Table of contents
- 3rd Limb of Yoga – Asanas (Poses) – Yoga Classes & Asana Styles
- Asana Styles – Easiest to Hardest
- More for Yoga Teachers
- Today’s Practice
3rd Limb of Yoga – Asanas (Poses) – Yoga Classes & Asana Styles
Welcome to the Third Limb of Yoga – Asanas. Asana (AH-sa-nuh) or “pose” in Sanskrit, is what most new Yogis think of when they hear the word “Yoga.”
All about Asanas (Poses)
Whether Asana and Yoga are truly synonymous is up to interpretation. As we have learned, Asana is just one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Some deeply philosophical Yogis consider Asana practice as only one part of Yoga, and its main purpose is to increase flexibility and stability and minimize pain, in order to prepare the body for meditation and then the Upper Limbs of Yoga. Many other Yogis only enjoy the physical Asana practice, and do not care to pursue learning more about the other practices. Whether Asana is your entire practice or just a part, depends on what works for you and your journey!
Asana Yoga classes come in many styles. These range from more active styles like Vinyasa which combines breath and movement into a rigorous workout that seems like a dance, to Restorative Yoga where relaxing poses can be held for up to 10 minutes. Today we will learn about different styles of Asana Classes you will find online and at many Yoga studios.
Branches Vs Limbs of Yoga
We have talked about the 8 Limbs of Yoga, a number of practices that build upon each other. We will now be focusing on the Third Limb – Asanas or Poses, covering quite a few Asana styles. There are also 6 Branches of Yoga, which come to us from the Bhagavad Gita.
I consider different Branches of Yoga to be different Paths of Yoga. In my understanding, different Branches of Yoga give different weights and priorities to particular practices from the 8 Limbs of Yoga. For example, I believe Ghandi’s Karma Yoga emphasizes the practice of certain Yamas – particularly Ahimsa, Satya, and Aparigraha.
My particular approach with Daily Yogi focusing on practicing all 8 Limbs of Yoga, is quite similar to the Raja (also called Ashtanga) Branch of Yoga. However Raja Yoga places much more emphasis and focus on the Upper Limbs and Meditation, and we are taking a more practical approach with more focus on the Lower Limbs for our daily practices. Remember, I discuss that my personal practice usually includes daily Asanas and Meditation, so please consider adding daily personal practice focuses or intentions each month with me if you would like a more traditional Raja Yoga approach!
Asana Styles – Easiest to Hardest
We will start with Hatha Yoga, which is both an Asana style and a Branch of Yoga. The Hatha Branch of Yoga actually covers all styles of Asana (from fast-paced Vinyasa to calming Restorative), since Hatha Yoga is the Branch that focuses on Asanas or poses and movement.
Hatha can be translated to English as either “Sun and Moon” (implying balance) or “Forceful”. Even though all Asana Styles and Asana Practices are technically Hatha Yoga, you can typically expect a Hatha class at a Yoga studio to be a more slow paced class than a Vinyasa class, and to have more detailed instructions. Often Hatha classes at studios are the intro beginner Yoga classes.
I am a huge fan of Rodney Yee. I practice at home with videos or apps far more than I do at Yoga Studios. The first Asana Yoga practice I ever tried was in college, with my roommate and a Rodney Yee DVD. So, I feel it is appropriate to start with a couple video options from Rodney Yee‘s Hatha and Beginner series.
Recommended Hatha Yoga Videos
Check out a sped up version of the first video above, to get a quick idea of what Hatha style is like! You will notice beginner poses held for a longer period of time with more instruction.
Family, Kids, and Mommy & Me Yoga
Many Kids’ Yoga classes use traditional Yoga Asanas (poses) with fun animal names and animal sounds. Most family and kids classes are more exciting versions of Hatha Yoga Style from above. This is a great trick for busy parents – get some Yoga in your day, even if it is hard to find alone time in your day! Unfortunately, the animal noises and trippy cartoons in Family or Kids’ Yoga may not be as relaxing and meditative as you are used to, and most classes for kids cannot flow, but I personally find the physical benefits of Asanas practice equally if not more beneficial than the mental benefits. You will also get a laugh.. it is hard not to smile at silly stories, animal noises, and the other fun things in kids yoga. The nontraditional approach may be a bit more challenging for experienced Yogis than an intro Hatha class.
Recommended Kids & Family Yoga Videos
Cosmic Kids Yoga – check out the Disney-themed Yoga Adventures!
Check out a sped-up version of a Cosmic Kids video above (I tried Minecraft Adventure), to get a quick idea of what this style is like! You will notice beginner poses held for a longer period of time, silly names for poses, and fun motions for kids… I could not stop giggling during the Zombie section, but my dogs got a bit upset!
Yin and Restorative Yoga
The concept of Yin is probably familiar to those in the west from “Yin and Yang” (PS Yang actually rhymes with pong, not pang!). Traditionally, Yin and Yang is a concept of complementary opposing forces. Yin represents dark, shade/shadow, feminine, and passive sides. Yang represents light, sun/light, male, and active sides. Yang Yoga Styles include Hot / Bikram Yoga, and Vinyasa is also a very active style. So, we would expect a Yin class to be passive, and the opposite of an active Vinyasa style class. Yin classes are often slow paced, with passive Asanas (poses) held for a longer period of time
Restorative Yoga is a type of Yin Yoga. This style usually utilizes props to support the body in Asanas (poses) held for very long periods of time, typically 5-10 minutes. Restorative Yoga is typically extremely gentle and safest for Yogis with injuries.
