Originating in India centuries ago, yoga is a philosophy and science focused on uniting the mental, physical and spiritual states. Here is a guide to some of the most popular approaches practiced today in America.
Hatha: Considered the grandmother of yoga, hatha yoga provides the building blocks for other yoga styles. Focused on basic poses, hatha yoga offers the benefits of improved flexibility and peace of mind.
For: The novice.
Vinyasa: This yoga practice creates a moving meditation by synchronizing breathing techniques (pranayama) with postures (asanas). The 20th-century yoga scholar Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is credited with developing this fluid-motion approach.
For: The physically active who are dedicated to maintaining their yoga practice.
Ashtanga: Ashtanga yoga gradually introduces students to new movements once they have reached proficiency with basic postures. K. Pattabhi Jois, devoted student of Krishnamacharya, developed this sweat-inducing, high-exertion practice to cleanse the body of imbalance and build strength.
For: Experienced yogis and athletes.
Bikram: A form of hot yoga taught in a studio set to 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Bikram yoga is characterized by intense sweating, which is said to improve flexibility, prevent injury and detoxify the body.
For: Those interested in weight loss.
Iyengar: First practiced by B.K.S. Iyengar, a yoga guru who stressed the importance of maintaining yoga practice, this discipline often incorporates props such as straps, blocks and blankets. The use of equipment allows all students—the elderly, injured, disabled or just less flexible—to cautiously approach postures.
For: Seniors and people with disabilities and injuries.
Yoga Nidra: Yoga nidra, meaning yogic sleep, is a guided meditation that relaxes and restores the body. Many yoga classes end with corpse pose (savasana), or deep relaxation. Students lie on their backs listening to the instructor as they scan their bodies for tension.
For: Those in search of mental relaxation and improved overall well-being.