Yoga, which means "union" in Sanskrit, is considered a path to union with god or our divine self. What is generally referred to as practicing "yoga" is more specifically practicing "asanas" or yoga postures. There are many different types of yoga asana and meditation practices, but they all have the same goal of helping us purify our bodies and minds.
Ashtanga Yoga is the foundation of vinyasa flow yoga. The living guru of Ashtanga Yoga is Sri Pattabhi Jois, in Mysore,India. Ashtanga Yoga asanas are practiced in a specific sequential order, without variation. The philosophy of the Ashtanga Yoga asana series is that by practicing the same asanas, over time, you will not only gain mastery of those asanas, but also the mind which will not have to think about what asana comes next. The most particular aspect of the Ashtanga Yoga asana practice is the "jump back" - that is between each asana, the practitioner jumps back into a yoga flow (vinyasa) that includes Chataranga Dhandasana (Staff Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog), and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), which link one asana to the next in the series. Ashtanga yoga is generally considered a very dynamic or aerobic form of yoga asana practice, but it is accessible to practitioners of all ages and experience.
Vinyasa Yoga is a yoga practice where one asana flows smoothly into the next. While Vinyasa yoga has its roots in Ashtanga yoga, in Vinyasa yoga there is no specific sequence to the series of asanas practiced. Even though Vinyasa yoga tends to be a flowing practice, generally, Vinyasa yoga does not incorporate the "jump back" sequence between each posture as Ashtanga yoga does. Each vinyasa yoga teacher tends to develop a very specific style or variation of the practice, and may even modify traditional yoga asanas or develop their own unique postures. Regardless of the style of Vinyasa yoga, like Ashtanga Yoga, the practice is meant to heat the body, thereby cleansing the body's muscles and organs. Vinyasa yoga, generally speaking, is less aerobic than Ashtanga yoga, but more dynamic than some styles of yoga, such as Hatha or Kundalini Yoga.
Mantras are Sanskrit prayers. Mantras link Sanskrit words and syllables together in an invocation that is meant to be spoken out loud. The intention of the spoken Mantra is to move and harmonize the energy of the body. Some Mantras have a theme such as praying for peace, wisdom, liberation, or reverence to gods or gurus. Other mantras are composed specifically to circulate energy through and purify our seven Chakras (energy centers). The most known mantra is OM (or AUM) which is considered the divine sound or the voice of god, which stimulates energy movement in the Anja Chakra (the Third Eye).
Mudra literally means "seal." Yoga mudras are hand gestures that invoke the flow of energy in specific areas of our bodies and in specific Chakras. The two most commonly known mudras are Anjali Mudra (palms
together in prayer position) and Chin Mudra (tips of the index finger and thumb together). Mudras are often used as a compliment to meditations and mantras. They can also help one focus on areas of the body that need healing.