Yoga is a multifaceted and ancient practice that originated in India thousands of years ago and incorporates physical postures, breathing, meditation, and even ethical guidelines, and philosophical principles to achieve overall well-being and self-realization. Yoga comes in many forms from slow yin and deeply relaxing restorative to fast paced Vinyasa flow and even specifically sequenced styles like Ashtanga, all generally aimed at creating harmony within oneself and with the surrounding world.

What is Yoga? 

The word yoga may conjure up images of lithe bodies contorting into pretzel-like shapes, all while emanating an aura of Zen calm, but what is yoga, really? And is it just for the super-flexible and spiritually inclined? Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that encompasses much more than just physical postures. It’s a holistic approach to well-being, integrating physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. While the physical benefits, like increased flexibility and strength, are undeniable, yoga’s true power lies in its ability to quieten your mind, reduce stress, and cultivate inner peace.

The beauty of yoga is its diversity of forms and styles and accessibility. Try to ignore the intimidating studio photos and rest assured that yoga can be practiced by anyone, anywhere. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a complete beginner, there’s a style of yoga that’s perfect for you. Here are some examples of very different styles of practices all under the umbrella of yoga. 

  • Hatha Yoga: is gentle and introspective and focuses on physical postures, breathing techniques, and relaxation. The word “hatha” is derived from two Sanskrit words: “ha,” which means sun, and “tha,” which means moon, and reflects the balance between opposing forces that’s central to the practice.
  • Vinyasa Yoga: emphasizes smooth transitions between poses, synchronized with your breath, creating a flowing and energetic practice. The word “vinyasa” is derived from the Sanskrit term “nyasa,” which means “to place,” and the prefix “vi,” which means “in a special way.” Vinyasa can be physically challenging due to the continuous movement and transitions between poses, and it’s perfect for those who like to move and groove.
  • Kundalini Yoga: focuses on awakening your inner energetic fire, thought to be coiled at the base of your spine. Through chanting, mantras, intention, breathwork, movement, and meditation, this practice aims to ignite your inner spark and can be both energizing and calming. 
  • Ashtanga Yoga: is a rigorous and structured style, following a set series of postures in a specific order and breathing pattern. The word “ashtanga” is derived from two Sanskrit words: “ashta,” which means eight, and “anga,” which means limbs. The eight limbs of yoga include ethical guidelines, physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and other practices designed to promote spiritual growth and well-being.
  • Yin Yoga: is an invitation to slow down and surrender to stillness. This passive style targets deep connective tissues and fascia, holding postures for several minutes to improve flexibility and release tension. 
  • Restorative Yoga: uses props to support your body in comfortable postures. This gentle practice fosters deep relaxation and rejuvenation. 
  • Bikram Yoga: is similar to Ashtanga in that it’s a specific set of 26 postures, but practiced in a heated room (around 105°F) which leads to intense sweating.
  • Aerial Yoga: allows you to perform postures and inversions with the support of a fabric sling. This playful and acrobatic style adds an element of fun and challenge to the practice. 

Yoga is versatile and adaptable, making it accessible to people of various ages, fitness levels, and backgrounds. It can be practiced as a form of physical exercise, a tool for stress management and relaxation, a spiritual pursuit, or a combination of these aspects. This is just a glimpse into the vast and vibrant tapestry of different yoga styles. With so many options to explore, there’s a perfect match waiting for you.

What Makes Yin Different from Restorative Yoga?

In the ever-evolving landscape of yoga, two particular styles, yin yoga and restorative yoga, often get mistaken for twins. While both offer peaceful escapes from the daily grind, and use different props like yoga blocks and blankets, their approaches to relaxation differ, like two sides of the same serene coin. Although often used interchangeably, yin and restorative yoga are two different styles of yoga that can serve up entirely different experiences. 

Yin yoga is a deep dive into stillness. In yin, postures are held for 3-5 minutes, allowing gravity and your own body weight to passively stretch your connective tissue and fascia. It’s about surrender, not pushing or forcing, and holding postures for extended periods can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, promoting deep relaxation and stress reduction. Yin is a journey inward, exploring the quiet corners of your being.

Restorative yoga is a practice of complete surrender, where props cradle and fully support your body in blissful comfort, allowing a complete relaxation and release of tension. Unlike yin, restorative yoga emphasizes minimal exertion, focusing on simply receiving the support and allowing your body to melt into the pose. The stillness and comfort of restorative yoga can also create a perfect environment for introspection and self-discovery.

We unintentionally stress our joints any time we engage in movement. While yin yoga embraces stressing our joints, restorative yoga supports every aspect of your body in an attempt to relieve tension. While some may assume that these more passive styles of yoga are for practitioners who are new to yoga, older or recovering from injury, both styles are incredibly valuable, especially for those of us who have more yang/active lifestyles. 

Are you curious about yin yoga? Kerry offers weekly yin classes in person or online geared especially for folks over 50. You can also explore free pre-recorded yoga practices on her Youtube Channel