Beyond Om: The Many Styles of Yoga

Pick the style of yoga that's right for you

By Heather Hatfield
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

Bikram, Ashtanga, Kripalu, Sivananda, Iyengar ... while these may sound Greek to most people, they are actually different yoga styles, derived from India more than 5,000 years ago. No longer only for the flower children of the '60s, yoga is now mainstream, with more than 20 million people in North America practicing yoga as exercise for the mind and body, according to the Yoga Education and Research Center.

But with so many yoga styles available, it may seem like a daunting task for the beginner to tell one from the next. Before you can say "om," seasoned yoga experts explain to WebMD the philosophy of yoga, what the different yoga styles involve, and how you can pick a style that is right for your body -- and mind.

The Philosophy

Hatha yoga is the yoga style that is mainly practiced in the U.S., and within it, are many variations, including Bikram and Iyengar. Although these variations differ, each type -- no matter the branch or name -- is based on the same underlying principle.

"The philosophy of yoga is that it focuses on the combination of body, mind, and spirit," says Elise Browning Miller, MA, a certified Iyengar yoga teacher in Mt. View, Calif., who has been teaching since 1976. "It's connecting with your self on a deeper basis."

Yoga is about quieting the fluctuations of the mind, explains Miller.