Absolute, pure yoga is a joy to participate in. Those who have a daily routine find the practice very rewarding – it’s definitely worth the time and discipline it takes to become a yogi or yogini. Although so much of what is yoga takes place on the mat, what you learn there is carried with you into other aspects of life. Patience learned while mastering a difficult posture can be used when dealing with a common annoyance such as driving traffic. Pranayama, or breathing exercises, practiced with the guidance of a guru can come in handy when dealing with a stressful moment – bringing you back into balance. Solemn meditation can make the mind strong, but it can also develop coping mechanisms that will be of use in the years to come. Our experience on the yoga mat directly influences daily life. Whether yoga is practiced as a daily, personalized routine or just in your free time, the benefits are numerous and worthwhile.
Creating a well-rounded yoga workout, whatever the frequency of the practice is important. Of course, the goal is always overall wellness, and this should be considered when choosing the workout and style of yoga that is right for you.
Yoga comes in many styles and variations. Below are some options that are great for different skill levels. All yoga styles share the common goal of health through breath, movement, and meditation. Finding the right program for you is a great start to a life-long love of yoga.
o Hatha: This is the most common form of yoga practiced by the modern world today. It can be practiced at home, in a class, or by taking vacation-like retreats all over the world. The main focus of Hatha Yoga is three-fold: breathing, meditation, and exercise. Generally, it consists of practicing “asanas,” or poses. Once breathing and asanas are mastered on their own, they are combined. Once the student masters both skills at once, they are often introduced to “vinyasas” or flowing sequences such as sun-salutations or moon-salutation (and variations therein). These sequences allow the student to move fluidly from one pose into another without stopping. This is definitely the class to take for beginners. More advanced learners will move into headstands and balancing poses as opposed to basic standing and sitting asanas.
o Vinyasa: Is very similar to hatha in its actual poses, but the transition from one to the the other is focus here. Flow is the key in vinyasa yoga. Fluidity and constant movement and breathing is the goal. Popular sequences done during a normal vinyasa class are Sun Salutations, Moon Salutations, and variations therein.
o Ashtanga: Offers an advanced and vigorous yoga program – flexibility and strength are the physical focus of this workout. Ashtanga is closely related to hatha yoga, but is not recommended for beginners as it is a very athletic form of yoga.
o Iyengar: This is a prop-heavy form of yoga. Alignment and position is of great importance during practice, and is actively corrected by instructors. Iyengar yoga can be very beneficial to those healing from injuries. This is very much a learning course in that every asana is corrected in order to achieve perfection.
o Hot/Bikram: Hot Yoga is Hatha Yoga that is performed in 90-minute periods in a very hot (95-105°F room at 40% humidity) room. The reason for the hot space is that it encourages safe stretching of the ligaments and muscles (not to mention sweating!). However, safety must be considered as dehydration and hyperthermia are real concerns. This form of yoga is great for healthy people looking for an extra challenge in their yoga practice.
o Yin: A combination of hatha yoga and Chinese Taoist principles. Poses are held for several minutes, and the body is allowed to relax into the poses. Movements are slow and deliberate. Practice can be personalized to anyone’s needs.
o Pilates: Pilates is NOT a form of yoga, however, it is similar in its mission. Unlike yoga, it does not target the mind so obviously and aggressively with mediation. However, it does understand that control of the mind is necessary for control of the body. Pilates, like yoga, practice is a sequence of poses done slowly and deliberately, and it incorporates breathing. Pilates can be done on a yoga mat or can include a multitude of gear and machinery to assist in the correction and perfection of the exercises. It falls under the umbrella of a training system far more than yoga does. Many people practice yoga and Pilates in conjunction. Their similarities are enough that it makes it easy to transition from asanas to Pilates exercises. Pilates classes are available at all experience levels.
Yoga can be practiced anywhere – at home, in a studio with a class full of students, or in a resort-like sanctuary with multiple teachers. The point is to enjoy the workout and fall deeply into each asana. Connecting with a community of like-minded people or just yourself – it does not matter what path you choose as long as you strive to complete it.
o Physical: Strong, long muscles developed through body work and asanas. Also, there is an increase of balance and flexibility through daily repetition.
o Mental: The mind’s ability to focus and deal with daily stress is improved upon greatly. Using the mind to do asana work is wonderful practice for real-life application.
o Emotional: Delving deep into the emotional self during meditation is very beneficial to a healthy emotional life. Confronting one’s fears, anxieties, and goals are the key to a productive life.
o Spiritual: Although some choose not to dive deeply into the spiritual aspects of yoga, no one can deny the power yoga has over the subtle self.