So finally you have made your mind that you want to embrace Yoga?
Well, first of all I must congratulate you that you have taken the right decision to include Yoga in your life:).
And I can assure you that you will never ever regret for taking this step in future.
If you ask me… I would say, to me Yoga is a journey… a journey of enlightenment, a journey to balance and harmonize the body, mind and emotions which allows us to withdraw from the chaos of the world and find a quiet space within, a journey that leads us to a healthy ,vibrant and balanced life.
But that is what I believe…but why you should think in the same way that I do?
I think it is very important for you to know what Yoga is all about, why you should follow it? And what benefits you will get after practicing it?
And I honestly feel that before starting this journey you have the right to know all these questions.
In this article I will try to shed some light on these topics so that you can start your journey only after knowing all the facts.
So brace yourself here we go 🙂
What is Yoga?
Yoga is the oldest physical discipline in existence. The exact origins of yoga are unknown, but it is thought to be at least five thousand years old. The earliest evidence of yoga can be traced back to about 3000 B.C.
The original purpose of the postures and breathing exercises was to bring stability and relaxation so practitioners could prepare for the rigors of meditation, sitting still and alert for long periods of time.
The word yoga has its roots in the Sanskrit language and means to merge, join or unite. Yoga is a form of exercise based on the belief that the body and breath are intimately connected with the mind and by controlling the breath and holding the body in steady poses, or asanas, yoga creates harmony.
Yoga uses movement, breath, posture, relaxation and meditation in order to establish a healthy and balanced approach to living.
Modern scholars have defined yoga as the classical Indian science that concerns itself with the search for the soul and the union between the individual, whose existence is finite, and the Divine, which is infinite.
Yoga is one of the original concepts which today would be labelled as holistic. That means that the body is related to the breath; both are related to the brain; in turn this links with the mind, which is a part of consciousness.
The essence of yoga is to be in the driver’s seat of life. Control is a key aspect of yoga: control of the body, breath and mind.
The secret of yoga practice lies in a simple but important word: balance. In every area of our life, yoga represents balanced moderation.
So we can conclude that Yoga has a unique way of strengthening and toning your body, improving flexibility and enhancing your sense of overall well being. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of that great journey for you!
What is Hatha Yoga?
The system of yoga used most often in the West is called Hatha yoga. The word Hatha is a composite of Ha, which means sun and Tha which means moon. Yoga is the union between them, suggesting that the healthy joining of opposites – in this case, the mind and body – leads to strength, vitality and peace of mind.
Hatha yoga is the physical aspect of the practice of yoga. Hatha yoga emphasizes asanas (practice of postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) and dhyana (meditation). It aims to balance different energy flows within the human body.
As a form of exercise, hatha yoga consists of asanas or postures that embody controlled movement, concentration, flexibility, and conscious breathing. About half of the nearly 200 asanas are practiced widely in the West.
The postures range from the basic to the complex, from the easily accomplished to the very challenging. While the movements tend to be slow and controlled, they provide an invigorating workout for the mind and body, including the internal organs.
Yoga exercises are designed to ease tense muscles, to tone up the internal organs, and to improve the flexibility of the body’s joints and ligaments. The aim of proper yoga exercise is to improve suppleness and strength. Each posture is performed slowly in fluid movements. Violent movements are avoided; they produce a buildup of lactic acid, causing fatigue.
Hatha yoga is a complete fitness program and will release endorphins in the brain as well as any regular exercise program. Yoga postures stretch, extend, and flex the spine, while exercising muscles and joints, keeping the body strong and supple.
When done in conjunction with breathing techniques, hatha yoga postures stimulate circulation, digestion and the nervous and endocrine systems. As a workout, yoga can be intense, easy, or somewhere in between.
Hatha yoga does not aim to raise the heart rate (although variations such as Ashtanga, Power Yoga, or the flow series taught by Bikram Choudhury may) or work on specific muscle groups.
According to a recent Roper poll, six million Americans now practice hatha yoga. Furthermore, yoga’s visibility and viability as an effective exercise program has been increased by the endorsements of celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Sting, Madonna, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton, Kareem Abdul Jabar and Evander Holyfield.
Yoga also is increasingly embraced by the medical community. Popular health practitioners who possess mainstream medical credentials and are open to alternative practices include Andrew Weil, M.D., Dean Ornish, M.D., Joan Borysenko, M.D., and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Such practitioners have long encouraged patients and clients to take up yoga.
