and context, please see Origins & Sources of Yoga.
Anyone who wants to can practice yoga. Anybody can breathe; therefore anybody can practice yoga. But no one can practice every kind of yoga. It has to be the right yoga for the person. – T.K.V. Desikachar
Here you’ll find descriptions of more than 60 styles of yoga.
- Many are blends of the earliest lineages.
- Some represent a chosen sequence or style of an individual teacher.
- It’s common to find teachers who meld insights from multiple schools of thought.
- Despite the naming of styles, classes within one style can vary dramatically based on an individual teacher’s approach.
Each Individual Journey Will Likely Involve Blending Styles
If you have done yoga as long as I have (going on 29 years, inconceivably), you inevitably become aware of and likely try out several different styles of yoga practice. Some of these styles will have connections to certain lineages of Yoga from India, while others may be more modern permutations with only a nodding acknowledgement to the roots of yoga. Regardless of their origins, some will resonate more for you as an individual, given your interests, desires, goals in practicing and understanding of the underlying purposes of yoga. My personal journey has been no different, and it has all contributed to how I enjoy practicing the various limbs of yoga and how I have developed my unique style of teaching. [See the article for this medical doctor’s interesting journey into the teachings of yoga.] – Baxter Bell MD, Evolution of a Yoga Practice link
No Formula for Love
I don’t think there’s a formula for which [yoga] style will speak to a practitioner any more than there is a formula for who will fall in love. Match.com can put you in touch with people who share your interests, but you have to date to see if there’s chemistry. – Brian Leaf, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi 2012 p 37 link
An Ayurvedic Perspective
When they are approached with discrimination and guided by committed teachers, [all of the styles of Hatha Yoga] have wonderful health benefits to offer students. – Mukunda Stiles, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy 2007 p 84 link
Stiles notes the effects of different styes from an Ayurvedic perspective:
Kripalu, Integral and Sivananda Yoga
- Stiles points out that the use of rhythmic breathing, pranayama and mindfulness during asana practice prepare the student for deeper practices of meditation, making the “body supple and the mind alert.”
- Such practices, he advises, are ideal for a Vata constitution.
Power, Asthanga and Bikram Yoga
- Fast-paced and vigorous practices that “promote sweating as a form of purification… develop lustrous skin tone, tremendous vitality, and a passion for life.”
- Stiles notes that such practice “would not be recommended for a Pitta-predominant student lacking discrimination in following their own guidance” but that for a “balanced Pitta, this style will promote insight by keeping them engaged in the art of balancing and directing their fiery nature.”
- Stiles highlights the focus on physical alignment, of course, as well as “the development of mental and physical strength and stamina,” noting that with this method, “faith and perseverance are developed.”
- Stiles recommends this type of practice for a Kapha constitution.
The primary branches or paths of yoga are Bhakti, Jnana, Raja, Tantra and Hatha. (Members, learn more here.) The various yoga styles may clearly follow one of those paths or may use techniques from multiple branches.
Another way to categorize styles is by a foundation in Enlightenment & Spirituality, Alignment, Vinyasa, or Therapy.
Greater than One Path
Yoga is greater than one path — many waves, one ocean. – Cora Wen
The Word, “Tradition”
Have people been practicing the techniques of Iyengar, Jois, Desai, Krishnamacharya / Desikachar-in-Chennai for long enough to merit the status of “tradition”? Is forty years enough? I doubt it… So how do we get more accurate in our language? How do we make sure that the word “tradition” is not merely a way of bolstering a fragile sense of internal authority, or a marketplace validation device? Maybe use the word “version?” Iyengar’s version of yoga, Jois’ version of yoga, Desai’s version of yoga. Each with their antecedents that may or may not pass whatever test “tradition” demands… more than 40 years and a couple of photographs on the wall. – Matthew Remski link
We in the West have an issue with labeling things — saying this is that and not that, creating frames and boundaries to feel safe, to strengthen our identity, and to be part of a special group. The root of this is actually very beautiful: wanting to unite, which is what yoga is all about. But instead of uniting, this labeling only creates separation. – Johanna Andersson
About the Styles
- Founded by Jivana Heyman
- An international grassroots organization dedicated to sharing yoga with everyone
- Accessible Yoga
- Blends yoga, Thai massage and acrobatics to cultivate trust, connection and playfulness
- Executing poses while suspended from a cloth hammock
Alive and Shine (previously Purna)
- In the tradition of Paramhansa Yogananda
- Classical yoga including asana, pranayama, meditation and applied yoga philosophy
- Ananda Yoga
- Anusara Yoga was originally founded by John Friend
- The Anusara School of Hatha Yoga was formed in 2012 by an international group of Anusara yoga teachers
- Unifies alignment-based asana with Tantric principles
- Anusara School of Hatha Yoga
- Founded by Todd Norian
- “An alignment-based, transformational system of yoga embodying Tantric philosophy, the Five Great Elements, Shadow and Light work, and integration of body, mind, and heart”
- Ashaya Yoga
- Set sequence of physically demanding postures, utilizes vinyasa, drishti, bandha and mudra
- Ashtanga Yoga
Baptiste Power Vinyasa
- Founded by Emily and Jhula in Berlin, Germany
- “Beer Yoga is fun but it’s no joke – we take the philosophies of yoga and pair it with the pleasure of beer-drinking to reach your highest level of consciousness”
- Beer Yoga
Body Positive Yoga
- Founded by Amber Karnes
- For ”humans who want to make peace with their bodies and build unshakable confidence.”
