There seems to be a lot of choice, and perhaps confusion, in the Yoga scene at the moment! The trend in the USA is moving from an intense ‘Power’ yoga (or Ashtanga Yoga – promoted most by Kino MacGregor, and focused on continuous movement) to a more gentle form of Hatha Yoga (now referred to as Yin Yoga), which is more rooted in tradition and includes as much breathwork, relaxation and visualisation as it does physical postures. The postures tend to be held for longer (2-3 breaths) therefore strength, balance and calm are brought into the practice.
In the UK, Yoga is the fastest-growing physical practice and is still dominated by Vinyasa Flow Yoga, a gentler moving form of Ashtanga, which focuses on repeated flow sequences and is popular due to its aerobic nature. Vinyasa includes sequences based around “downward dog” posture.
Other types of yoga on offer in the UK include Ashtanga, Iyengar Yoga (created by BKS Iyengar, which is heavily focused on correct joint movement and tends to involve props to assist the practice), Dru Yoga (a popular hybrid form of gentle yoga created, unfortunately, by an organisation dogged by scandal), and traditional Hatha Yoga – the basis of all yoga, originating from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. “Sport Yoga” is also making a name in gyms as a way to assist athletes with injury management via stretching and breathwork to enhance performance; and now Yoga Therapy, which takes elements of the 8 limbs of Yoga, especially the philosophical practices of yama and niyama, to give the mind a focus and help create inner peace through reflection and self-care. Finally Kundalini Yoga, a Sikh practice, mainly involving seated chanting and ‘kriyas’, purification practicies, focused on internal energy releases.
This can all be quite confusing for those new to yoga; and it is a good idea to check online the type of yoga a teacher is offering, before trying a class out. If you have injuries, or struggle with kneeling or moving up and down in any way due to high blood pressure, make sure that the teacher is aware beforehand. A good teacher will offer modifications for you. If they don’t, try somewhere else! It’s great that yoga is so popular, but I personally worry about inexperienced teachers causing more harm than good, and injuring students. I’m pleased that gentler options are becoming popular in the US, as this will come over to the UK.
I have attended many “teacher” led classes, where teaching is the focus rather than Yoga – and I would like to see more yogis and fewer teachers being trained in passing on this ancient discipline. It is important to care for your students and help them discover their own yoga practice rather than over-focusing on right and wrong. It’s also essential for any yoga teacher to have a regular daily practice of their own, and to be able to do and to demonstrate the poses they are teaching. Their students deserve this. Yoga deserves this. By honouring the practice it will continue to benefit everyone.