Yoga is also an integral part of many stress management programs endorsed and paid for by HMOs and insurance companies. In fact, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center includes gentle yoga postures and breathing techniques to aid the recovery of patients with heart disease.
Yoga asanas can be practiced irrespective of age. But before starting practice you should check with your doctor if you suffer from a medical condition or have any doubts. If you have any concerns about your health or fitness, consult your physician, qualified health practitioner or yoga teacher before undertaking a yoga practice, especially with these specific health problems: high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, back or neck injury or recent surgery .
Benefits Of Yoga:
Health Benefits of Yoga:
Yoga has both preventative and therapeutic benefits. It has been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits to the body and the mind.
Yoga for Flexibility:
Yoga poses work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired.
At any level of yoga, you’ll probably start to notice benefits soon. In one study, people improved their flexibility by up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga.
Strike a Pose for Strength
Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, are very physical. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone.
But even less vigorous styles of yoga, such as Iyengar or hatha, can provide strength and endurance benefits.
Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs.
Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose.
When done right, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
Good For Joints:
Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by “squeezing and soaking” areas of cartilage that normally aren’t used.
Joint cartilage is like a sponge; it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.
Get a better Posture
When you’re stronger and more flexible, your posture improves.
Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose.
With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand “tall.”
Yoga also helps your body awareness. That helps you notice more quickly if you’re slouching or slumping, so you can adjust your posture.
Yoga gets your blood flowing. More specifically, the relaxation exercises you learn in yoga can help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet.
Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result.
Twisting poses are thought to wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses, such as Headstand, Handstand, and Shoulder stand, encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated.
This can help if you have swelling in your legs from heart or kidney problems.
Yoga also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. And it thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and by cutting the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood. This can lead to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes since blood clots are often the cause of these killers.
Breath and Breath !
Yoga usually involves paying attention to your breath, which can help you relax. It may also call for specific breathing techniques.
But yoga typically isn’t aerobic, like running or cycling, unless it’s an intense type of yoga or you’re doing it in a heated room.
Spinal disks—the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves—crave movement. That’s the only way they get their nutrients.
If you’ve got a well-balanced asana practice with plenty of backbends, forward bends, and twists, you’ll help keep your disks supple.
It’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis.
Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures.
I personally love “Downward Posing Dog” pose. It gives a nice stretch and is very welcoming after a tiring day.
In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae.
Less Stress, More Calm
You may feel less stressed and more relaxed after doing some yoga.
Some yoga styles use meditation techniques that help calm the mind. Focusing on your breathing during yoga can do that, too.
Drop your Blood Pressure with Yoga :
If you’ve got high blood pressure, you might benefit from yoga.
Two studies of people with hypertension, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, Savasana was associated with a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number—and the higher the initial blood pressure, the bigger the drop.
No Worries Please!
Yoga lowers cortisol levels. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider this.
Normally, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to an acute crisis, which temporarily boosts immune function. If your cortisol levels stay high even after the crisis, they can compromise the immune system.
Temporary boosts of cortisol help with long-term memory, but chronically high levels undermine memory and may lead to permanent changes in the brain.
Additionally, excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, osteoporosis (it extracts calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with the laying down of new bone), high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
In rats, high cortisol levels lead to what researchers call “food-seeking behavior” (the kind that drives you to eat when you’re upset, angry, or stressed).
The body takes those extra calories and distributes them as fat in the abdomen, contributing to weight gain and the risk of diabetes and heart attack.
Good for Your Heart
Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people who’ve had a stroke.
Yoga has also been linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and better immune system function.
Feeling sad? Sit in Lotus. Better yet, rise up into a backbend or soar royally into King Dancer Pose.
While it’s not as simple as that, one study found that a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol.
At the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function.
More dramatic left-sided activation was found in dedicated, long-term practitioners.
Move more, eat less—that’s the adage of many a dieter. Yoga can help on both fronts.
A regular practice gets you moving and burns calories, and the spiritual and emotional dimensions of your practice may encourage you to address any eating and weight problems on a deeper level.
Yoga may also inspire you to become a more conscious eater.
Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways: by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin.
So get your blood sugar levels down, and decrease your risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness….sounds cool right?
