There are countless types of yoga, ranging from traditional Indian practices to modern yoga. Within these types of yoga are different forms of yoga, all of which are categorized under an umbrella term.
These terms help to classify the style of the yoga practice – for example, if the yoga is asana-based, or more of a movement style.
Hatha yoga is one of the most popular types of yoga in the world.
Hatha yoga consists of a set of yoga poses and breathing exercises, mixed with traditional Indian practices, to understand the spirituality behind the movements.
If you’re new to the world of yoga, you’re probably wondering what forms of yoga come under the hatha category. Luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place! Here are the 8 best forms of hatha yoga to try for yourself.
What Is Hatha Yoga?
Firstly, let’s take a look at what hatha yoga actually is. To put it simply, hatha yoga is the physical practice of yoga.
A hatha yoga class typically refers to a class that is somewhat gentle, and guides the students through each pose with breaks in between. This differs from yoga styles like vinyasa, where the poses flow into one another like a dance sequence.
Not only this, but hatha yoga is about connecting the body and mind. It’s a spiritual practice as much as it is a physical one, though the Western view of hatha yoga is mostly just a relaxing exercise.
In most cases, hatha yoga is used as a general category for most yoga styles and forms. This is because it is seen as the most classic form of yoga, built up of asanas and breathing techniques.
Even if the student doesn’t recognize it, a hatha yoga class incorporates all eight limbs of yoga into a class. These limbs are:
- Asanas (Postures)
- Pranayama (Breathing)
- Yama (Ethics)
- Dharana (Concentration)
- Samadhi (Union)
- Niyama (Self-discipline)
- Pratyahara (Internalization)
- Dhyana (Devotion)
Forms Of Hatha Yoga
Bikram yoga is a form of hatha yoga that is most famously known for its heated environment. This hot yoga style consists of a sequence of 26 poses, practiced in a hot room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius).
Founder Bikram Choudhury intended for the room to replicate the climate in India, but also to encourage students to melt into the positions better, become looser and more flexible, and sweat out toxins.
The 26 poses are completed in a sequence, beginning with a breathing exercise, standing asanas, floor asanas, and a final breathing exercise.
Despite controversies surrounding Choudhury and his practice, Bikram yoga is practiced across the world, with over 330 studios in the United States alone.
Bikram yoga is good for improving flexibility and balance, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and increasing body strength.
Another form of hatha yoga is kundalini yoga. Kundalini, in traditional tantra, is a type of energy that lies dormant in the body.
Kundalini yoga is intended to activate and control this energy through physical postures and spiritual awakenings, usually in the forms of breathing techniques and chanting.
A common name for kundalini yoga is the “yoga of awareness”, which refers to the awakening of the energy and spirit. This yoga style is designed to help students move past their ego, awaken their chakras, and improve their spiritual wellness.
While kundalini yoga has been practiced for centuries, with references in ancient Vedic texts dating back to 1,000 B.C., it was originally introduced to the United States in the 1960s by Yogi Bhajan.
Nowadays, kundalini yoga is used for both its physical and meditative benefits.
Anusara yoga is a type of modern yoga that comes under the hatha yoga umbrella.
Founded by John Friend in 1997, anusara yoga blends the physical health-oriented elements of Western yoga with the spiritual elements of traditional Hindu yoga.
The reason anusara yoga is hatha yoga is that it emphasizes the Universal Principles of Alignment. This ideology uses physical asanas to connect with the philosophy of the practice, encouraging the students to flow with their bodies and spirits.
The blend of Western and Eastern influences is what makes anusara yoga so popular.
Nowadays, the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga is a non-profit organization that has over 800 teachers across the world. The school’s vision is to create a community of yogis and practitioners to continue the philosophy of the yoga style.
Sivananda yoga is a type of hatha yoga created by Swami Sivananda. This is a classical form of yoga based on ancient traditions, and while it is considered a contemporary yoga style, it still maintains a spiritual and holistic approach.
