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What Yoga Lineage Aligns Best With You

Stuck in a rut or maybe you haven’t found a yoga class that feels quite right?

Finding the yoga lineage that aligns with your interests and beliefs can be a challenging task, as everywhere you look there classes with different names, different styles, and it can be hard to know where to start.

Often, people just choose to go to a class that they recognize, instead of trying something that they haven’t experienced, or heard of before because trying something new can be intimidating.

So no matter if you are looking for a new class to try, or considering a yoga teacher training but you don’t know which lineage might be best- this simple guide of some of the most popular styles may inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and find a new lineage that might be your yoga soulmate. 

Vinyasa- If you love free-flowing movement, and don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to alignment

Vinyasa might be one of the most commonly practiced styles of yoga because of its popular variations, and adaptability for students. Vinyasa yoga dates back to the vedic age (1500-500 BC) where sun salutations were first described in The Rig Veda. 

Although sun salutations are a backbone of the practice, it is made up of a series of postures that are strung together by a powerful ujjayi breath creating a free flowing practice that incorporates seated, standing, and prone postures.

The word Vinyasa means to place in a special way, and resembles a fluid practice that incorporates both static holds and dynamic movements. Vinyasa teachers are known to emphasize the individuality of each body and to encourage you to do what feels good, and take options and modifications whenever necessary. 

Ashtanga- If you love clear and specific alignment cues, set sequencing, and crave strong and powerful movements.

Ashtanga yoga comes from the Vinyasa lineage, but stands apart from it’s earthy cousin by using a more militant type of cueing and a belief that there is a specific proper alignment for each pose that can be obtained through consistent and dedicated practice.

Although Vinyasa classes typically have different poses and “flows” in each class, Ashtanga utilizes the Primary Series, a set combination of poses that are challenging and energetic and set to your breath. Ashtanga yoga began as a type of exercise for boy’s schools in India in the 20th century. 

Kundalini- If you love breath, chanting, the mystical side of yoga and the feminine divine

Perhaps one of the most unique and easy to spot lineages due to the teacher’s white clothing this practice focuses on the awakening of the Kundalini energy that lies dormant in the base of the spine, which is believed to unlock a higher consciousness if it is able to rise from the base of the spine and meet the crown of the head.

Kundalini yoga classes include meditations, mantras, Kriyas, and powerful breath synced with movement, that focus on awakening this dormant energy within and unlock the feminine divine. This unique type of yoga uses the bellow’s breath, or breath of fire to clear your energetic pathways and prepare you for this awakening.

Iyengar- If you love a direct and militant style, believe there is a specific and true alignments for each poste and props are your best friend

This lineage, named after its founding father B.K.S Iyengar, is one that focuses heavily on alignment in the body and an emphasis on detail. Iyengar yoga is one that has a strict, regimented feel that guides you towards a precise alignment in the body through physical movement, a heavy utilization of props, and imitating the teacher.

It is not uncommon to find blocks, straps, rope walls, bolsters, and many other props in an Iyengar studio. It is also important to note that this lineage requires that all teachers have studied and trained under Iyengar himself or a direct disciple to be able to call themselves an Iyengar teacher. 

Hatha- You prefer longer holds instead of a flow and have a deep appreciation for the ancient roots of yoga

Hatha comes from the root words Ha meaning sun and Tha meaning moon. This practice is designed to help you find the balance between the masculine and feminine energies that reside within all of us.

Hatha yoga is believed to be the overarching umbrella that most practices come from and dates back to the 11th century and was popularized through the text The Hatha Yoga Pradipika which has 84 poses, breath techniques, purification practices, and meditations.

In a Hatha yoga class you will hold the poses for longer, and will typically change statically between each pose instead of linking them together in a flow, and you will most likely explore poses, breath, meditation, and perhaps some purification practices like the bandhas or a purifying breath. 

Kelly Smith
Kelly is the founder of Yoga For You, and the host of the Mindful in Minutes podcast. She is an E-RYT 500, YACEP, and a location independent yoga and meditation teacher. She spends her days traveling globally offering trainings in restorative yoga, meditation, yoga nidra, writing blogs for beYogi, and recording meditations from her closet.
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