Yoga Beginnings and the Seven Main Types of Yoga

Yoga Beginnings

The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit word ”yuj,” which means ”to unify” or ”to yoke.”

The origin of the word “yoga” and the practice of yoga are closely related, since practicing yoga involves seeking to ”unite” your body, mind and spirit.

Achieving this union allows you to connect with your inner self, leading to a sense of contentment and tranquility.

How did Yoga begin?

Yoga originated in northern India more than 5,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found statuettes of men in yoga poses that are estimated to be 5,000 years old.

Developed by the ancient sages of India, yoga was not written down for many thousands of years, but instead passed down from teacher to student.

Approximately 2,000 years ago, a philosopher named Patanjali began to organize and write down the principles of yoga.

Patanjali's collection of yoga’s principles is known as Yoga Sutras. Many people consider Patanjali to be the father of yoga.

Why should I practice Yoga?

Yoga provides a balanced and wholesome approach to achieving good physical and mental health.

To begin with, yoga is easier on your body than many other fitness activities, such as high-impact aerobics. Also, unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga addresses all aspects of your health and well-being.

Breathing exercises can help you learn to breathe more efficiently. Meditation can clear your mind and help you stay calm. Yoga poses can provide many physical benefits, such as increasing your flexibility and improving your circulation.

Yoga also has mental and emotional benefits. For example, yoga can help improve your concentration, as well as soothe and rejuvenate your mind.

Yoga is increasingly being recognized for its value in preventing and relieving physical ailments, such as chronic back pain, arthritis and migraines.

Types of Yoga

There are seven main types of yoga. Although each type of yoga helps unite your mind, body and spirit, each has a slightly different focus. 

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion and selfless love. Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word ”bhaj,” which means “to serve.”

Practicing Bhakti Yoga involves devotion to a divine being, usually through practices such as singing, dancing, chanting and praying.

Individuals who practice Bhakti Yoga also express this devotion and love in everyday life.

Karma Yoga

The main principle behind Karma Yoga is performing selfless service, without expecting to gain anything from the service.

The service should be performed with honesty and integrity. An example of Karma Yoga is volunteering in your community to help others who are less fortunate.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is the yoga of wisdom. In Sanskrit, the word ”Jnana” means “knowledge,” “insight,” or “wisdom.”

One of the main principles of Jnana Yoga is to learn the distinction between what is real and unreal.

Jnana Yoga also encourages humans to think of themselves as spiritual beings, who can reach enlightenment through willpower, study and reason.

Mantra Yoga

Mantra Yoga uses sound to heal your body and center and focus your mind.

A mantra is a meditation technique in which you repeat a word aloud or silently in your mind. The most traditional mantra used is the word ”om.”

Tantra Yoga

Tantra Yoga uses breath and movement to awaken the spiritual energy in your body.

Two popular forms of Tantra Yoga are Kundalini Yoga and Kriya Yoga.

Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga, “raja” meaning ”royal,” is a classical type of yoga, in which meditation teaches your mind to serve your spirit.

The foundation of Raja Yoga is based on eight limbs. These limbs include:

  1. Yama (Moral and Ethical Discipline)
  2. Niyama (Self-discipline)
  3. Asana (Poses)
  4. Pranayama (Breath Control)
  5. Pratyahara (Sensory Inhibition)
  6. Dharana (Concentration)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Enlightenment)

Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is the yoga of physical discipline. Hatha Yoga is the most commonly practiced type of yoga in the western world.

The goal of Hatha Yoga is to achieve union of the mind, body and spirit through physical actions. Hatha Yoga promotes taking care of your body to be healthy.

The word “Hatha” is derived from two Sanskrit words – ”ha” meaning ”sun” and ”tha” meaning ”moon.” The practice of Hatha Yoga finds a balance between your sun and moon traits and balances the opposites within you –– from the right and left sides of your brain to the masculine and feminine sides of your personality.

The benefits of practicing Hatha Yoga may be felt immediately. Your body may become more relaxed and your mind may become clearer after just one practice.

Some other benefits may occur with regular practice of Hatha Yoga, such as increased strength and proper posture.

Types of Hatha Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga, also called Power Yoga, is the most athletic type of Hatha Yoga. Developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga emphasizes intense stretching and building muscular strength.

A specific series of poses and breathing exercises are practiced in order to heat up your body and sweat out toxins.

The room temperature in which Ashtanga Yoga is practiced must be kept at approximately 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to keep your muscles supple. 

Bikram Yoga 

Bikram Yoga is a popular type of yoga that was created by Bikram Choudhury.

The Bikram Yoga practice consists of a sequence of 26 postures, which are each held for approximately 20 to 30 seconds. The room temperature in which Bikram Yoga is practiced should be approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 60% humidity.

The heated room is beneficial for warming up your muscles to allow a deeper stretch and to detoxify your body. 

Integral Yoga

Integral Yoga was originated by Swami Satchidananda. When practicing Integral Yoga, you participate in poses, breathing techniques, meditation and deep relaxation.

Integral Yoga also emphasizes the importance of eating a healthy diet and service to humanity.

Practitioners of Integral Yoga believe the purpose of a pose is more important than perfecting a pose.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga, established by B.K.S. Iyengar, makes extensive use of props, such as blocks, chairs and straps, to ensure the body is correctly aligned during a yoga pose.

Iyengar Yoga also places emphasis on building strength and endurance, encouraging relaxation, increasing flexibility and relieving ailments.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga, sometimes referred to as the “mother yoga,“ was initiated by Yogi Bhajan.

When practicing Kundalini Yoga, you practice poses, breathing, chanting and meditation to move energy through your body, specifically through your spine.

Kripalu Yoga

Kripalu Yoga was inspired by Kripalvananda. Kripalu is derived from the Sanskrit word ”kripal,” which means ”compassion.”

This type of yoga emphasizes the importance of your mind and body being treated equally.

There are three stages to progress through when practicing Kripalu Yoga. In the first stage, you must focus on your alignment, breathing and movement, without concern for how long you can hold a pose.

In the second stage, you can use meditation to help you hold the pose for a longer period of time.

The third and final stage involves using meditation to allow your body to move instinctively from one position to another, depending on what feels right to you at the time.


Viniyoga was developed by Shri Krishnamacharya and carried on by his son T.K.V. Desikachar. Krishnamacharya taught several well-known yoga gurus, including B.K.S. Iyengar.

In Viniyoga, you practice poses that are gentle and relaxed. Instead of trying to achieve perfect form when you practice poses, you only need to practice to meet your needs and capabilities.

Sivananda Yoga

Swami Sivananda, who was a medical doctor, yoga master and world spiritual teacher, created Sivananda Yoga.

This type of Hatha Yoga consists of a series of twelve poses: Headstand, Shoulder stand, Plow, Fish, Seated Forward Bend, Cobra, Locust, Bow, Spinal Twist, Crow, Standing Forward Bend and Triangle.

Sivananda Yoga is based on five main principles: proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet and positive thinking and meditation.