An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores.
People who practice Transcendental Meditation demonstrate the ability to solve problems and acquire and recall information better—probably because they’re less distracted by their thoughts, which can play over and over like an endless tape loop.
Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system.
The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs—comprising what Herbert Benson, M.D., calls the relaxation response.
Some advanced yogis can control their bodies in extraordinary ways, many of which are mediated by the nervous system.
Scientists have monitored yogis who could induce unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and, using a meditation technique, raise the temperature of their hands by 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
If they can use yoga to do that, perhaps you could learn to improve blood flow to your pelvis if you’re trying to get pregnant or induce relaxation when you’re having trouble falling asleep.
Do you ever notice yourself holding the telephone or a steering wheel with a death grip or scrunching your face when staring at a computer screen?
These unconscious habits can lead to chronic tension, muscle fatigue, and soreness in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and face, which can increase stress and worsen your mood.
As you practice yoga, you begin to notice where you hold tension: It might be in your tongue, your eyes, or the muscles of your face and neck.
If you simply tune in, you may be able to release some tension in the tongue and eyes. With bigger muscles like the quadriceps, trapezius, and buttocks, it may take years of practice to learn how to relax them.
Asana and pranayama probably improve immune function, but, so far, meditation has the strongest scientific support in this area.
It appears to have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the immune system, boosting it when needed (for example, raising antibody levels in response to a vaccine) and lowering it when needed (for instance, mitigating an inappropriately aggressive immune function in an autoimmune disease like psoriasis).
Yogis tend to take fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient.
A 1998 study published in The Lancet taught a yogic technique known as “complete breathing” to people with lung problems due to congestive heart failure. After one month, their average respiratory rate decreased from 13.4 breaths per minute to 7.6. Meanwhile, their exercise capacity increased significantly, as did the oxygen saturation of their blood.
In addition, yoga has been shown to improve various measures of lung function, including the maximum volume of the breath and the efficiency of the exhalation.
Yoga also promotes breathing through the nose, which filters the air, warms it (cold, dry air is more likely to trigger an asthma attack in people who are sensitive), and humidifies it, removing pollen and dirt and other things you’d rather not take into your lungs.
Boost Your Peace of Mind
Yoga quells the fluctuations of the mind, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. In other words, it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress.
And since stress is implicated in so many health problems—from migraines and insomnia to lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks—if you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll be likely to live longer and healthier.
Yoga can ease your pain.
According to several studies, asana, meditation, or a combination of the two, reduced pain in people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions.
When you relieve your pain, your mood improves, you’re more inclined to be active, and you don’t need as much medication.
Yoga can help you make changes in your life. In fact, that might be its greatest strength.
You may find that without making a particular effort to change things, you start to eat better, exercise more, or finally quit smoking after years of failed attempts.
Yoga and meditation build awareness. And the more aware you are, the easier it is to break free of destructive emotions like anger.
Studies suggest that chronic anger and hostility are as strongly linked to heart attacks as are smoking, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol. Yoga appears to reduce anger by increasing feelings of compassion and interconnection and by calming the nervous system and the mind.
It also increases your ability to step back from the drama of your own life, to remain steady in the face of bad news or unsettling events.
You can still react quickly when you need to—and there’s evidence that yoga speeds reaction time—but you can take that split second to choose a more thoughtful approach, reducing suffering for yourself and others.
As you read all the ways yoga improves your health, you probably noticed a lot of overlap. That’s because they’re intensely interwoven.
Change your posture and you change the way you breathe. Change your breathing pattern and you can change your nervous system. This is one of the great lessons of yoga:
Everything is connected—your hipbone to your anklebone, you to your community, your community to the world. This interconnection is vital to understanding yoga.
This holistic system simultaneously taps into many mechanisms that have additive and even multiplicative effects. This synergy may be the most important way of all that yoga heals.
Just believing you will get better can make you better. Unfortunately, many conventional scientists believe that if something works by eliciting the placebo effect, it doesn’t count.
But most patients just want to get better, so if chanting a mantra—like you might do at the beginning or end of yoga class or throughout a meditation or in the course of your day—facilitates healing, even if it’s just a placebo effect, why not do it?
