Yoga is a mind-body-spirit system designed to help the practitioner discover their true self. It assumes that the true self resides in the soul (or spirit) - not the body, not the mind. In daily life, the needs of the body and the desires of the mind often eclipse awareness of the soul. Yoga, in all its forms, provides a means for the practitioner to master the body and the mind so that the soul (or true self) can emerge to share in the experience of life.
Each type of yoga has evolved in its own particular way of aiding the practitioner in achieving this self-awareness. Some types are more physical, some more emotional and some more intellectual - none are exclusive and many practitioners, knowingly or not, combine several types of yoga into their personal practice.
This section, "How Yoga Works" comes directly from The Yoga Poster featured above. To buy the poster, click here.
Common Yoga Acronyms
RYT = Registered Yoga Teacher (completed 200+ hours of training)
RYS = Registered Yoga School (a studio, retreat center, etc. that is qualified to deliver yoga teacher training)
YA = Yoga Alliance (the largest nonprofit association representing the yoga community, with over 7,000 Registered Yoga Schools (RYS) and more than 100,000 Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT) as of April 2020)
YACEP = Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider (a Yoga Alliance designated individual who teaches continuing education coursework)
For more information on Yoga Alliance, click here.
Class Names & What They Mean
Studio to studio, instructor to instructor, it can be confusing what the classes are based off how they are named. This is my attempt to bring clarity to the naming convention.
Vinyasa / Flow / Power / Workout: this class features a series of connected poses to create a seamless experience, or flow, and it is more athletic in nature incorporating balancing postures, twists, and a faster pace.
Vinyasa / Slow Flow / Gentle: this class also connects poses together to create a smooth experience but the pace is slow in order to be kind of the joins and ligaments. This class places greater emphasis on the breath and is perfect for beginners or individuals healing from injury (if cleared by a medical professional).
Yin / Meditative: this class is often misunderstood. It is slow like a gentle class but it is challenging like a workout class. Poses are held for as much as 3-5 minutes to create a deep stretch that reaches the fascia (what holds our organs, bones and muscles together). Sometimes the class is designed to flow other times not. There is an emphasis on breathwork and an encouragement to "go inward" to access not the mind or the body but the spirit.
Beginner: this a class introduces students to yoga with demonstrations for basic sitting, standing, prone (on the belly) and supine (on the back) postures. After the teacher provides a demo, students are invited to practice the pose they just witnessed.
For information on Yoga Class levels (1-4), click here.
Types of Yoga
Information provided here comes from Pranakriya 200 Hour Basic Yoga Teacher Training material.
Jnana: the yoga of knowledge. It teaches nothing is real except the soul. It is a verticalist path and its primary techniques are renunciation and meditation. An example of this type of yoga is Ashtanga Yoga.
Raja: the royal yoga. Some schools translated "Raja" as "soul," becoming the Yoga of the Soul. It is the same as Jnana Yoga.
Karma: the yoga of action. It teaches that selfless action is a high form of renunciation. An example of a modern-day Karma yogi is Mahatma Ghandi.
Bhakti: the yoga of devotion. This is the most religious yogic path and is known for mantra chanting and religious rituals performed as meditations.
Tantra: the yoga of energy patterns. Tantra means "thread," "weave," or "power." It uses elaborate rituals including mantras, visualizations, pranayama, and postures that change the practitioners' perception of themselves and the world around them. This type of yoga is exclusively a horizontalist path.
Hatha: the yoga of the body. This evolved from the Tantric tradition. In the verticalist schools, Hatha Yoga is used to generate steadiness or control of the body and senses. In the Tantra-based schools, Hatha Yoga is believed to awaken an energy center dormant in the body. When the energy wakes up, students are able to experience a profound transformation.
Pranakriya: a yoga tradition based on Tantric expressions of Hatha Yoga which leads students to have transformational experiences that are often described metaphorically as refining ore into gold. Once the energy burns away all that is not eternal and pure, a grounding in the reality of the student's soul is all that remains.
For more information on the Pranakriya tradition, click here.
Yoga is an ancient practice that began with meditation. Breathwork and poses came later. It is common to hear yoga instructors use the Sanskrit name to que a pose and then translate the name and vice versa. Below are some of the most popular poses featured in yoga classes. Each one is listed as the...
Pranakriya name (another name in English) / Sanskrit name
Boat / Navasana
Bound Angle (Butterfly) / Baddhakonasana
Bridge / Setu Bandhasana
Child / Garbhasana
Cobra / Bhujangasana
Downward-Facing Dog (Downward Dog) / Adho Mukha Shvanasana