RECOMMENDED Yin & Restorative VIDEOS
Check out a sped-up version the Yin video above, to get a quick idea of what this style is like! You will notice passive poses held for an extended period of time, often with support from blocks, bolsters, or pillows.
Iyengar is somewhat between Hatha and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. The creators of Iyengar and Ashtanga Vinyasa trained under the same Yoga Master, so it is no surprise there are some similarities! Iyengar, like Ashtanga, is typically a regimented series progression of Asanas (poses), with Sun Salutations in the series. However, Ashtanga is a flow style, while Iyengar instructors usually focus on proper alignment, and often hold the poses for a longer time. Iyengar also often uses props to aid with proper alignment. Because of this approach to Asanas, Iyengar classes are typically a good fit for beginners or Yogis with injuries. I really enjoy learning proper alignment with Iyengar, and trying to bring these “corrective focuses” into flow classes.
Have you used props before? If not, I strongly recommend trying today with an Iyengar series! I typically use blocks and a strap to help get proper alignment in some poses impacted by my tight hamstrings. We will talk more about different props another time, but these two are probably the most helpful to Yogis at all levels!
Recommended Iyengar Yoga Videos
Check out a sped up version of the second video above, to get a quick idea of what this style is like! You will notice beginner poses held for a longer period of time, with an emphasis on alignment using props or modifications if needed.
Vinyasa is arguably the most common class at Yoga Studios in the West. This is a fast-paced Asana practice combining breath with fast transitions between Asanas or poses to “flow” almost like a dance. Although these classes are popular, they are not for beginners. You should know many poses very well and sometimes how to transition between these poses.
Vinyasa and Power Yoga are similar, but not exactly the same. Vinyasa refers to the connections between breath and movement and a traditional Vinyasa class will move like a dance. Power flow also has this breath/movement connection or “flow” but is primarily cardio and strength-focused. Since today is Wednesday, we will cover Power Yoga first for Workout Wednesday!
Recommended Vinyasa / Power Videos
Beginner Vinyasa Series (try if you are still learning to “flow” breath with movement)
Check out a sped-up version of each of these videos above, to get a quick idea of what this style is like! You will notice linking breath to motion to “flow” through poses like a dance, with each Asana held for only one breath. Power Yoga is more cardio and strength focused than a traditional Vinyasa class, which we will cover tomorrow!
Bikram / Hot Yoga
Hot Yoga is probably my favorite style! I know this can be very divisive.. a few of my friends who are Yogis think I’m nuts for loving Hot Yoga so much. I kind of get it.. Hot Yoga is super intense, and many go to Yoga Classes to chill out, not sweat in a room over 100°F! I usually drink an entire large water bottle both before and during the class. However, I find the added flexibility I get from basically doing Yoga in a sauna to be well worth the extra sweat!
Bikram is basically a brand name of Hot Yoga. All Bikram Studios are always 105°F (41°C) and 40% humidity. Bikram Yoga is a set 26 pose sequence, and only Bikram Studios can perform this particular series. Many other Hot Yoga studios do similar but not identical sequences, and they may also have cooler “hot” rooms to accommodate Hot Vinyasa or other blended style offerings. Whether true Bikram or another Asana style in a cooler hot room, all Hot Yoga makes you SWEATY! Bonus Saucha (Purity) practice – make sure to take a quick shower very soon after all Hot Yoga! When they open, most Hot Studios have showers in case you live far from the studio.
RECOMMENDED Hot / Bikram VIDEOS
Beginner Bikram Series (this 26 pose sequence is traditionally performed twice)
Check out a sped-up version of the beginner series above, to get a quick idea of what this style is like! In a Bikram or a more traditional Hot Yoga class, you will notice a fixed series of 26 intermediate Asanas (traditionally performed twice) with beginning and ending special Pranayama practices.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
We have talked quite a bit about Ashtanga, or the 8 Limbs of Yoga. This is a direct reference to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There is also a style of Yoga or Asana called Ashtanga, or Ashtanga Vinyasa you have likely seen at some Yoga studios. I am just a student of Ashtanga Yoga, not a teacher.. which will require a trip to the one Ashtanga Yoga school in India (one day!). Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a series of specific, challenging, and dynamic sets of Asana sequences and other Yoga practices. There are 6 Ashtanga Vinyasa Series: beginner, intermediate, and four advanced.
Recommended Ashtanga Vinyasa Videos
Beginner Ashtanga Vinyasa video is about as gentle and easy as possible for the beginner series.
Beginner Ashtanga Series video is a more challenging and traditional version of the Ashtanga beginner series.
Check out a sped-up version of each of these videos above, to get a quick idea of what this style is like! You will notice a rigorous flow practice combined with advanced Asanas.
Check out our Top 5 Yoga Mats and Equipment for Newbies!
You may want to consider getting blocks for modifications to various poses as we progress through our detailed breakdown of each pose in the Surya Namaskar Sun Salutations Series.
More for Yoga Teachers
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