Unity and integrity… Integrity of the body, mind and the spirit… Yoga.. Yoga means unity and integrity and being one and being a whole, so why do we face different types of yoga in our daily lives? Why does hatha yoga exist? Why do we name a certain style of yoga as vinyasa yoga? And then, what is yin yoga?


In eastern philosophy, yoga is just yoga. It does not have different names and styles. Only the time during which you stay in poses can change, duration of your stay in a pose can be long or short. However, yoga is not divided into styles and types according to the duration of your stay in poses in the eastern world. In eastern culture, yoga is simply “yoga.”
Yoga has started to be named differently according to different styles after it was introduced to the west. More rapid, dynamic and flowing yoga classes are called “vinyasa yoga.” We can also define these classes as “yang” classes. Calmer, more static classes with long-awaited poses are named “yin yoga.” Actually, “yin” and “yang” represent female and male energies, i.e. everything in nature and life are either “yin” or “yang.” “Yin” and “yang” refer to opposite poles like dark and light, female and male, cold and hot. Moreover, “hatha yoga” can be defined as a style of yoga in order to be performed to harmonize female and male energies in our bodies.
It is so natural for us not to have so much time for ourselves in the daily life in the western world. Therefore, we find ourselves in gym halls after we spend a tiring day at work. When we go to gym, our aim is to “achieve the most in the shortest time.” Sometimes we feel ourselves strong, more active and join dynamic classes. Sometimes we feel tired and we wish to have peace in calmer classes.
This is exactly why the western world divided yoga into styles and addressed the working people of metropolises. If we feel ourselves strong, energetic, active and ready to sweat that day, “vinyasa yoga” can be the ideal choice for us. “Vinyasa” means flow. In vinyasa yoga classes, we flow from one pose into another with our breath like a river. Non-interruptedly, we change from one pose into another with the help of breath, and like flowing water. And as if we are dancing. Instructors can add “surya namaskar” (sun salutation series) at the beginning, middle and end of these classes. And also they can ask us to perform a set of “surya namaskar” between some sitting poses, thus we can overcome and eliminate any stiffness in our bodies if there are some at that time.
“Ashtanga yoga” is one of the most well-known of vinyasa classes. It is a style of flow yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois. It has an unchangeable flow, and it is not performed during new or full moon because we do not want to hurt our bodies with moon’s effects. This style of yoga uses “ujjayi” (hero) breath, “mula” (root) and “uddiyana” (abdominal) “bandha”s (locks) and we always have a “drishti” (a perspective) in the poses.
On some days, we may feel something different in our bodies but we cannot even define what it is. This may result because of a change in our male and female energies. One day, our male energy may prevail and the other day we may be under the influence of our femal energy. Hatha yoga can be the best thing to do under such a circumstance. In simple, hatha yoga is the yoga of sun and moon, i.e. the unification of male and female energies. We try to balance these two energies when doing hatha yoga. A bit female, a bit male… After doing “purvottanasana” (reverse plank), we do “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend) in order to regulate and balance the two energies in our bodies. “Purvottanasana” means looking towards the east, which is a male asana. However, “paschimottanasana” means the posture heading towards the west, which is a female asana. For this reason, we do poses affecting sun and moon, male and female energies, in hatha yoga. Thus, we balance the energies in our bodies and we try to harmonize our mind, body and spirit– which is the final target of yoga.
One day, we may feel ourselves tired and exhausted. Such a day may be a good opportunity to experience yin yoga and spoil ourselves. Yin yoga is a style of yoga that has come out as a synthesis of hatha yoga and Chinese Taoist tradition. In fact, what we should do is to stay longer in asanas, and feel the relaxation and stretch in our connective tissues.
Yin yoga aims at relaxation and stretch. Finding peace in our bodies and mind. Since we aim to relax and stretch up to our connective tissues in yin yoga, we enter into poses and we give ourselves in. We loosen our muscles. However, it is out of question for us to loosen our muscles in hatha and vinyasa yoga. We tighten our muscles all the time when doing hatha and vinyasa yoga, and we try to warm our bodies up by using “ujjayi” (hero) breathing and thus, aim to eliminate the risk of injuries. However in yin yoga, we aim to give ourselves in, and accept the situation we are in. Under such a circumstances, relaxation and peace prevail. Sometimes, our mood and bodies let us do yin yoga but sometimes the instructors asks us to do such a pose that we cannot stay even a single moment in that pose. We should not forget that the philosophy of yoga is associated with flexibility and acceptance. In that case, we can accept this situation and we can try another pose that has the same affect. What does this mean? We are not depended on a single pose in yin yoga. If our aim is to work a certain part of our body and affect our internal organs, then we can achieve this goal with many different asanas, not just one asana. This is what differs yin yoga from others. If our aim is to work the hip external rotator muscles, i.e. the gluteal muscles and iliotibial band, then we can achieve this goal with many poses like “shoelace”, “square” or “sleeping swan” and we can stimulate our gall bladder.
Yoga is such a flexible and wide world. The western world has adopted classical yoga to its own habits, and turned it into a system and philosophy acceptable to everyone.
In fact, yoga is just “yoga”. Yoga asanas are all the same irrespective of what type of yoga we are performing. Only the duration of our stay in the poses change. We can sometimes use props and try to modify the poses for our bodies.
Whatever it is named, yoga is the art of being a whole in the past or today’s world, in the west or the east. It is a mental and bodily relaxation and stretch, finding peace, and acceptance.
The only matter is to stay yin, calm ourselves, accept and give ourselves in, under a yang pose or circumstance whenever doing yoga or in real life. Similarly, we should become yang, get more energized, strong and active in a ying pose or situation if we are supposed to do so.
We should not forget that yin and yang is an indispensable whole. Every yin element can also be yang, and every yang element can be yin at the same time. What we should do is to balance our yin and yang energies, listen to our inner voice and insights, and meet our instant needs. This can sometimes be running or jogging, dancing, meditating, jumping, a yang style yoga, or a yin style yoga. What can we expect and hope more if we balance our yin and yang energies and if one does not dominate the other?