Hatha Yoga: One of the 9 Branches on the Tree of Yoga

Hatha yoga is philosophically rooted in the tantric movement. It uses the body as a tool for inner exploration. Hatha yoga aims to purify the body and therefore the mind. This is achieved through the use of asana (postures,) mudras (gestures,) pranyama (breath control,) and kriyas (cleansing techniques.)

Hatha yoga is the umbrella term for yoga that uses physical practices to achieve the goals of yoga. Although any form of physical yoga is classified as Hatha yoga, if you attend a "Hatha yoga" class, it probably means a gentle form of yoga. While a Hatha yoga class is usually a general, slow-to-medium paced class, the style of teaching and level of difficulty varies from teacher to teacher ­ many Hatha yoga teachers have studied under various yoga traditions and combined them in their own personal way. Generally a class will include posture work with an emphasis on the breath, a final relaxation, and possibly little chanting and meditation. A Hatha yoga class is a good introduction to yoga and the postures are easily adapted to suit any level of student. The following are styles of Hatha yoga you may come across.

Iveygar Yoga

Iyengar yoga takes a precise view of the yoga postures. B.K.S. Iyengar was instrumental in bringing Iyengar yoga to the West in the 1960's, so many yoga teachers have practiced this form at one time or another along their path. Mr. Iyengar, who is in his mid eighties, still teaches yoga in Pune, India. He believes the body has its own intelligence, and that by focusing on the body's physical alignment you can develop a full awareness and balance of your mind and body. When we are well aligned, we have the possibility of freedom.

Iyengar yoga generally features long posture holding times. It makes use of props, such as blankets, chairs, wooden blocks and belts to help achieve and maintain correct alignment. These props mean that this form of yoga is easily adapted to cater to different levels of strength, experience, and flexibility.

Excerpted from the book The Yoga Bible: the definitive guide to yoga postures by Christina Brown. Published in Great Britain by Godsfield Press. Ltd.

Kripalu Yoga

Kripalu Yoga style has been called "devotion in motion." Kripalu classes may range from the more gentle, to moderate, to the more vigorous, depending on the teacher and class composition. Each class is designed to bring the body and the mind together through the breath (pranayama), and then move into warm-ups to stretch the entire body, traditional poses (asanas) and posture flows (vinyasas). Classes have an ending in meditation time and a time for deep relaxation (shavasana).

Kripalu Yoga is a proven and powerful transformative practice that integrates body, mind and spirit. In Kripalu classes, students experience the heart of yoga and learn how to take it off the yoga mat and into their daily lives. The Kripalu philosophy of teaching has evolved from the guru-disciple tradition to a paradigm of self-sourcing and empowering the learner. The Kripalu curriculum is built around the following core teachings: the unity of body/mind/spirit, the sacredness of the moment, the inborn divinity of each individual, the awakening of Witness Consciousness and the conscious use of energy. The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, located in the town of Lenox in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to living and teaching yoga. Folks at Kripalu been providing experiential yoga instruction and related spiritual education to people of all cultural and religious backgrounds for more than 20 years.

Visit www.kripalu.org

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga classes are specially modified for women in any stage of pregnancy. During pregnancy, yoga provides an opportunity to develop greater vitality and awareness of your body that is now home for two. Through gentle postures, breathwork and meditation, you will learn to cultivate flexibility, calm and confidence that can enhance relaxation, comfort and enjoyment during pregnancy and can ease the birthing process. Appropriate for all stages of pregnancy and for students who are new to yoga as well as those with experience. For those more than 24 weeks pregnant, and beginners to yoga, registration is with permission of the instructor.