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Physical Yoga
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July 11, 2011 - 8:55 pm
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The Many Branches of Physical Yoga

Yoga is broken into six main branches: hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, raja yoga and tantra yoga. Of the six main branches, hatha yoga is perhaps the most well known form of yoga in the west. Hatha yoga is physical yoga, or the branch of yoga that uses physical forms.

The physical forms of yoga, which practice asanas, are the types of yoga that are well known in the western world. In hatha yoga, asanas are combined with breathing techniques called pranayama and meditation to bring the body, mind and spirit into perfect harmony and the health of the entire body.

As more individuals study hatha yoga, it is broken into various different types and styles, or branches, based on the techniques and purpose of the teacher. Branches include the gentle beginner classes that focus on encouraging new yoga students to intense classes for long-time practitioners who want to meet personal goals.


Anusara is a relatively new style of hatha yoga developed in 1997 by John Friend. This particular style of yoga encourages students to try the poses to the best of their ability and is thus a gentle form of hatha yoga. Anusara is an upbeat yoga that is ideal for beginners to yoga who feel nervous or do not yet have the flexibility for more intense forms of hatha yoga.


Ashtanga is a fast-paced, energetic form of intense yoga that was developed in Mysore, India. The movements flow from one to the next in smooth motions while students and teachers focus on breathing techniques with each movement. Students and teachers move through six sequences of strenuous poses and this is inspiration for both power yoga and vinyasa or flow yoga.

Power Yoga:

Power yoga is one well-known type of yoga that is designed to build and strengthen muscles while incorporating proper breathing techniques. It is a westernized version of yoga that was developed in the United States based on ashtanga and western cardio exercises. Unlike most yoga styles, power yoga flows from one asana to the next without pauses, resulting in a fast-paced aerobic exercise with the benefits of yoga postures and breathing.

Vinyasa Yoga:

Vinyasa yoga, which is also called flow yoga or vinyasa flow yoga depending on the teacher, focuses on breathing while moving from one pose to the next. Like power yoga and ashtanga yoga, each asana flows into the next accompanied by an inhale and exhale. Vinyasa is a very physical form of yoga, but the movements and flow is less intense than power yoga or ashtanga yoga. It developed from ashtanga yoga and evolved to the flow classes available around the United States.


Hatha yoga and Ashtanga are the base of the physical forms of yoga. Every type of physical yoga, from the beginner gentle classes of anusara to the intense options of power yoga stem from hatha or ashtanga yoga. As more practitioners learn yoga, new classes and branches of physical yoga are developed to reach different physical goals.

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