A brief description of some examples of, mainly hatha, yoga styles currently popular in
the West, most of which originate in the USA.
Please note that the names of these styles or schools of yoga are often actual Sanskrit
words. The definitions provided here only refer to the popularised use of the terms in the
West and not to the actual meanings of these Sanskrit words or to their usage in classic
Indian yogic traditions.
• Ananda Yoga: Developed by Swami Kriyananda a disciple of Paramahansa
Yogananda, the focus is on gentle poses, alignment, controlled breathing, affirmations
and relaxation with the intention to move energy to the brain and prepare for meditation.
• Astanga Vinyasa Yoga: A fast-paced series of sequential poses that focuses on
strength, flexibility, and building heat. This style was developed by Sri Tirumala
Krishnamacharya, who taught yoga to the young soldiers of the army of the Marharaja of
Mysore. His student the late Krishna Pattabi Jois and now Pattabi Jois’s grandson,
Sharath continues his teaching, which attracts many western students.
• Bikram Yoga: Founded by Bikram Choudhury, is also known as ‘hot yoga’ because
Bikram Yoga studios are heated to approximately body temperature in order to cause
sweating. This yoga practice focuses on 26 poses always repeated in the same order.
The aim is to increase flexibility and promote detoxification.
• Integral Yoga: This traditional type of yoga combines postures, breathing exercises,
selfless service, meditation, chanting, prayer, and self-inquiry. The founder is Swami
Satchidananda, one of the disciples of Swami Sivananda.
• Iyengar Yoga: Poses are held whilst making detailed adjustments. This type of yoga is
renowned for its attention to body alignment. Props such as straps, blankets, and
wooden blocks are commonly used. Iyengar Yoga creates body awareness, strength
and flexibility. BKS Iyengar also invented restorative yoga using props and, with his
teachers, pioneered the use of yoga as therapy as well as for general health.
• Jivamukti Yoga: This type of yoga also has Ashtanga roots. It was developed by
David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1986. Chanting and breathing exercises are also
incorporated in Jivamukti classes. Life and Gannon run a popular yoga studio in New
York City with franchises in other major cities.
• Kriya Yoga: Brought to the west by Paramahansa Yogananda, who wrote
Autobiography of a Yogi. It’s focus is on special breathing techniques, mudra and
mantra, said to accelerate spiritual development and are revealed in stages as one
progresses along the path.
• Kripalu Yoga: This gentle, introspective practice urges practitioners to hold poses to
explore and release emotional and spiritual blockages. Some time is often given to free
form practice in which the student alows themselves to be spontaneously moved by a
natural impulse or energy flow.
• Kundalini Yoga: This practice concentrates on awakening the energy at the base of
the spine and drawing it upward. In addition to postures, a typical class will also include
chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises. “Breath of fire” is fundamental to
• Power Yoga: Essentially the same as Ashtanga, but with an Americanised label. This
type of yoga became popular after Beryl Bender Birch published her book Power Yoga
• Restorative Yoga: Passive poses held for long periods, while supported by props and
aimed at relaxation and release of the deep musculature, where long term emotional
tension is often held.
• Satyananda Yoga: Also from the lineage of Swami Sivananda, Satyananda set up the
Bihar School in northern India and developed and taught the traditional techniques of
yoga, including yoga nidra and wrote a number of influential books.
• Scaravelli yoga: named after Vanda Scaravelli who was a student of both Iyengar and
Desikachar. She evolved a gentle approach to yoga based on releasing the body by
surrendering to gravity and enabling the rebounding effect to elongate the spine.
• Sivananda Yoga: Similar to Integral Yoga and from the same lineage, Swami
Sivananda, but via another disciple, Swami Vishnu Devananda. This Northern Indian
tradition of yoga combines postures, breathing, dietary restrictions, chanting, scriptural
study, and meditation.
• Viniyoga: This is a gentle, therapeutic practice that is uniquely tailored to each
person’s body type and special needs. It was developed by Krishna Macharya’s son,
• Yin Yoga: Superficially resembles restorative yoga, in that the poses are static and
held for long periods, but the aim is to stretch connective tissue, so props are not a