I am often contacted by people who are new to yoga and they will ask what style of yoga I teach, telling me that they are looking for a Hatha Yoga class. This is a confusing topic for many people, even experienced Yogis, as I think it’s fair to say there’s been a bit of an explosion of yoga classes and styles in recent years!
Please be aware that the following paragraph is a very simplistic and condensed description of a topic that people have devoted their lives to studying!
Yoga roughly translates as union/to unite. This could be interpreted as unity between mind and body, or even the union between ourselves and the universe. There are six different paths that a student of yoga could choose to follow to achieve this union:
- Raja – the path of meditation
- Karma – concerned with actions, selfless service
- Bhakti – the path of devotion
- Tantra– ritual, ceremony
- Jnana – knowledge, wisdom, the scholarly path
- Hatha – the physical path
Hatha yoga combines physical postures (asanas) and breathing practice (pranayama) So you can see that most yoga classes are in fact Hatha yoga, even though they may have very different approaches, styles and exotic sounding names!
Iyengar, Vinyasa, Bikram, Anusara, Power, Sivanada, Viniyoga, Acroyoga, Core Strength, Aerial Yoga, can all be considered Hatha Yoga classes, even though the classes differ enormously from each other.
With the dizzying array of classes to choose from it can be difficult to find the right class for you, and easy to be put off yoga altogether if the first class you try makes you feel uncomfortable.
But please don’t be put off; bear in mind that Yoga would have been taught individually, on a one to one basis so the lessons would have been adapted to the student’s unique individual needs and abilities. Never feel under pressure to do exactly what everyone in the room is doing, at exactly the same time, and certainly not if it causes pain or discomfort.
The best advice I can offer is not to worry too much about the names of the classes, it is more important to find a teacher who you feel comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.