The Beginner’s Guide to Jargon Free Yoga Lingo


Numerous guides for dummies but none describing Yoga (So-not-fair). Over the time, this ancient art has evolved immensely and now they are just so many with and so similar sounding yoga routines that identifying them instantly is a mind boggling task. Moreover, its a tough drill finding the right class for ourselves if we don’t even know the very basics.

So, here I am, with a compiled list of the most commonly practiced yoga styles, terms and definitions. Before that, let’s have a brief intro on what Yoga means.

The term literally means “union”; union of conscious and sub-conscious or on a subtle level, union of one’s individual consciousness and cosmic consciousness. A practitioner is usually referred to as Yogi (male) or Yogini (female), gestures as Mudra, poses or postures as asana and breath as shwaas or vinyasa.

Now, choose!

Bikram Yoga (26 positions, 40 degrees, 90 minutes)

How do you take dirt out from a sponge? Easy. You wring it out. Precisely that’s the philosophy behind the style developed by Bikram Choudhury in 1970, Bikram Yoga or commonly known as the Hot Yoga or Hot Bikram Yoga. In an effort to replicate the conditions of where the practice first originated, room temperature is kept between 90-105 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity 40% (don’t be surprised if you feel nauseous in first class).

Distinguishing feature: Hot and humid ambience, rigorous movements.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Ideal for: Everyone except those with back problems and expecting mothers.

Benefits: Weight management[1], sweats out toxins, relief in asthma, improved sleep pattern[2].

Read: Complete Guide to Hot Bikram Yoga

Hatha Yoga (ɦəʈʰəˈjoːɡə)

Traditional practice of Hatha Yoga includes meditative postures, gestures, deep breathing and purification processes. However, in the west, it is essentially understood as a relaxing physical exercise with great emphasis on right breathing. A form that inspired many other kinds, it is a perfect one to go for when looking for some serious stress busting.

Distinguishing feature: Easy breathing exercise.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: Everyone

Benefits: Releases stress, relaxes muscles and mind, improved sleep pattern[3]

Read: Complete Guide to Hatha Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga (12 postures)

A derivative of Hatha yoga, this form offers series of breath synchronized movements that flow effortlessly from one to next[4]. Described as the most popular style in America, due to its ease of modification. No two classes will ever be same and you can easily expect a rejuvenating sun-salutation.

Distinguishing feature: Flowing continuous movements.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: Anyone wishing for building core strength and flexibility the easy way.

Benefits: Builds lean muscle mass, reduces risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and Type II diabetes.

Read: Complete Guide to Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Kundalini Yoga

As funny as it may sound, practitioners of this style have reported feeling orgasmic at the base of their spines. A physical practice that promises to unleash hidden powers of mind, was developed by ancient Indian yogis who believed our spiritual energy remains in dormant stage unless we make a conscious effort to awaken it. (explanatory video). They visualized it as a serpent sleeping at the base of spine. Through dynamic breathing, chanting of mantras like “Sat Nam” (I am truth), meditation and various postures, the aspirant activates Kundalini (coiled up) energy, which ascends upwards piercing various chakras (energy centres) to reach the core of mind.

Distinguishing feature: Mental power and control you feel at the end of each session.

Level of difficulty: Moderate to High

Ideal for: Everyone

Benefits: Improved core strength, neutral and peaceful mind, rejuvenation[5].

Read: Complete Guide to Kundalini Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga (Yoga with eight limbs)

Honestly, this is not just another style but a way of life. Going by name, its an eight fold path of yoga which first purifies you from within teaching you rules of conduct, then re-moulds your postures while you practice control over your breath. With pratyahara you learn to control your senses by withdrawl and later when you gain full control over your mind and desires, you sit for uninterrupted meditation to attain complete equilibrium. We know it by other names like Patanjali, Raja Yoga or the Royal Yoga.

Distinguishing feature: The feeling of “Mind over matter”.

Level of difficulty: Moderate to High

Ideal for: Everyone (disciplined and determined enough to pursue).

Benefits: Limitless, an overall improved quality of life[6]

Read: Complete Guide to Hot Ashtanga Yoga

Iyengar Yoga (Ashtanga made easy)

Now a style that anyone and everyone can practice, even those with injuries and chronic ailments. Developed by Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, this form encourages you to penetrate deeper into experiencing each pose and wherever you get stuck, equipment like cushions, straps, blocks, blankets come to rescue. So, its a win-win situation all the way.

