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What do all these Yoga Class Names Mean Anyways?

Updated: Dec 26, 2023



When you walk into a yoga class, the title of the class can give you an idea of what you are getting into, but each teacher makes their own decisions on how that will look. Since this discrepancy can confuse students, I wrote a post explaining the differences in classes I teach personally and the science, philosophy, and culture around what to expect from my courses. How I teach might be how another teacher instructs, but we are all unique people with unique training. However, the core of these classes should remain the same.


(Note this article is still underconstruction. Citations, Links and additional content are to be added at a later date)


The most traditional and Popular

Hatha, Vinyasa and Iyengar 



Hatha means sun and moon, and the deeper meaning can be understood using the Doa concept of Yin and Yang. Many RYT200 (Registered Yoga Teacher) have Hatha training or vinyasa derived from Hatha. Hatha, like Yin and Yang, is focused on balance. Yin- is the quiet, dark side, and Yang is the hot, direct, intense side. In a Hatha-built practice, the teacher would be instructing and sequencing the poses (asana), breath work (pranayama), meditation, and possibly Kriya (teachings) and or mantra (repeated seed sounds) in unison to guide students to balance their whole being (mind, body, and spirit). My first and foremost yoga training is from the College of San Mateo in Hatha. I also trained in various martial arts, dance, and qigong. In teaching my students, I have found a practice to be most effective when the students are actively working on these skills: self-awareness, practices of inner peace, self-regulation, and reversing unhealthy movement patterns. I do this by sequencing my classes using different modalities in the traditional Hatha way. 


Vinyasa- derived from Hatha, usually including sun salutations (Surya Namaskar)- is a flow-based practice focused on asan. This form is prevalent in the USA because it can be easily adapted as more of a workout than a spiritual or holistic practice. When I teach vinyasa, I teach slower, allowing the poses to do their work, building muscle, lengthening muscle, and having students learn to control their monkey minds (senseless chatter). Many yoga studios teach vinyasa in a way that is separate from original yogic teachings and can come across as a cardio workout. If you are wanting to practice yoga in away that is more traditional and less appropriated for a USA audience, I might advise avoiding this. It can be a lot of fun, and enjoyment is important, but it’s not ideal as a primary practice for a hollistic treatment or learning of philosphy. 

Reccommeded for: Maybe consider Vinayasa, if you have no major physical imparements and have the basic anatomy down. If you are new to yoga, or have physical limitations, I reccommend Hatha, or the next one on this list Iyengar.

Iyengar- This practice was developed by B.K.S Iyengar He is the reason your gym or yoga studio has blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps. He made yoga accessible to all body types because he allowed for tools to aid students in proper alignment. Restorative is based on some of his teachings. If you are looking for a heavy autonomy-focused, physical therapy-type practice, you want to find an Iyengar teacher. While I am focused heavily on body mechanics and anatomy, I am not an Iyengar teacher. 


Calming Practices->Restorative and Yin



Restorative and Yin Yoga share various aspects and are sometimes combined in my classes; my cozy yoga class does such a thing. But they are distinct styles that have their own focuess. Keep reading to learn what those are.


Restorative

Restorative is the most relaxing and accessible form of yoga. Using teachings initially from Iyengar and then adopted and adapted by USA-based teachers, this form of yoga uses gravity and props to allow students to stay in a pose for 3 minutes or longer (average 5-12 minutes). I was taught through Denaya Dailey and by subbing other restorative teachers over the years. I sequence restorative by combining it with yin, meditation, and sometimes sound healing.


Recommended For: I highly recommend this type of class for folks with chronic stress, insomnia, anxiety, hormonally or dysfunctioning nervous system illnesses (like Fibromyalgia and CFS), and for folks with chronic pain.


Note: As a person who has recovered and stabilized many health conditions, I have a unique perspective and practice with restorative.

Yin-

Yin is unique in that it combines ancient Chinese medicine with ancient yoga philosophy. Yin training includes knowledge of the meridians, some qigong, and anatomy. This can be the most mentally challenging class for busy minds because the poses are semi-active and held for 90 seconds to five minutes on average. Why? It takes a minimum, on average, of 90 seconds to lengthen the muscle fibers (making you more flexible) and a minimum of 3 minutes to length and facial tissue and start to work on breaking up scar tissue. For this reason, I recommend yin for folks who have struggled with flexibility and want that as their primary focus and folks with chronic pain who can hold poses like this (get an ok from your doctor first if you are unsure; make sure to bring in a doc about yin, since most doctors don’t know the difference). I also recommend yin for folks who seriously want to improve their ability to focus and train their tolerance of pain and discomfort. - No yoga practice should be painful, but discomfort is healthy to work through. I combine yin with restorative or hatha; I am currently working on a yin-specific certification. 


Fittness Focused



Yoga Fit

This style combines personal training and kinesiological science with hatha and vinyasa. It is a good practice for teaching in schools and environments where you may be unable to talk about yoga philosophy (although it is a shame). I use some yoga fit in my intermediate + classes. I recommend Yoga Fit for folks who like gym classes or weight lifting. 


There are many more types of yoga out there, and I recommend researching before attending a class.


Unique to Misted Forest Yoga

Here are some amazing things I do in my classes and working with privates


Yang or intermediate + difficulty physical classes

I often combine dance and martial arts practices with yoga for the more active classes. Why? For folks serious about strength and flexibility training, to make things fun and dynamic and to change things. 




Brain Health and Balance


Anyone who takes my classes will tell you how much of a nerd I am. I often drop facts about the body, brain, and nervous system and add brain and nervous system training into my classes. I can also help people train one-on-one, not just with posture but balance and mental health issues, and decrease neurological problems with practices that are scientifically shown to improve brain health. 


Particular meditation and breathing techniques: to decrease the amygdala (calming hypervigilance and phobias), reduce anxiety (by training and regulating the breath and heart rate), increase the speed and ability to go from an instinctual response to logic (pathway to the frontal cortex) 


Progressive balance training:  to build and strengthen the cerebellum, which has been shown to reduce falling accidental injuries, improve focus, and reduce the negative aspects of conditions such as ADHD.  



The article is unfinished and will be added at a later date. Sign up for the newsletter to get updates.

Comment below for any questions.


Namaste and Sparkles,


Misted Forest


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