In the West, we tend to understand yoga as a monolith. In other words, we think of yoga as a singular and uniform concept. However, examining the history and philosophical practice of yoga creates a very different picture of this centuries-old practice. There are, in fact, a myriad of schools and yogic practices, each possessing their own methods and objectives. In seeking to be the best yoga studio Hawaii has to offer, Bodhidevi incorporates several of these styles to create a holistic practice.
It can be difficult for both entry-level and experienced yogis alike to know how and what to practice. Today we explore the main schools of yogic practice to help you select one that’s right for you.
Hatha yoga is a physically oriented form of yoga that primarily emphasizes aligning poses with breath work. The word “Hatha” is Sanskrit for poses or postures, but it actually translates, literally, to “force,” which can apply to the energetic regulation of posing, breathing, mantras, and more. Therefore, Hatha yoga concerns focusing energy on aligning breath and body in a physical practice. Prioritizing posing over flow, Hatha yoga is simpler and gentler than many other forms of yoga.
Hatha yoga was not always simply a physical practice. In fact, it was once far more esoteric. The traditional practitioners of Hatha yoga would sacrifice their whole lives—family, sex, social relationships, and substance use—to the practice. Originally, Hatha yoga tended to exalt the spiritual elements of yoga like pranayama, viewing yoga as a means of expelling karma. It was only through thousands of years of sociocultural evolution that Hatha yoga became what it is today.
Hatha yoga is great for beginners because it is slow-paced, gentle, and physical. It is good practice to establish an understanding of the asanas before incorporating pranayama and focusing on yoga’s spiritual purposes, and beginning with Hatha yoga will allow you to do just that.
Though Kundalini evolved from Hatha yoga and incorporates similar asanas, it is far more spiritual in nature than its physically oriented predecessor. In traditional Hindu philosophy, Kundalini is spiritual energy, envisioned in the figure of a serpent that rests at the base of the spine. Kundalini yoga draws this energy from the first chakra in the base of the spine to the 7thchakra at the top of the head, which governs consciousness and spirituality. In so doing, it is said to allow you to speak your truth, live with compassion, and unite with other beings in conscious awareness.
Swami Sivananda first articulated the term “Kundalini yoga” in 1935. It gained ground amongst the neo-Hindus of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and remains a popular element of modern, mainstream yoga.
Kundalini yoga employs meditation, pranayama, mantra, and asanas in releasing Kundalini energy, making for a challenging and spiritually awakening class. It often involves fast-paced exercises and intense breath work, engaging and strengthening the muscles. At our yoga studio Hawaii, we use Kundalini practices for energizing purposes. Elevated heart rate and breathing lend Kundalini yoga a cleansing effect as well. If you have experience with basic yoga asanas are looking for both a physical and spiritual challenge, give Kundalini yoga a try.
Vinyasa yoga, or “flow yoga,” has quickly become the most popular yoga practice in the West. You can find it in virtually every yoga studio Hawaii is home to. The Sanskrit translation of Vinyasa is “variation within prescribed parameters.” The practice thus varies from class to class, with different yoga studio Hawaii instructors operating at different paces and incorporating different poses.
What unites different styles of Vinyasa is their fluidity. Vinyasa coordinates poses and breath work to create a rhythmic and meditative experience. In Vinyasa yoga, one flows from one asana to the next in a fluid transitional movement instead of simply ceasing one and resuming another. It also incorporates drishti, or the orientation of gaze, to create an active, full-body meditation. In a Vinyasa class, you will breathe through your nose and constrict your throat to steady your breath. Called Ujayyi breath, this form of breathing increases the invigorating and cleansing effects of the Vinyasa practice.
Vinyasa yoga’s fluid motion strengthens and lengthens the body while also working the cardiovascular system and burning calories. Additionally, Vinyasa boosts circulation, supplying oxygen to and cleansing the organs. Like most other forms of yoga, Vinyasa is excellent for soothing mind and body, increasing bodily awareness, and strengthening your core. Beginners may enjoy an easy vinyasa class, whereas experienced yogis may find an advanced class more suitable. In striving to be the most accommodative yoga studio Hawaii has to offer, we offer Vinyasa classes of varying intensity.
Ashtanga yoga is a form of Vinyasa yoga and therefore entails the incorporation of breath, asanas, and drishti into a fluid, meditative practice. What sets Ashtanga apart from other types of yoga is the difficulty and structure. Ashtanga yoga is quite formulaic, for every session incorporates a specified sequence of opening, main, back bending, and finishing sequences. Each session will involve two types of sun salutations and a series of advanced poses. Additionally, Ashtanga incorporates complex poses at a fast pace, making it unsuitable for most beginners.
“Ashtanga” refers to the 8-limb path that Patanjali described in the Yoga Sutras. Asanas, or poses, comprise just one of these 8 yogic limbs. Others include pranayama, mantra, drishti, and meditation. In employing all 8 limbs and aligning pranayama with asanas, Ashtanga is said to purify the body, nervous system, and mind.
As a form of Vinyasa, Ashtanga exercises the cardiovascular system and strengthens the body. It also increases bodily awareness, and its rhythmic quality lends it a meditative air. Because Ashtanga produces internal heat, it also works for purify the mind and body.
Many people confuse Bikram yoga with Hot Yoga. Indeed, like Hot Yoga, Bikram yoga is practiced in a room of approximately 105 degrees and 40% humidity. Whereas Hot Yoga refers to any type of yoga practiced in this setting, Bikram incorporates the same sequence of 26 poses into each class. Bikram poses derive from traditional Hatha practices, making them appropriate for intermediate yogis.
Bikram yoga became popular in the 1970’s and remains trendy today. Because of the strict conditions required to create a Bikram setting, it may be more difficult to find a Bikram class in a yoga studio Hawaii than, say, a Vinyasa class.
Bikram yoga boasts all of the same benefits of Hatha yoga. However, the intensified heat of a Bikram class further increases circulation, supplying the muscles and brain with plenty of oxygen. Because Bikram classes get very sweaty, they also stimulate the lymphatic system and trigger the release of toxins. Beginners should beware, though, as this intense class can cause severe dehydration. It is absolutely critical to consume water and electrolytes before and after a Bikram class.
While most forms of yoga derive from Hindu teachings, Yin yoga is premised upon Taoist concepts of bodily energy. Taoism teaches of the two opposing forces of yin and yang, which serve as the foundation for all that exists. Yin is a stable and static energy. Yin yoga therefore entails holding static poses for a prolonged period of time. This practice increases the flow of prana, or chi, energy through the body, clearing blockages that may impede one’s health.
Like most other forms of yoga, Yin yoga increases flexibility and circulation, both energizing and soothing mind and body. Unique to Yin yoga is the stark improvement in joint mobility that it fosters. Yin yoga is typically performed in a seated position and entails holding poses anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. These poses typically involve stretching the lower body in a variety of ways.
In remaining passive and allowing gravity to stretch the body, Yin practitioners can greatly improve the health of their connective tissues and joints. At our yoga studio Hawaii, we incorporate Yin yoga poses to help clients with joint pain and inflexibility. Because the Yin practice is so slow, it can be quite soothing and meditative. Be aware, though, that this is an extremely challenging (and thus far more necessary) practice for those with severe muscle tightness.