Hatha Yoga Systems

In your search for the “right” yoga class, you may shop around and try a few different venues. The first thing you'll notice is that one teacher has a precise way of teaching a pose while another teacher changes the pose slightly. Sometimes teachers may even refer to the same pose by a different name. Or you may hear someone say, “I'm doing kripalu, ” or “I'm into kundalini, ” and wonder if these are actually yoga classes.

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They are. In fact, hatha yoga is no longer the generic yoga of the 1960s but over the last few decades has evolved into several different approaches.

The following is a brief list of the hatha yoga schools with a description of their focus, followed by a more in-depth explanation of the methods and the founding practitioners.


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Ananda, strong emphasis on meditation.

Ashtanga, strong emphasis on the physical.

Bikram, emphasis on the physical and sweating.

Integral, emphasis on relaxation by integrating positions, breath, and meditation.

Iyengar, emphasis on symmetry and alignment.

Kripalu, emphasis on flowing and merging of body, breath, and mind.

Kundalini, focus is on the breath.

Sivananda, emphasis is on integrating positions, breath, and meditation, and is gentle.

Viniyoga, emphasis is on integrating poses and breathing for the individual, and breathing is stressed.


As hram.

A physical setting where a community of people practice a certain type of yoga. Some ashrams are small; others resemble small cities. A core of people who practice yoga live and run the ashram. Yoga classes, workshops, and teachers' training are offered at ashrams across America.

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