The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind, and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline.  The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today.  Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide physical strength and stamina.  There are numerous styles of yoga.  Vinyasa-style yoga combines a series of flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an intense body-mind workout.  These include: Ashtanga (a fast-paced series of sequential postures); Power Yoga (a challenging, disciplined and rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility); Jivamukti (a highly meditative but physically challenging form of yoga which includes chanting, meditation, readings, music, and affirmations); Kali Ray TriYoga (a series of flowing, dancelike movements focusing on natural alignment and breath and ending in meditation); and White Lotus (a flowing vinyasa practice which ranges from gentle to vigorous depending on your ability or comfort level).  Iyengar yoga focuses on the subtleties of each posture – poses (supported by the use of props) are typically held much longer than in other schools of yoga.

There are various styles of yoga that focus on the healing qualities of this practice: Integrative Yoga Therapy (a program designed specifically for medical and mainstream wellness settings, including hospitals and rehabilitation centers, that uses gentle postures, guided imagery, and breathing techniques for treating specific health issues such as heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and AIDS); Viniyoga (poses are synchronized with the breath in sequences determined by the needs of the practitioner in accordance with their physical, emotional, and intellectual needs as they grow and change); Svaroopa (a consciousness-oriented yoga utilized by Dr. Deepak Chopra’s Center for Well Being, that teaches different ways of doing familiar poses, emphasizing the opening of the spine by beginning at the tailbone and progressing through each spinal area, integrating the foundational principles of asana, anatomy, and yoga philosophy, thereby promoting healing and transformation); Bikram (a series of 26 traditional hatha postures used to address the proper functioning of every bodily system, practiced in yoga’s birthplace climate – with temperatures reaching 100°F, to make practitioners sweat the toxins out of their bodies);  and Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (a combination of classical yoga and elements of contemporary client-centered and body-mind psychology, facilitating a powerful release of physical tensions and emotional blocks).

Other yoga styles focus on spiritual awakening and enlightenment:  Sivananda (emphasizing 12 basic postures to increase strength and flexibility of the spine, and which also utilizes chanting, proper breathing, relaxation, diet, positive thinking and meditation); Integral (a gentle asana practice using classical hatha postures performed as a meditation, balancing physical effort and relaxation, and incorporating guided relaxation, breathing practices, sound vibration / repetition of mantra or chant, and silent meditation); Ananda (a series of gentle hatha postures focusing on proper alignment, easeful posture transitions and controlled breathing exercises, along with the use of silent affirmations); Kundalini (incorporating postures, dynamic breathing techniques, chanting and meditation, awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward through each of the seven chakras);  ISHTA (a mixture of flowing Ashtanga-style asanas with the precise method of Iyengar, with breathing and meditation exercises); Kripalu (involving a conscious holding of the postures to the level of tolerance and beyond, deepening concentration and focus of internal thoughts and emotions, and releasing physical and mental tensions through meditation);  Anusara (an integrated approach to hatha yoga that focuses on awakening to your true nature, integrated awareness of all the different parts of the body, and artistic expression of the heart in which muscular stability is balanced with an expansive inner freedom);  Tibetan (a range of tantric meditation and breathing techniques); and Hatha (vigorous or more meditative style, incorporating any of the above described practices).

Copyright 2007  Raquel Lazar-Paley