Asthma and Breathing
Asthma is a lung condition involving chronic inflammation of the airways (bronchi) which can narrow and go into spasms. During asthma attacks, the smooth muscle cells in the bronchi constrict, the airways become inflamed and swollen, and breathing becomes difficult.
Symptomatic control of episodes of wheezing and shortness of breath is generally achieved with fast-acting bronchodilators.
(A study of the effect of yoga training on pulmonary functions in patients with bronchial asthma.
Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Apr-Jun; Sodhi C, Singh S, Dandona PK. Department of Physiology, Christian Medical College, Ludhiana – 141 007.)
The role of yoga breathing exercises, as an adjunct treatment for bronchial asthma is well recognized.
One hundred twenty patients of asthma were randomized into two groups i.e Group A (yoga training group) and Group B (control group). Each group included sixty patients. Pulmonary function tests were performed on all the patients at baseline, after 4 weeks and then after 8 weeks. Majority of the subjects in the two groups had mild disease (34 patients in Group A and 32 in Group B).
Group A subjects showed a statistically significant increasing trend in % predicted peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), forced mid expiratory flow in 0.25-0.75 seconds (FEF25-75) and FEV1/FVC% ratio at 4 weeks and 8 weeks as compared to Group B.
Thus, yoga breathing exercises used adjunctively with standard pharmacological treatment significantly improves pulmonary functions in patients with bronchial asthma.
Research shows that migraine sufferers have fewer and less painful migraines after three months of yoga practice.
The cause of migraines isn’t fully understood, but some Yoga practitioners say it could be a combination of mental stressors and physical misalignment that create migraines and other issues.
Hunching over a computer or cell phone with your shoulders up and head forward causes overlifting of your trapezius and tightening of the neck. This pulls the head forward and creates muscle imbalances that can contribute to headaches and migraines.
Boost Sexual Performance
Studies have found that 12 weeks of yoga can improve sexual desire, arousal, performance, confidence, orgasm and satisfaction for both men and women.
Physically, yoga increases blood flow into the genital area, which is important for arousal and erections and strengthens the “moola bandha,” or pelvic floor muscles.
Mentally, the breathing and mind control involved with the practice can also improve performance.
Researchers from Harvard found that eight weeks of daily yoga significantly improved sleep quality for people with insomnia. And another study found that twice-weekly yoga sessions helped cancer survivors sleep better and feel less fatigued. This can be attributed to yoga’s ability to help people deal with stress,
A preliminary study at the University of California, San Francisco, found that menopausal women who took two months of a weekly restorative yoga class, which uses props to support the postures, reported a 30 percent decrease in hot flashes.
A four-month study at the University of Illinois found that many women who took a 90-minute Iyengar class twice a week boosted both their energy and mood; plus they reported less physical and sexual discomfort, and reduced stress and anxiety.
Yoga Benefits As Exercise:
It renews, invigorates, and heals the body – stretching and toning the muscles, joints, and spine and directing blood and oxygen to the internal organs (including the glands and nerves).
Yoga is distinctly different from other kinds of exercise. It generates motion without causing strain and imbalances in the body. When practiced correctly, hatha yoga has no such negative effects on either the inner or outer body.
When done with dedication and purpose, hatha yoga can be a quite demanding, yet an immensely rewarding type of exercise.
While not inherently aerobic, it involves almost every muscle in the body and challenges the body to work in a different and often more passive way. Since the limbs function as free weights, resistance is created by moving the body’s center of gravity. This strengthening gives way to endurance as poses are held for longer periods of time.
Unlike conventional forms of exercise, such as weight training, walking, biking or hiking, hatha yoga stresses quality of movement over quantity. A consistent hatha yoga practice can quiet the mind and refresh the body, bringing health, relaxation, and happiness.
Yoga Benefits For All Ages:
Whatever your age, yoga can enhance your lifestyle…
- As well as being fun for children, learning yoga develops self-discipline and can enhance their physical and mental health. Asanas are good for developing coordination and help to improve concentration and memory. Regular practice can enable young people to keep their natural flexibility for many years.
- It can help teenagers to keep their youthful flexibility and give them the inner strength to say no to negative influences.
- Older people often find that gentle yoga exercises allow them to retain mobility and may relieve problems such as arthritis and poor circulation.
