Hatha Yoga is the most popular and widespread tradition of Yoga and is especially accessible in the western cultures that have adopted it for both is physical and mental wellbeing aspects. Within the Hatha tradition, there have been a number of prominent practitioners whose influence has been so marked that schools of Yoga have adopted their versions and gone on to inspire others. Here’s a quick ‘who’s who’ in Hatha Yoga and the styles they developed.

Shri Krishnamacharya developed an approach called Viniyoga. It works with a sequential process of poses and focuses not on achieving any external ideal form, but on practising in accordance with your own needs and capacities. His approach, and the follow on work by his son and a number of other Yoga masters, is widely credited with the widespread popularisation of Yoga across the Western world.

B.K.S Iyengar was the brother-in-law of Shri Krishnamacharya and created Iyengar yoga, which is now the most widely recognised approach to Hatha Yoga. This approach focuses on correct positioning using various props, such as wood blocks, straps, cushions and benches. He, and now his school, has trained thousands of teachers, which has also contributed to the spread of this style of yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga is also known as Power Yoga is by far the most athletic form of Yoga. It was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois who was a disciple of Shri Krishnamacharya and brought a very modern sensibility to the Hatha Yoga tradition.

Kripalu Yoga is a three-staged Yoga, developed by Yogi Amrit Desai. The three stages make the overall Yoga tradition more accessible for western students with the first stage focusing on correct postures and breathing, the second stage adding meditation and then in the third stage progressing to the postures and the meditation combined – a kind of ‘meditation in motion’.

Yoga and meditation have long been associated with chanting ‘Om’ and this element of Yoga practice became central to Integral Yoga developed by Swami Satchidananda. Satchidananda came to prominence around Woodstock (1969) and set a generation of Baby Boomers chanting ‘Om’, while focusing breathing techniques, deep relaxation and meditation.

Bikram Yoga is a style of Yoga taught by Bikram Choudhury. You may recognise the name as one of the people who has taught Yoga to Hollywood stars. It requires a good level of fitness to participate as it is quite vigorous.

And, finally, you should be aware of Kundalini Yoga which is a style of Hatha Yoga (as well as Yoga tradition in its own right) developed by Yogi Bhajan. Its purpose is to awaken the ‘serpent power’ though postures, meditation, breath control and chanting.

There are many other styles that you may hear mention of including hidden-language yoga which promotes self-understanding alongside physical postures or Somatic Yoga, founded by Eleanor Creswell which emphasises very slow movement, relaxation between postures and conscious breathing.

Whichever style you encounter, try to remain open to its philosophy and approach and then find the one that works best for you and the lifestyle goals that bring you to Yoga. You will then be sure to discover and enjoy the benefits of Yoga for a lifetime.

Bridget Lancaster is a writer across a broad range of lifestyle topics including yoga and parenting. Her latest site offers information and reviews of baby teething toys including teething necklace for parents looking for an alternative to rings or pacifiers.

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Categories: Yoga