- Body Positive Yoga
- Founded by Erin Maile O’Keefe & Kevin O’Keefe
- Blends yoga consciousness with the celebration of a circus to foster connection, communication and play through partner yoga, acrobatics, games, comedy, creative movement, dance, Thai massage and more
- Circus Yoga
Core Fusion Yoga
- “A blend of barre class and athletic yoga. Work your arms and abs with traditional Sun Salutations then tone your glutes and thighs with isometric leg lifts.” (Yoga Journal, 7 Yoga Hybrids You Gotta Try)
- Yoga inspired by the spirituality of ancient Egypt / Africa
- May be based on the research of Kemetic Yoga founders or may be based on other sources
- Egyptian Yoga by Muata Abhaya Ashby PhD
- Book: Egyptian Yoga: Postures of the Gods and Goddesses by Muata Ashby
- Book: Egyptian Yoga: The Philosophy of Enlightenment by Sebai Dr. Muata Asbhy
- Book: Egyptian Postures of Power; Mysticism, Meditations, Movements by Jason Quitt
- See also: Kemetic Yoga
- General description without correlation to a founder or lineage
- Often describes a combination of fitness activities; when including yoga asana, it might be combined with Pilates, strength training, disco music or any other activity
- Founded by Ana Forrest
- Physically challenging practice with focus on emotional exploration
- Forrest Yoga
- Article on the inspiration, lineage and sequencing approach: Learn From Forrest Yoga
- Hatha generally refers to the physical aspects of yoga practice and the most visible styles of yoga in the West are forms of Hatha Yoga
- Currently, classes described as Hatha are usually offering a blend of styles and more often than not, the term is intended to indicate a class with more held poses vs. a faster pace in vinyasa classes, but the only way to know for sure what is meant is to ask for more information
Hidden Language Hatha Yoga
- General description without correlation to a founder or lineage although sometimes based on Bikram, Baptiste Power or Ashtanga sequencing
- Heated studio, intense physical practice
- Founded bu Sahajananda
- “Hridaya Yoga philosophy is based on traditional spiritual principles and visions from classical yoga. These visions include Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Advaita Vedanta, Tantra, and Kashmiri Shaivism. The teachings are further aligned with aspects of Sufism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism.”
- Hridaya Yoga
- Founded by Sarah Powers
- Practice combining yin and yang yoga, Buddhism and psychology
- Insight Yoga
Integrative Yoga Therapy
- Founded by Joseph Le Page
- Brings yoga into mainstream wellness programs; adapts gentle postures, guided imagery, and breathing techniques for treating specific health issues such as heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and AIDS
- Integrative Yoga Therapy
ISKCON / Hare Krishna Movement
- The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna movement, is a form of devotional Bhakti Yoga founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in New York city in 1966
- Philosophy based on the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavat Purana or Srimad Bhagavatm
- Bhakti Yoga practices, particularly the Maha Mantra
- Based on Alan Finger’s teachings
- ISHTA stands for Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda
- Combines alignment, vinyasa, meditation, pranayama and kriyas to create energetic effects
- Ishta Yoga
- Founded by Sharron Gannon & David Life
- Includes physically challenging asana, Sanskrit chanting, yoga philosophy teachings, music, breathing practices and meditation
- Jivamukti Yoga School
- By synthesizing classical Taoist Chinese theory, traditional Hatha yoga postures and meditation, it provides a clear yet powerful understanding of the mechanics of the body while encouraging increased awareness of the self
- Katonah Yoga
- Founded by Dr. Asar Hapi and Yirser Ra Hotep to re-discover the ancient Kemetic connection with Yoga
- “The term Kemetic Yoga is trademarked because it is a specific method of philosophy and practice based upon ancient African principles and is not the same as versions that others began to apply the term ‘Egyptian Yoga’ to 20 or 30 years after we performed the original research.”