Distinguishing feature: Usage of aiding props and deep focus on subtleties of each posture.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: Everyone

Benefits: Promotes strength & endurance, improves flexibility and balance[7]

Read: Complete Guide to Iyengar Yoga

Anusara Yoga

Picture yourself dancing while you practice Hatha Yoga. People will probably identify you performing Anusara yoga which opens your heart so you can accept your limitations and connect with your inner divinity. A relatively new form blending playfulness of human spirit with science of bio-mechanics through postures of alignment and deep breathing which feels more like an artistic expression of inner self.

Distinguishing feature: Graceful dance-like movements.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Ideal for: Every enthusiast

Benefits: Therapeutic effects[8], re-aligned improved postures, graceful stride.

Jeevmukti Yoga

A chosen lifestyle by many celebrities, its a style that’ll incorporate the disregarded values of non-violence, compassion, devotion to God, self-realization through vegetarianism, meditation, chanting of mantras, scriptural study and much more. It aims at freeing you from your inner demons and unleash your true power.

Distinguishing feature: Deep emphasis on ethical aspects of this ancient practice

Level of difficulty: Moderate to High

Ideal for: Everyone looking for change of lifestyle

Benefits: Detoxification of body as well as mind

Restorative Yoga

Sleep and Rest are two very different things.

Can you believe lying in passive positions could even be yoga? I mean you don’t move a muscle and you are there, performing yoga! (On the flip side, you’ll be even paying for it) Worth every buck you put in, as the name suggests, this style will restore your energy packets and transform you to a New You! All you gotta do is let your muscles relax on blankets, blocks and bolsters.

Distinguishing feature: That you have to do Absolutely Nothing!!

Level of difficulty: Easiest!

Ideal for: Everyone (I say, stressed out)

Benefits: Relaxation and rejuvenation

Read: Complete Guide to Restorative Yoga

Prenatal Yoga

The newest kid on block, this form will prime you mentally, physically and emotionally for the testing times of labor. With its deep breathing exercises it calms your mind and the gentle stretching postures maintain your shape in the final trimester. Moreover, the partner exercises will help two of you bond with your baby better. What’s more, it takes care of your mood swings too!

Distinguishing feature: Women willing to grow their bellies

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: Only expecting mothers

Benefits: Reduces risk of pre-term labor and hypertension, improves sleep, provides necessary flexibility, strength and endurance[9]

Read: Complete Guide to Prenatal Yoga

Power Yoga (Western spin to Ashtanga)

Also known as Aerobic Yoga, this form lives up to its name, in terms of demanding power while doing it and delivering power the rest of the day. This is an intense cardio-workout where you progressively move from one pose to another with synchronized breathing. The essence of this form is the pace with which it is performed and usage of body weight for building strength.

Distinguishing feature: Fast pace, postures resembling calisthenics.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Ideal for: People who want to be fit the natural way.

Benefits: Flexibility, endurance, detoxification, a natural glow on skin, decreased stress.

Read: Complete Guide to Power Yoga

Svaroop Yoga (Master Yoga)

Have you been one of those who try to impose a posture upon yourself and no matter how hard you try, you never get it right? Has your trainer been telling you that your approach is wrong? Well, I guess, it indeed is, not for the posture but the kind of style chosen. Try a very approachable form, Svaroop Yoga, that teaches you to unfold from within by laying focus on angles that provide opening rather than the poses to be learned by usage of household items like chair.

Distinguishing feature: Step-by-step practice.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: Everyone

Benefits: Healing, improved system function, agile and light body.

Viniyoga

If you had been feeling that no yoga can help you, then try Viniyoga before giving up. Though I believe every form discussed here can provide relief in some manner, still if you haven’t found any form suitable, consider this yoga which has postures tailor-made for every practitioner so you can recover easily and faster.

Distinguishing feature: Individual attention and customized postures.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: People with injuries and chronic ailments.

Benefits: Faster healing, therapeutic, calm mind.

Ananda Yoga

I don’t really understand how it happens but you are completely revitalized after a session (Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness – Buy it from Amazon)[10] and it certainly delivers its promise by making you feel happy about almost everything. They believe human being is like a rechargeable battery with its recharge source located in the lower brain (medulla oblongata) and by deep focus on precise body alignment and controlled breathing they aim to provide a spiritual growth.

