Top 3 lineages of Yoga used in modern day yoga in the West


Are you confused about all of the various styles of yoga?  I don’t blame you, anyone would get confused between AcroYoga and Kundalini, Bikram and Ashtanga….  I can barely pronounce them much less understand them! No wonder people get intimidated with yoga.


Not to worry, I will break down the basic lineages of yoga styles taught here in North America.  And don’t forget to check back next week when I will go into all of the more modern variations that have happened in the last 30 years.


Please note that the beautiful science and art of yoga is a large umbrella with many different styles and lineages under it, many of which do not include any physical activity like Kriya, Karma, etc.


Here in North America we have largely focused on the physical aspects of yoga, the asana (postures) practice, which is only one limb of the Raja Yoga, or Royal Yoga. All of the following styles all fall under Hatha Yoga which is the physical practice that falls under Raja Yoga.  So today, we will focus on various lineages of Hatha Yoga.



Krishnamacharya–  Krishnamacharya is the father of the physical, modern day yoga that we practice here in the West. Although he never taught in the West, many of his disciples came to the U.S. to spread the word of yoga and we have them to thank for our modern day practice. Yoga Journal said:


“You may never have heard of him but Tirumalai Krishnamacharya influenced or perhaps even invented your yoga. Whether you practice the dynamic series of Pattabhi Jois, the refined alignments of B. K. S. Iyengar, the classical postures of Indra Devi, or the customized vinyasa of Viniyoga, your practice stems from one source: a five-foot, two-inch Brahmin born more than one hundred years ago in a small South Indian village.”[1]


The following three students of Krishnamacharya helped to further the modern day yoga craze.


Pattabhi Jois– Although Jois never learn English and thus didn’t teach in North America, his lineage came over to the U.S. and developed a strong following.  We get the very active and gymnast style of yoga from Jois who developed Ashtanga Yoga (of eight-limb yoga).



Iyengar– B.K.S. Iyengar came to the U.S. in the 70’s.  The Iyengar method has a strong emphasis on alignment and technique. Students are taught very precise alignment, using props like folding chairs and straps if needed.  They may hold the postures for long periods of time and do not progress to harder postures until they are absolutely physically and mentally prepared.


TKV Desikachar– Son of Krishnamacharya, went on to teach and develop his lineage in the U.S. as well.  His style of yoga offers many modifications and focuses on the therapeutic benefits, believing that you should always adjust the practice to fit the needs of the student.


Most yoga teachers in North America thread these three lineages together.  We get the active and challenging postures of Ashtanga, like handstand and lotus, then we add in the very precise alignment of Iyengar.  Lastly, we fine-tune the practice for the individual to accommodate any injuries or specific needs, just like Desikachar would do.  The elusive Power and Flow (or Vinyasa) yogas are a braiding together of the top three styles.


Check back next week and I will go into more of the modern day yogas like Forrest Yoga and AcroYoga!





[1]  Pagés Ruiz, F. (2007, August 28). Krishnamacharya’s Legacy: Modern Yoga’s Inventor. Retrieved June 24, 2015.

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