- Kemetic Yoga: Resurrection of an African Legacy
- Kemetic Yoga
- See also: Egyptian Yoga
- Quite a number of styles, including Iyengar and Viniyoga as well as the teachings of A.G. Mohan and others derive from T. Krishnamacharya’s lineage; In addition, his son, T.K.V. Desikachar has carried forth teachings from his father
- Teachings derive from the fundamental principle that yoga must always be adapted to an individual’s changing needs in order to derive the maximum therapeutic benefit
- Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram
- Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation
This lineage traces back to the immortal Mahavatar Babaji Maharaj who gifted Kriya Yoga to Shri Lahiri Mahasaya. The teachings then branched out into these organizations.
- Kriya Yoga International – In addition to the two original gurus, the Kriya Yoga International lineage recognizes Swami Shriyukteshwar Giri, Shrimat Bhupendranath Sanyal Mahasaya, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Swami Satyananda Giri, Paramahamsa Hariharananda and Paramahamsa Prajnanananda.
- Self-Realization Fellowship – Shri Lahiri Mahasaya’s student, Swami Sri Yukteswar was master to Paramahamsa Yogananda who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship. After his passing, the organization was led by Rajarsi Janakananda followed by Sri Daya Mata.
- KriyaU – This lineage is Paramahansa Yogananda to Shelley Trimmer to Goswami Kriyananda.
- Kriya Yoga Lahiri – From Shri Lahiri Mahasaya, this lineage has been passed from father to son, currently held by his great grandson, Shibendu Lahiri (born 1939).
- Babaji’s Kriya Yoga – Babaji’s Kriya Yoga lineage recognizes Babaji as initiating S.A.S. Ramaiah and M. Govindan, the current head of the organization.
- Founded by a group of friends and colleagues in a small, highland village of Guatemala
- Together, we ignite spiritual growth, weaving holistic experiences from diverse traditions to inspire purpose and awaken passion.
- The Kula Collective
- “Includes hearty laughter, greeting laughter, open-mouthed silent laughter, humming laughter, lion laughter (an adaptation of Lion Pose), and swinging laughter, with arm movement. Each laughter is sustained for up to 45 seconds, and followed with deep breathing and stretching exercises.” (YogaJournal, What’s So Funny)
- Laughter Yoga International
- Founded by Peter Sterios
- “Simply, LEVITYoga™ is a way to relate to the practice of yoga where we avoid taking ourselves too seriously… For those who teach LEVITYoga™, our goal is to create simple language for communicating general principles so those who practice and study can connect with themselves in an authentic way – not from a place imposed by a rigid technique, script, or series of movements, but through a re-discovery of our own intuition.”
- Founded by Jasmine Tarkeshi and Dana Flynn
- “Lotus Flow is a signature style of Vinyasa yoga taught and practiced at the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. The style consists of a specific, creative sequence of poses… Attention is placed on alignment and on the flow of breath… Classes are set to music and are finished off with Meditation and relaxation.”
- Laughing Lotus Yoga Center
Love Your Brain Yoga
- Founded by Kevin Pearce and Adam Pearce
- “Every 13 seconds someone sustains a traumatic brain injury.We’re on a mission to improve the lives of those affected.”
- Founded by Dr. Joseph Michael Levry
- “The word Naam refers to mathematically structured sound current present in sacred mantra and prayer from an extensive range of mystical backgrounds and traditions. As a yogic science, Naam Yoga combines healing sound current with powerful and distinctive breath work, dynamic physical movement and mudras (hand seals) that beneficially impact the body’s energetic meridian system.”
- Naam Yoga
- Founded by Cyndi Lee
- Combines vinyasa, alignment and Tibetan Buddhism teachings
- Om Yoga
- Founded by Rod Stryker
- Challenging asana combined with Tantric teachings including philosophy, pranayama, meditation, mudra and bandha
- Para Yoga
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy
- Founded by Michael Lee
- Combines classical yoga and body-mind psychology to release physical tensions and emotional blocks
- Uses assisted yoga postures, guided breathing, and nondirective dialogue
- Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Training
- General description without correlation to a founder or lineage although often has roots in Ashtanga and may be more particularly based on Beryl Bender Birch’s teachings, Bryan Kest yoga, or Baron Baptiste’s sequence
- Usually features intense, often strength-based asana and often in a heated room
- The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute
- Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga
- Founded by Tias & Surya Little
- Integrates yoga discipline with contemplative practice and study
- Prajna Yoga
- Founded by Shiva Rea
- Flowing movements inspired by dance and moving meditation, accompanied by music
- Shiva Rea
- Founded by Liz Arch
- Bridges yogic and martial arts practices together to create balance, strength and synergy in physical and emotional bodies
- Primal Yoga by Liz Arch
- Poses are designed for constructive rest and relaxation, generally supported by props and held for several minutes
- Some consider establishment of Restorative Yoga to be credited to Geeta Iyengar with additional contributions made by B.K.S. Iyengar, Judith Lasater and Kelly McGonigal
- Judith Lasater, Kelly McGonigal
- Founded by Anand Mehrotra
- Includes meditation, breath work, Hatha postures, vinyasa flows, kriyas, mantra, free movement, and wisdom
- Sattva Yoga
- Founded by Dr. Avdhoot Shivanand
- Includes sadhna (discipline), nishkaam seva (selfless service), sankirthan (chanting mantras).