- During pregnancy, yoga promotes good health in both mother and unborn child. Yoga asanas lessen the effects of such problems as overweight, backache, and depression. Most women who practice yoga find that it can make labor easier and shorter. Although some asanas have to be modified during pregnancy, their essence is perfectly suited to this time of expanded self-awareness. Pregnancy is also a very good time for meditation.
- Everyone can benefit from following a regular yoga routine, as it counteracts many of the problems suffered in modern life. Asanas release the physical tensions caused by hours of sitting, deep breathing gives vitality by increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain and meditation enhances the powers of concentration.
- Yoga improves strength and flexibility in the mind as well as the body, and aids relaxation. Yoga can enable one to relax fully, and promotes sound sleep; it also improves digestion and stimulates circulation. It frees the practitioner both physically and mentally, often heightening intuition and creativity.
Yoga Benefits And Sports:
Yoga postures are the physical positions that coordinate breath with movement and with holding the position to stretch and strengthen different parts of the body.
Asana practice is the ideal complement to other forms of exercise, especially running, cycling and strength training, as the postures systematically work all the major muscle groups, including the back, neck, and shoulders, deep abdominal, hip and buttocks muscles and even ankles, feet, wrists and hands.
Whatever sport you choose to practice, yoga can enhance and complement your ability. Most sports build muscular strength and stamina, often in specific areas of the body. Yoga can help to check any imbalance in muscular development and will enable both your body and your mind to function more efficiently.
If your body is flexible and supple you will be less prone to sports injuries, as your joints will be kept lubricated.
- Skiing demands mental alertness as well as good balance. Yoga asanas strengthen your muscles, release physical tension and improve your concentration and poise. Yoga makes your limbs balanced, strong and relaxed.
- Golfers be prone to one-sided or uneven muscle development. Yoga asanas can strengthen weak areas and ease muscular tension. The standing poses improve balance and muscle flexibility.
- Yoga breathing techniques help swimmers to breathe in a relaxed way when exercising.
- For bicyclists, back bends can relieve any stiffness caused by bending over handlebars. Because a cyclist’s back stays in one position for long periods, the muscles may become tense. This can be remedied with stretches. Gentle stretching exercises also ease stiffness in the legs and shoulders. Yoga asanas will also improve flexibility.
- Racket sports often involve intense physical effort. Yoga practice can help players to relax and replenish their energy after strenuous games. It also promotes calm, clear thinking, even in situations that call for fast reactions. Asanas for joint mobility can make hips and shoulders more flexible.
Styles of Yoga:
Skimming the yellow pages or the class schedule at your gym for a good yoga class can be a real exercise in confusion. How can you tell the difference between Anusara and Ashtanga? Or hot yoga and hatha? Below is a cheat sheet to the many different styles of yoga being taught today. May it help you find your way to a class you love to join:).
Developed by American yogi John Friend in 1997, anusara yoga is a relative newcomer to the yoga world.
Based on the belief that we are all filled with an intrinsic goodness, anusara seeks to use the physical practice of yoga to help students open their hearts, experience grace, and let their inner goodness shine through.
Classes, which are specifically sequenced by the teacher to explore one of Friend’s Universal Principles of Alignment, are rigorous for the body and the mind.
Ashtanga is based on ancient yoga teachings, but it was popularized and brought to the West by Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s.
Ashtanga, which also means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order.
This practice is very physically demanding because of the constant movement from one pose to the next and the emphasis on daily practice.
Ashtanga is also the inspiration for what is often called Power Yoga, which is based on the flowing style of Ashtanga without keeping strictly to the set series. The practice helps to improve circulation, flexibility, stamina, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.
It’s a rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is similar to vinyasa yoga, as each style links every movement to a breath.
The difference is that ashtanga always performs the exact same poses in the exact same order. This is a hot, sweaty, physically demanding practice.
Bikram Yoga is the method of yoga that is a comprehensive workout that includes all the components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular flexibility and weight loss.
Approximately 30 years ago, Bikram Choudhury who was a gold medal Olympic weight lifter in 1963 and is a disciple of Bishnu Ghosh, brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, developed this school of yoga where classes are held in artificially heated rooms.
In a Bikram class, you will sweat like you’ve never sweated before as you work your way through a series of 26 poses (like ashtanga, a Bikram class always follows the same sequence, although a Bikram sequence is different from an ashtanga sequence).