Distinguishing feature: Usage of silent affirmations during poses.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: People looking for spiritual growth than just building up hard body.

Benefits: Improved sleep pattern, alleviation of anxiety and feeling of complete peace.

Read: Affirm To Your Truth To Heal – Interview With Nicole DeAvilla

Kali Ray Triyoga

The founder of this form, Kali Ray, popularly known as Kaliji, believes if you can breathe, you can learn yoga. That being said, its a fairly easy form that everyone enjoys because of the fun props, tranquilizing music and rhythmic breathing exercises. An enthusiast described it as “Yoga, the dancer way“.

Distinguishing feature: Usage of props, music and dance-like movements.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: People looking for a non-traditional and fun yoga.

Benefits: Improved system functions, better agility and peaceful mind.

Kripalu Yoga

When a man observed his body flow in a series of spontaneous movements without the direction of his mind, it led him to feel the deep release of his life’s energy force and a realization that precise alignment of body is not as important as the exploration and release of emotional and spiritual blockages. This man was Yogi Amrit Desai, who later developed the Yoga of consciousness where in you identify your body abilities (willful practice), develop concentration and inner awareness (willful surrender) and finally meditate in motion.

Distinguishing feature: Meditation in motion

Level of difficulty: Easy

Ideal for: Everyone

Benefits: Awakening of self, feel of energetic and light body, calm mind.

I have tried to cover as many kinds as possible in the most objective way I could think of. Let me know if you need any detailed info or face any queries.

I am pretty sure that you are well aware about all kinds of styles by now. How about achieving the perfection in this art?? Well read this guide on How to Find the Right Yoga Teacher. Keep practicing, and stay fit!

[Photo Credit: ramnath bhat / Foter.com / CC BY]

Further Readings

1. Complete guide to Pranayama

2. Yoga for Beauty – Skin renewal Detox routine

3. Complete guide to Interval Yoga

References:

[1] Benavides S, Caballero J. Ashtanga Yoga for children and adolescents for weight management and psychological well-being. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2009 May15(2):110-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2008.12.004. Epub 2009 Jan 11. PMID: 19341991.^Back to Top^

[2] Kudesia RS, Bianchi MT.  Decreased nocturnal awakenings in young adults performing Bikram Yoga. ISRN Neurol. 2012:2012:153745. doi: 10.5402/2012/153745. Epub 2012 Apr 12. PMID: 22577578.^Back to Top^

[3] N Moliver, EM Mika, MS Chartrand, SWS Burrus, RE Haussmann and SBS Khalsa. Increased Hatha Yoga experience predicts lower body mass index and reduced medication in women over 45 years. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-Dec. 4(2): 77–86. doi:  10.4103/0973-6131.85490. PMCID: 3193658.^Back to Top^

[4] Pallav Sengupta. Health impacts of Yoga and Pranayam: A State-of-the-Art Review. Int J Prev Med. 2012 July. 3(7): 444–458. PMCID: 3415184.^Back to Top^

[5] Steffany Haaz, Susan J. Bartlett. Yoga for Arthritis: A Scoping Review. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2011 February. 37(1): 33–46. PMCID: 3026480.^Back to Top^

[6] Catherine Woodyard. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-Dec. 4(2): 49–54. doi:  10.4103/0973-6131.85485. PMCID: 3193654.^Back to Top^

[7] Evans S, Moieni M, Subramanian S, Tsao JC, Sternlieb B, Zeltzer LK. Now I see a brighter day": expectations and perceived benefits of an Iyengar yoga intervention for young patients with rheumatoid arthritis. J Yoga Phys Ther 2011 Jun 11.1(101). pii: 101. PMID: 23145356.^Back to Top^

[8] Khalsa Sat Bir S. Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: a bibliometric analysis of published research studies. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004 Jul.48(3):269–285. PMID: 15648399.^Back to Top^

[9] Narendran S, Nagarathna R, Narendran V, Gunasheela S, Nagendra HR. Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Apr.11(2):237-44. PMID: 15865489.^Back to Top^

[10]  Swami Kriyananda, Donald J. Walters. Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness. Crystal Clarity Publishers. ISBN-13: 978-1565890787.^Back to Top^

Last Updated: May 12, 2014

Next Scheduled Update: July 12, 2014

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