Over the years many styles of yoga have developed. Likewise, more than than 900 asanas and variations have been defined. These can be combined in various ways to form sequences. Each asana offers specific benefits for the body and mind. Changing the sequence can alter the effects of each. The most important elements of a good yoga class are meditation, sivasana and consciously connecting breath and movement throughout class. Pranayama, or focused breathing exercises, are also an important part of yoga practice.
When yoga was first introduced in the West, there was only one style: Hatha Yoga. Historically, Hatha encompasses all the styles of physical practice. Today it has evolved to mean something else, usually slow, classical yoga with lots of holding the poses.
Over the years, various philosophies and sequences have developed. Think of the yoga styles like brands. Yoga has been around about 5,000 years. Along the way, teachers have created their own brands of yoga. I created this guide as a way to compare and contrast the different styles, teachers and studios.
Yoga Alliance provides some basic macro categories for yoga styles. These include Gentle Yoga, Spiritually-Oriented, Flow, Alignment-Oriented, Fitness, Hot, and Specialty Yoga. Keep in mind most yoga classes will contain multiple elements, for example a class can be gentle, spiritual and alignment-oriented.