How Many Types of Yoga Are There? Find the Perfect Type of Yoga for your Skill Level

Confused about which yoga is right for you?




Yin yoga, Hot yoga, restorative yoga, kundalini,  Ashtanga, Iyenga, vinyasa, bikram, power yoga, butti yoga, naked yoga, I even know a teacher who teaches high heels yoga !

Then there are yogas that don’t use the body, Kriya Yoga (a system of mind, breath and devotion), Raja Yoga (meditation and mindfulness), Karma Yoga (working in service), Yoga Nidra ( a yoga meditation that can result in falling asleep what's not to like about that!)

No wonder people who want to take up a yoga practice are confused and unsure of what style, skill or level they need to be at when they start.

Firstly, let’s be clear that ALL yoga involving any physical asanas (postures) is called hatha yoga.

So let's make this clear, there are 8 limbs of yoga as set out in the ancient texts by Patanjali and the 3rd Limb are Asanas or Postures.

You could say hatha yoga is the umbrella term for all yogas that are to do with physically moving the body.  Whether you move the body, fast or slow, restoratively or powerfully,  are all just different flavours of the asana practice, or postures of hatha.

Now with all the various types of hatha yoga, you have to discover for yourself with these questions:

What will a teacher will teach while you do your postures? Is is just the physical movements or does it include the mind, the approach, the breath (pranayama), chakras (kundalini) and more?

How long you hold the postures (long holds are seen as more yin, restorative)? Do you want to flow (vinyasa), go fast (ashtanga), be powerful ?

What is the environment in which you will be taught? (will the the room very hot? (bikram) does the teacher use music?  is there a fast rhythm?)

All of that is important to know whether you will like it or not. For you own preferences.

And your class matches your own skill level.

But do not confuse skill  in yoga with flexibility or strength. 

 In yoga skill gets confused with flexibility and so people new to the practice give up before they have even started.

What is more important in your first class…whether you can bend forward and touch your toes?  or that you go to a class and learn about your body and become more aware?    Perhaps you discover restrictions, find some blocks and see you are unable to touch your toes.  But it's not a problem. You just  become more aware of how your body moves or doesn't move. What feels stuck,  tight inflexible.   Once you are clear where your restrictions are, and what in your body is preventing you from touching your toes you are doing yoga.   You are meeting yourself as you are.

I believe the only skills you need in yoga are patience, an open mind and a willingness to learn to join with whatever arises in the moment.

I'll repeat myself...  flexibility in Yoga is not a skill. 

 Skill is something we all can develop with patience, open mind and willingness. My 88 year old dad has a  great deal of skill now in his yoga because he has been practicing for an hour a day for nearly a year.  Can he touch his toes?  No.  Can he feel more in his toes, ankles and legs?  Absolutely. Does he understand his body more? Totally. Is he committed to his practice? Yes. All of that takes great skill.

My 84 year old mum, who has been doing yoga and pilates for years,  did not have confidence to sit kneeling or sit on her heels.  She had a knee replacement about 15 years ago.  What skill she learnt  with me was to prop herself with cushions and bolsters, to relax her nervous system and to believe that she could try kneeling.  Just to start.    The skill for her was to discover that it was safe to kneel when supported.

Neither my mother or father have gained huge differences in their flexibility.  However, I believe they both have gained mobility and skill of differentiation and discernment in the body.

So whatever type of yoga that you are interested in trying make sure you do not feel you have to be flexible to do it.

My suggestion when you get overwhelmed with so many styles, if you are at a yoga studio and find yet another type of yoga and find yourself asking again, how many types of yoga are there?  Which is perfect for my skill level?

Stop.

Go to the teacher. And tell them you can’t bend.  You are not flexible.  And see what they respond with.  If they say it’s not a problem.  If they are willing to find props, bolsters, supports and help you discover more about your body, then that teacher is going to be good for you.  If they say sure it’s not a problem and then continue to teach a class that you struggle to keep up with, then you are going to injure yourself and lose the whole notion of yoga as being a healing tool.

And one skill you need to have is to be honest with the teacher.  If a student is struggling with one of my classes, and they have not asked for extra support, I may miss it.  I keep a very good eye on my students, but I can't always tell that the level of struggle that is happening unless they tell me.  So communicate.   Your teacher can only help you if you help them to help you.

Twenty years ago I was trained in classical hatha yoga.  We were given a set of postures to learn and then to teach.  I remember by the end of my training we had these new teachers graduating to become a  yoga teachers with knee injuries, someone in a neck brace, another newbie teacher lying on their back all day because of pain. This was the level with which we were confusing flexibility for skill.

It’s not skillful to hurt yourself.  So if you are daunted by how many types of yoga there are, my suggestion is to look a yoga practice that is kind to the body. Inside and out.

Nowadays I teach Kaiut Yoga.  It’s a perfect synthesis of all the other yoga I have trained, taught and experienced.  And more.  It spoke to me because for the first time in yoga I was invited to go into, explore and welcome any pain or discomfort.

Many types of yoga are taught with a message that says – if it hurts stop doing it.   But people don’t stop – they look at their neighbour, or they have an image from a magazine or yoga video in their heads and they say to themselves PUSH.  That’s when injury happens.

In Kaiut I've been taught to go very mindfully into the region of pain, resistance or restriction and to touch it.  To breath and allow it to be there.  Not to do anything with it, other than stay with it, just on the edge of it, and approach it with the breath. And if I’ve PUSHED then it will be unsustainable to stay in the posture.  Kaiut teachers will keep you in a posture for a minute or even two or three minutes. So you very quickly know if you are pushing too hard, as you will have to come out.

When you ask “How many types of yoga are there?” and find there are hundreds, you need to let go of the idea of finding the right yoga and really try and find the right teacher.

A teacher who will guide you to explore for yourself the inner workings of your body, and through that the inner workings of your mind. I know I found that for myself when I discovered the teachings of Francisco Kaiut.  His way of working resonated with me and my own understanding of yoga and life.   I’m delighted to be able to integrate what I have learnt from his skill and practice and share it with my students.

Interested in learning more?   Sign up to receive 3 free video introduction to Kaiut Yoga here

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