March 19, 2020 5 min read

What Is The Philosophy Behind Yoga? How It Works? And What Are The Different Yoga Types?

What is yoga, exactly? Is it just an exercise form? Is it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology? Or is it something else entirely?

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices with a 5,000-year history in ancient Indian philosophy.

In more recent years, it has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon poses that promote improved control of the mind and body and enhance well-being. This article explores the history of yoga, its philosophy and the different types of yoga.

Yoga Meditation - Yoga Poses, Yoga Postures

The History Of Yoga

There is no record on its chronology or specific origin other than that yoga developed in ancient India.

Yoga comes out of an oral tradition in which the teaching was transmitted directly from teacher to student. Male yoga practitioners are known as yogis, and female yoga practitioners are known as yoginis.

Over the years many different schools of yoga developed as the practice expanded its global reach and popularity.

The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the “Yoga Sutra” an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a guidebook on how to master the mind, control the emotions, and grow spiritually and serves for most of the yoga that is practiced today.

Different gurus and teachers traveled from India to America bringing with them various forms of yoga including kriya yoga popularized by Paramahansa Yoganada, and jnana-yoga conducted by Jiddu Krishnamurti. It was around the 1930s that yoga started becoming more widespread.

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Philosophy Of Yoga

The first principle of yoga philosophy is Ashima, which means non-harming to self and others. Some people interpret this to include not eating meat and animal products. To convey its spiritual message and guide sessions, yoga often uses the yogis imagination.

The seven main yoga branches are:

  • Hatha yoga

    This is the most popular form of yoga practiced in the West. Hatha yoga involves combining physical postures with breathing, energy locks and meditation techniques to purify and strengthen both the physical and esoteric bodies.
  • Raja yoga

    The Raja yoga focus on self-realization though mediation and strict adherence to a series of disciplinary steps known as the “eight limbs” of yoga.
  • Bhakti yoga

    Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion, involves love and tolerance.
  • Jnâna yoga

    Jnâna means ‘knowledge’. Jnâna Yoga draws the mind away from delusions generated by false emotions to clear the path of liberation and self-realization.
  • Naad yoga

    Naad yoga is the yoga of sounds, as naad is the essence of all sounds. The practice of Naad Yoga centers around conscious communication and chanting.
  • Laya Yoga

    Laya yoga works on the chakra and focusing on raising the kundalini energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine. The techniques used to mend, heal and strengthen the chakra and to awaken and raise the kundalini energy.
  • Karma Yoga

    This is a path of service that aims to create a future free from negativity and selfishness.

Yoga is a low-cost self-help approach to well-being. Approaching yoga with a specific goal in mind can help a person decide which branch to follow.

Woman Doing Yoga on Top of Building - Yoga With Adriene

Different Yoga Types

Yoga offers many health benefits such as improving flexibility, reducing stress, and improving overall wellness and physical fitness. Recent research has also linked the benefits of all types of yoga to increased bone density and improved sleep quality.

There are many styles of yoga, and no style is more authentic or superior to another. The key is to choose a class appropriate for your fitness level and goal in mind.

Here are the 7 major types of yoga

  • Hatha

    Hatha yoga simply refers to all the other styles of yoga that are grounded in a physical practice.
    Hatha yoga classes are best for beginners since they are usually paced slower than other yoga styles. Hatha classes today are a classic approach to breathing and exercises. If you are brand-new to yoga, hatha yoga is a great entry point to the practice.

  • Ashtanga

    This type of yoga uses ancient yoga teachings. Expect ashtanga to be hot, sweaty, and physically demanding. This is best explored if you are used to a vigorous workout and is not intended for someone just starting to become more active.

  • Bikram

    Also known as “original” hot yoga. Bikram yoga has 26 poses that are always performed in the same way and in the same sequence. Bikram occurs in artificially heated rooms at temperatures of nearly 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. 
    “In general, hot yoga is safe for someone as long as they’re in good health,” say Laskowski.
    “It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor if you’re going to try an activity that could stress your body,” adds Laskowski.

  • Iyengar

    Iyengar yoga is a meticulous style of yoga, giving emphasis to proper form in a yoga pose. An Iyengar studio will usually stock wide array of yoga props - blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets, etc. - to help each student find proper alignment. if you have an injury or chronic condition, Iyengar is probably your best choice to ensure you get the knowledgeable instruction you need.

  • Restorative

    Also known as Yin yoga, is a slow-paced style that is meant to be meditative and relaxing. The focus is to lengthen the connective tissue – the tendons, fascia and ligaments – in order to improve flexibility and increase circulation in the joints.

  • Vinyasa

    Combines rhythmic breathing with a series of flowing postures for a vigorous mind-body workout. Each class has a theme, which is explored through yoga scripture, chanting, meditation, asana, pranayama, and music. Vinyasa yoga can be physically intense. Since it links breath to movement, Vinyasa yoga is fluid and quickly paced – perfect for those looking for something athletic and dynamic.

  • Kundalini

    Kundalini yoga is a system of meditation that aims to releas the kundalini energy in your body said to be trapped, or coiled, in the lower spine.

There are many more types of yoga practices and each one offers something for everyone. When you find a type or a studio or instructor style that works for you, stick with it. Consistency will allow you to release many benefits, both mental and physical. Yoga provides many benefits and its emerging popularity is a wonderful practice to incorporate into your life for physical, mental, and spiritual balance.

Women Practicing Yoga - Yoga To The People - Yoga Benefits


Yoga is a 5,000-years-old practice that has changed and developed over the year. Ancient yoga was less about physical training and more about spiritual energy. On the other hand, modern yoga focuses on stretches and stimulate inner peace and physical energy.

Yoga suits almost everyone, whatever the limitations. The key is to choose a class appropriate for your fitness level and goal in mind.
People with certain conditions should approach yoga slowly and with caution and check with doctor if you’re going to try an activity that could stress your body.

Yoga is highly recommended it can support a balanced, active lifestyle and offers many health benefits.


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Niv Cohen
Niv Cohen

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