- Shiv Yog
- Spiritual path in the Swami Muktananda lineage; Gurumayi Chidvilasananda is the current Siddha Guru, succeeding Muktananda, who passed in 1982
- Meditation, chanting and service; known for the Guru’s capacity to awaken spiritual energy (kundalini) in seekers through shaktipat
- Sometimes refers to kundalini practices but is distinct from Kundalini lineage described above
- Siddha Yoga Path
- Seniors have unique health challenges. Therefore, a unique style of yoga based on geriatric science and research was created to meet those challenges. Silver Age Yoga is designed to reach the entire bell curve of the senior population so that all seniors at from beginner to advanced can safely participate at their own level of comfort.
- Silver Age Yoga
- Integrating somatics and yoga, often through the teachings of Thomas Hanna and Eleanor Criswell Hanna
- Somatic Yoga
Spinefulness / Original Alignment
- Based on the work of Noelle Perez
- Helping people understand the underlying cause and freeing them of back and joint pain
- Previously referred to as Balance, Yoga in Balance, Body Balance and Spinefulness among other potential names. In May 2022, Eve Johnson wrote “Finally, after two years and 34 meetings, we have a name: Original Alignment in the lineage of Noelle Perez.” However, at the time of this writing the website was still called Spinefulness.
- “The beginner-friendly sport of standup paddleboarding was born in the 1940s when Waikiki surfers stood on boards and navigated their way through the waves with a long paddle. Standup paddleboard yoga (or SUP yoga, as it’s known to its devotees) is asana practiced on 10- to 12-foot-long boards in the most serene of settings: an ocean bay, a glassy lake, even a slow-moving river.” (Yoga Journal)
- ACA SUP Yoga Instructor Endorsement
- There does not appear to be a recognized founder of Taoist Yoga. (Let us know if you have more information on sources to credit.) Paulie Zink is recognized as the founder of Yin Yoga which is based on Taoist Yoga principles.
- Combines the ancient Indian yoga traditions with Chinese energy maps of the body and Tai Chi. (source)
- Taoist Yoga
- Founded by Kali Ray
- Asana, pranayama, mudra and concentration practices to spur awakening
- Founded by Andrey Lappa
- Lappa describes asana practice as stimulating various marma points and as a way to train the physical body, while also “balancing the brain, consciousness, and biofield,” ultimately creating balance for meditation. Lappa is known for developing creative movements to bring this balance to traditional asanas.
- Universal Yoga
- Founded by Gary Kraftsow based on teachings from his teacher, T.K.V. Desikachar
- Adapts practice to unique conditions and needs of practitioners, includes asana that coordinates movement with breath, pranayama, chanting, meditation, prayer and ritual
- American Viniyoga Institute
- There has been a discussion within the Desikachar lineage about the usage of the name viniyoga. This January 2018 post from Leslie Kaminoff addresses some of the associated issues and this post later in the month addresses a further development.
- Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Jivamukti, Kali Ray and White Lotus are all considered Vinyasa styles
- When a class is called Vinyasa without these associated styles, it generally refers to movement linked with the breath, often through Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)
- Founded by Ganga White in 1967, joined by Tracey Rich in 1983
- Flowing vinyasa ranging from gentle to vigorous, incorporating alignment, breath & theory
- White Lotus Foundation
- Founded by Paulie Zink, popularized by Paul Grilley, Bernie Clark and Sarah Powers.
- Longer-held postures, typically involves relaxing muscles while compressing joints to target connective tissues and bones
- Yin Yoga
- Typically refers to customized adaptations of yoga tools for the specific needs of individuals, often those with “specific or persistent” issues
- Some of the teachers responsible for developing yoga therapy as its own discipline include two students of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya—T.K.V. Desikachar and A.G. Mohan—along with Gary Kraftsow, Richard Miller, Larry Payne and Joseph Le Page among others
- The International Association of Yoga Therapists
- Founded by Jason Ray Brown
- “A moderately athletic, mindfulness-based style of yoga that includes meditation, a unique approach to posture practice, and rotating 5-element class themes”
- Jason Ray Brown
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