Bikram is somewhat controversial, as Choudhury has trademarked his sequence and has prosecuted studios who call themselves Bikram but don’t teach the poses exactly the way he says they should. It is also wildly popular, making it one of the easiest types of classes to find.
Hatha yoga is a generic term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Nearly every type of yoga class taught in the West is hatha yoga.
When a class is marketed as hatha, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures. You probably won’t work up a sweat in a hatha yoga class, but you should end up leaving class feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed.
Basically the same thing as Bikram. Generally, the only difference between Bikram and hot yoga is that the hot yoga studio deviates from Bikram’s sequence in some small way, and so they must call themselves by another name. The room will be heated, and you will sweat buckets.
Iyengar yoga was developed and popularized by B.K.S. Iyengar.
Iyengar practice usually emphasizes holding poses over long periods versus moving quickly from one pose to the next (flow). Iyengar is a very meticulous style of yoga, with utmost attention paid to finding the proper alignment in a pose.
In order to help each student find the proper alignment, an Iyengar studio will stock a wide array of yoga props — blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, bolsters, and a rope wall are all common.
There isn’t a lot of jumping around in Iyengar classes, so you won’t get your heart rate up, but you’ll be amazed to discover how physically and mentally challenging it is to stay put.
Although Iyengar incorporates the traditional postures, or asanas, that make up the broader category of hatha yoga, the cushions and other props revolutionized yoga by enabling everyone — even the elderly, sick, and disabled — to practice.
Because of its slow pace, attention to detail, and use of props, Iyengar yoga can be especially good if you’re recovering from an injury. Iyengar is still one of the most popular types of yoga taught today.
Restorative yoga is a delicious way to way to relax and soothe frayed nerves.
Restorative classes use bolsters, blankets, and blocks to prop students in passive poses so that the body can experience the benefits of a pose without having to exert any effort.
A good restorative class is more rejuvenating than a nap. Studios and gyms often offer them on Friday nights, when just about everyone could use a little profound rest.
Like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes. Vinyasa, which means breath-syncronized movement, tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called Sun Salutations, in which movement is matched to the breath.
A Vinyasa class will typically start with a number of Sun Salutations to warm up the body for more intense stretching that’s done at the end of class.
Vinyasa is the Sanskrit word for “flow”, and vinyasa classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices.
Vinyasa teachers choreograph their classes to smoothly transition from pose to pose, and often play music to keep things lively.
The intensity of the practice is similar to Ashtanga, but no two vinyasa classes are the same. If you hate routine and love to test your physical limits, vinyasa may be just your ticket 🙂
Kundalini practice concentrates on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward. In addition to postures, a typical class will also include chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises.
The emphasis in Kundalini is on the breath in conjunction with physical movement, with the purpose of freeing energy in the lower body and allowing it to move upwards.
All asana practices make use of controlling the breath, but in Kundalini, the exploration of the effects of the breath (also called prana, meaning energy) on the postures is essential. Kundalini exercises are also called kriyas.
Developed in 1986 by Sharon Gannon and David Life, the Jivamukti Yoga method expresses the spiritual and ethical aspects of the practice of yoga that have been disregarded or devalued in contemporary times.
It is a vigorous and challenging asana form with an emphasis on scriptural study, Sanskrit chanting, vegetarianism, non-violence, meditation, devotion to God and the role that music and listening play in the practice of yoga.
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and gaining popularity around the U.S., Forrest Yoga is the method taught by Ana Forrest.
The performance of vigorous asana sequences is intended to strengthen and purify the body and release pent-up emotions and pain to encourage healing of physical and emotional wounds. Expect an intense workout with an emphasis on abdominal strengthening, inversions, and deep breathing.
Kripalu is called the yoga of consciousness. This gentle, introspective practice urges practitioners to hold poses to explore and release emotional and spiritual blockages. Goal-oriented striving is discouraged and precise alignment is not as important as in some other traditions.
There are three stages in Kripalu yoga:
Stage One focuses on learning the postures and exploring your body’s abilities.
Stage Two involves holding the postures for an extended time, developing concentration and inner awareness.
Stage Three is like a meditation in motion in which the movement from one posture to another arises unconsciously and spontaneously.
Kripalu is a yoga practice with a compassionate approach and emphasis on meditation, physical healing and spiritual transformation that overflows into daily life. It also focuses on looking inward and moving at your own pace, making it a good practice for people with limited mobility due to age, weight, or injury.
