Hatha yoga is often described as "twisting yourself into a pretzel." While this branch of the traditional yoga system certainly includes some pretzel-like positions, there are many styles to choose from, and the poses can always be adapted so as not to require a body like a bendy doll. There are as many styles of Hatha yoga as there are teachers; some are more well known than others.
B.K.S. Iyengar, who turned 93 in December 2011, is the author of one of the most familiar books on Hatha yoga, called "Light on Yoga," first published in 1966. The Iyengar yoga style aims for precision and perfection in every yoga pose, or asana. To help students achieve this, classes use various props, such as belts, blocks and ropes. An Iyengar class also teaches the sequencing of groups of asanas.
Sometimes called power yoga, the Ashtanga yoga style was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who lived from 1915 to 2009, and is based on the teachings of the sage Patanjali, whose "eight limbs" of yoga are the cornerstone of yoga practice. According to its official website, Ashtanga yoga requires synchronizing the breath through a series of poses. This is called a vinyasa, or flow, and is designed to produce a detoxifying sweat and internal heat, which is said to improve circulation and create mental calm.
The most obvious feature of the Bikram yoga style is the classroom environment, heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity. This is thought to facilitate the softening of the joints and removal of toxins. According to Bikram's Yoga College of India, "a warm body is a flexible body." Developed by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s, a Bikram class teaches a set sequence of 26 postures and breathing techniques.
Integral yoga was founded by Swami Satchidananda in 1966. Its classes teach Hatha yoga as part of a program that seeks to harmoniously develop all aspects of the individual. Integral yoga gives equal weight to spiritual aspects as to physical, mental and emotional aspects of students. There are more than 50 Integral Yoga centers around the world, according to its website.
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