It’s about the physical benefits as much as the spiritual ones.
With experience as an Indian medical doctor, Sivananda became immersed in the world of traditional yoga as an adult and became part of the order of ten names, known as Dasanami Sampradaya.
This order of yogis worked to preserve the traditional origins of hatha yoga.
Sivananda’s yoga practice spread internationally after teaching prominent Western teachers. Nowadays, there are hundreds of Sivananda centers and yoga studios across the world, each emphasizing the five core teachings of the yoga practice.
These teachings are:
- Proper exercise
- Proper breathing
- Proper diet
- Proper meditation
- Proper relaxation
Another form of hatha yoga is Iyengar yoga. Developed by B. K. S. Iyengar, this yoga style uses props to achieve alignment in each hatha-inspired yoga pose.
It’s not common for yoga styles to use props, but the use of blankets, blocks, belts, and bolsters are useful for achieving perfect alignment.
Not only this, but the use of props makes Iyengar yoga one of the most inclusive forms of yoga for people of all ages, skill levels, and physical abilities.
The props work as physical aids to successfully perform potentially tricky asanas, which helps to minimize the risk of injury.
Iyengar yoga is a branch of hatha yoga, as it consists of physical poses and breathing techniques. It is one of the best yoga styles for beginners to enter the world of yoga thanks to the simple and guided yoga poses, and the assistance of props.
This is a compassionate yoga practice, with emphasis on meditation, spiritual transformation, and gentle physical healing. This yoga style was founded by Amrit Desai, who was inspired by Swami Kripalvananda’s teachings.
As a result, kripalu yoga is predominantly a hatha yoga practice with elements of kundalini yoga, consisting of yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation.
This yoga style is about accepting the flow of prana, and following the flow of energy that is inside us all.
The inclusion of meditation and breathing techniques makes this yoga style a mindful practice. It is designed to draw awareness to the senses, and how the body, mind, and soul are feeling in the present moment.
Jivamukti yoga is a blend of hatha yoga styles with spiritual elements; much like kripalu yoga, but less gentle. Founded by partners Sharon Gannon and David Life, jivamukti yoga is designed to impart knowledge and wisdom about traditional yoga practices.
References to scriptures and meditation are important parts of this yoga practice, as well as yoga poses designed to connect the body and spirit.
It also comes under the umbrella of vinyasa yoga, as the asanas are dynamic and designed to flow into one another like a choreographed sequence.
Interestingly, jivamukti yoga is about creating harmony as a society rather than as individuals. It follows 5 teachings, including:
- Sacred scriptures (Shastra)
- Music (Nadam)
- Devotion (Bhakti)
- Nonviolence (Ahimsa)
- Meditation (Dhyana)
Another form of hatha yoga is viniyoga, which translates to “appropriate application” in Sanskrit. Viniyoga is a holistic approach that addresses the body, mind, breath, emotions, spirit, and behaviors of the individuals.
It is designed to improve the student’s physical and mental wellbeing, acting like a form of physical therapy.
The key to the viniyoga practice is that teachers are required to take an individualistic approach with each student.
As the translation suggests, this practice is about personalizing the yoga session to each yogi student – whether they need assistance with a yoga pose or a unique breathing technique.
So, there you have it! Hatha yoga is an umbrella term used to categorize a variety of yoga styles, and the 8 forms of hatha yoga we have explored above are our favorites. Hopefully, this guide has introduced you to a new form of hatha yoga to try for yourself!
Frequently Asked Questions
The components of hatha yoga will vary depending on the specific style of yoga. However, the key components of hatha yoga are:
– Asana (Yoga poses)
– Pranayama (Breathing techniques)
– Dharana (Concentration)
– Dhyana (Meditation)
To be categorized under the umbrella of hatha yoga, the yoga style must emphasize at least all four of these components. These components are embedded into the yoga class to achieve samadhi, the highest state of peace and concentration.