Moksha hot yoga was founded in Canada in 2004. In 2013, they changed the name of their affiliated U.S. studios to Modo Yoga.
Both styles are based on a series of 40 poses done in a heated room. The studios are expected to adhere to environmentally conscious building and cleaning standards.
The first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center was founded in 1959 by Swami Vishnu-devananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda.
There are now close to 80 locations worldwide, including several ashrams. Sivananda yoga is based upon five principles, including the practices of asana, pranayama, and meditation.
Yin Yoga is a practice developed by teacher Paul Grilley to find a way to stretch the body’s connective tissue, particularly around the joints.
In order to do this, specific poses are help over the course of several minutes.
Grilley started this method as a way to find comfort during long seated meditations.
This traditional type of yoga combines postures, breathing exercises, selfless service, meditation, chanting, prayer, and self-inquiry.
Developed by South African teacher Mani Finger and popularized in the States by his son Alan, ISHTA (Integral Science of Hatha and Tantric Arts) focuses on opening energy channels throughout the body with postures, visualizations, and meditation.
New students find this a very approachable style, often beginning in chair poses that are comfortable. Promotes healing and transformation.
This is commonly used as a therapeutic practice for people who have suffered injuries or are recovering from surgery. It is a gentle, healing practice that is tailored to each person’s body type and needs as they grow and change.
AcroYoga is based on the collaboration of Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein, who began practicing together in 2003.
The basic idea is that one person (called the base) acts at the support for a partner (called the flyer), usually by lying on his or her back and holding the flyer up with his or her legs.
The flyer then does a series of poses while balanced atop the base. This practice lends itself to performance and group play.
Aerial yoga makes use of a sling of fabric suspended from the ceiling, which is used to support your body as you hang above the floor.
This support allows you to avoid stressing or compressing your joints while you are stretching. It’s also a good way to improve core strength. Some poses are also done while standing on the floor using the sling like a ropes wall.
Stand Up Paddle Yoga:
SUP yoga is done atop a paddle board while floating on a body of water. Keeping your balance makes for a fun, intense core and leg work-out, all while enjoying the surrounding natural world.
White Lotus Yoga:
A modified Ashtanga practice developed by Ganga White which is combined with breathwork and meditation.
When And Where???
Now when you have already decided which style of Yoga you wanna try to follow, the next question that may come to your mind is when and where you should practise Yoga…right?
Well first I will cover your first query i.e “When To Practice Yoga?”
Try to practice yoga every day. Set aside a time when you will not be disturbed and you will not have to rush. It is best to practice yoga on an empty stomach. Wait at least two to three hours after a large meal, and one to two hours after a lighter one or a snack before beginning.
Practice regularly, even if it’s only a few minutes every day. If done every day or nearly every day, even 10 to 15 minutes will help build concentration, increase flexibility and strengthen willpower, making it easier to practice the next day. Always remember Consistency is the key . If possible, establish a regular time of day to set aside for practice. Morning or evening practice is advised.
Practice when your body is ready for it. Some people find their bodies are stiff in the morning, making practice more difficult. Night practice, however may limit the kinds of postures you do as some are too stimulating and affect sleep. The key is regularity. Enjoy whatever time you have set aside for practice 🙂
Now it’s time to answer your second query i.e “Where To Practice Yoga?”
For practicing indoors, you will need a clear space with no furniture. Select a place with enough space where you can stretch upwards as well as to the sides for standing and floor postures. The room should be comfortably heated and well ventilated.
Set aside a special place to practice. Turn off the radio, TV, and telephone, and set the answering machine volume to the low setting. Minimize distractions.
A yoga mat or exercise mat is good to provide a warm, cushioned, surface. A small firm pillow or folded blanket is helpful for seated postures if your hips, lower back and hamstrings aren’t very flexible. Also a long strap, bathrobe tie or belt is helpful to use to stretch the hamstrings in either a seated or supine position. If you use props: mat, pillow, blanket, cushion, strap, wooden blocks, folding chairs, blankets etc.; store them together and make sure to bring all these props to the practice area before beginning.
If practicing outdoors, select a shady spot with plenty of room to move.
Always wear comfortable dresses and you are all set 🙂
So, let’s start a journey called “YOGA” !