Different types of yoga
Iyengar, Astanga and Shadow yoga explained
There are many of different types of yoga and Iyengar, Astanga and Shadow yoga are three of the most well known and widely practiced.
All the different types of yoga usually include a basis of postures common to all, but they vary in the style of movement, pace, and the kind of approach. It’s a good idea to start with a well-established style like Iyengar yoga to get a sense of the basics of yoga, so that you can build a foundation of experience from which to explore the many possibilities out there.
However, if you feel particularly drawn to a certain form, try a beginners’ level class and see how you like it! It’s helpful to have a sense of what you want to get out of learning yoga to start with, and then you can check out whether you feel what you’re learning is helping you with that. For example, one person might want yoga that helps release stress and tension, another might want to work with a symptom like backache or stiff shoulders, another might wish for a dynamic workout type class.
B.K.S. Iyengar’s well known school of yoga teaching is renowned for precision and attention to detail. His care for correct alignment in learning yoga postures led him to encourage the use of yoga ‘props’ so that the aspiring Iyengar yogi could get themselves into the best possible pose while minimizing risk of injury. Iyengar teachers go through a rigorous two to five year training program to qualify, which makes them a confidence-inspiring choice to begin to learn with. Many yoga teachers developing new styles (such as ‘Shadow Yoga’) have a strong foundation in the Iyengar tradition and have developed different approaches from there.
Astanga yoga has gained popularity in recent years. Not for the armchair yogi, in Astanga Yoga the practitioner ‘rides on the breath’ from one pose to another, jumping through a series of poses in a rhythmic flow. Physically demanding, Astanga builds strength, flexibility and stamina. The connection between movement and breath can be both cleansing and invigorating.
Shadow Yoga is based upon the ancient Hatha Yoga texts and the view that all fixed forms should be designed to develop the practice of ‘freestyle’. Shadow yoga works to achieve an unobstructed flow of breath in the practitioner through a combination of positions and rhythmical movements, at a more ‘tai chi’ pace than the faster astanga yoga form.