THE ULTIMATE YOGA BEGINNERS GUIDE 2018
It takes guts to take the plunge and sign up for your first class, but if you're thinking seriously about rolling out a mat, here's what you need to know to get started.
This Guide is really really... HUGE!
So i recommend that you bookmark this page and come here to start or continue your lecture. This guide will teach you probably the main if not all the concerns that you may have about YOGA.
So let's start with it!
I. THE HISTORY OF YOGA
In Yoga, theory and practice, as well as left brain and right brain, go hand in hand so to speak. Study (svâdhyâya) is in fact an important aspect of many branches and schools of Yoga. This is another way in which Yoga’s balanced approach shows itself.
If you want to know where something is going, it is good to know where it came from. “To be ignorant of what happened before one was born,” said Cicero pointedly in his Orator, “is to remain ever a child.” History provides context and meaning, and Yoga is no exception to this rule. If you are fond of history, you’ll enjoy what follows. Many of the facts and ideas presented here have not yet found their way into the textbooks or even into most Yoga books. We put you in touch with the leading edge of knowledge in this area. If you are not a history buff, well, perhaps we can tempt you to suspend your preferences for a few minutes and read on anyway.
1. The origin of Yoga
Despite more than a century of research, we still don’t know much about the earliest beginnings of Yoga. We do know, though, that it originated in India 5,000 or more years ago. Until recently, many Western scholars thought that Yoga originated much later, maybe around 500 B.C., which is the time of Gautama the Buddha, the illustrious founder of Buddhism. But then, in the early 1920s, archeologists surprised the world with the discovery of the so-called Indus civilization—a culture that we now know extended over an area of roughly 300,000 square miles (the size of Texas and Ohio combined). This was in fact the largest civilization in early antiquity. In the ruins of the big cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, excavators found depictions engraved on soapstone seals that strongly resemble yogi-like figures. Many other finds show the amazing continuity between that civilization and later Hindu society and culture.
There was nothing primitive about what is now called the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, which is named after two great rivers that once flowed in Northern India; today only the Indus River flows through Pakistan. That civilization’s urbane population enjoyed multistory buildings, a sewage system unparalleled in the ancient world until the Roman empire, a huge public bath whose walls were water-proofed with bitumen, geometrically laid out brick roads, and standardized baked bricks for convenient construction. (We are so used to these technological achievements that we sometimes forget they had to be invented.) The Indus-Sarasvati people were a great maritime nation that exported a large variety of goods to Mesopotamia and other parts of the Middle East and Africa. Although only a few pieces of art have survived, some of them show exquisite craftsmanship.
For a long time, scholars thought that this magnificent civilization was abruptly destroyed by invaders from the northwest who called themselves Aryans (ârya meaning “noble” in the Sanskrit language). Some proposed that these warlike nomads invented Yoga, others credited the Indus people with its creation. Yet others took Yoga to be the joint creation of both races.
Nowadays researchers increasingly favor a completely different picture of ancient Indian history. They are coming to the conclusion that there never was an Aryan invasion and that the decline of the Indus-Sarasvati cities was due to dramatic changes in climate. These in turn appear to have been caused by a major tectonic catastrophe changing the course of rivers. In particular, it led to the drying up of what was once India’s largest river, the Sarasvati, along whose banks flourished numerous towns and villages (some 2500 sites have been identified thus far). Today the dry river bed runs through the vast Thar Desert. If it were not for satellite photography, we would not have learned about those many settlements buried under the sand.
The drying up of the Sarasvati River, which was complete by around 1900 B.C., had far-reaching consequences. Just imagine the waters of the Mississippi running dry instead of flooding constantly. What havoc this would cause! The death of the Sarasvati River forced the population to migrate to more fertile parts of the country, especially east toward the Ganges (Ganga) River and south into Central India and Tamilnadu.
Why is this important for the history of Yoga, you might ask? The Sarasvati River happens to be the most celebrated river in the Rig-Veda, which is the oldest known text in any Indo-European language. It is composed in an archaic (and difficult) form of Sanskrit and was transmitted by word of mouth for numerous generations. Sanskrit is the language in which most Yoga scriptures are written. It is related to languages like Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, and not least English. You can see this family relationship on the example of the word yoga itself, which corresponds to zugos, iugum, joug, Joch, yugo, and yoke in these languages. Sanskrit is like an older brother to the other Indo-European languages.
Now, if the Sarasvati River dried up around or before 1900 B.C., the Rig-Veda must be earlier than that benchmark date. If that is so, then the composers of this collection of hymns must have been contemporaneous with the people of the Indus civilization, which flourished between circa 3000-1900 B.C. Indeed, astronomical references in the Rig-Veda suggest that at least some of its 1,028 hymns were composed in the third or even fourth millennium B.C.
Thus, the Sanskrit-speaking Aryans, who created the Rig-Veda, did not come from outside India to destroy the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. They had been there all along. What, then, was their relationship with the Indus-Sarasvati people? Here opinions still differ, but there is a growing understanding that the Aryans and the Indus-Sarasvati people were one and the same. There is nothing in the Rig-Veda to suggest otherwise.
In fact, the Rig-Veda and the other archaic Sanskrit texts appear to be the “missing” literature of the Indus civilization. Conversely, the archeological artifacts of the Indus valley and adjoining areas give us the “missing” material base of the early Sanskrit literature—an elegant solution to a problem that has long vexed researchers.
2. Yoga and the Indus-Sarasvati civilization
This means that Yoga is the product of a mature civilization that was unparalleled in the ancient world. Think of it! As a Yoga practitioner you are part of an ancient and honorable stream of tradition, which makes you a descendant of that civilization at least at the level of the heart. Many of the inventions credited to Sumer rightfully belong to what is now known as the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, which evolved out of a cultural tradition that has reliably been dated back to the seventh millennium B.C. In turn it gave rise to the great religious and cultural tradition of Hinduism, but indirectly also to Buddhism and Jainism.
India’s civilization can claim to be the oldest enduring civilization in the world. Its present-day problems should not blind us to its glorious past and the lessons we can learn from it. Yoga practitioners in particular can benefit from India’s protracted experimentation with life, especially its explorations of the mysteries of the mind. The Indian civilization has produced great philosophical and spiritual geniuses who between them have covered every conceivable answer to the big questions, which are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.
3. The big questions
Traditional Yoga seeks to provide plausible answers to such profound questions as, “Who am I?”, “Whence do I come?”, “Whither do I go?,” and “What must I do?” These are the sorts of questions that, sooner or later, we all end up asking ourselves. Or at least, we have our own implicit answers to them, though may not get round to consciously formulating them. Deep down, we all are philosophers, because we all need to make sense of our life. Some of us postpone thinking about these questions, but they don’t ever go away. We quickly learn this when we lose a loved one or face a serious health crisis.
So, we might as well ponder these questions while we are in good shape. And don’t think you have to feel morose to do so. Yoga doesn’t champion dark moods, but it is definitely in favor of awareness in all its forms, including self-awareness. If we know the stuff we are made of, we can function a lot better in the world. At the very least, our self-knowledge will give us the opportunity to make conscious and better choices.
4. The History of YOGA
I can provide here only the merest thumbnail sketch and, if you wish to inform yourself more about the long history of Yoga, recommend that you study my book The Yoga Tradition. This is the most comprehensive historical overview available anywhere. But be prepared for challenging reading and a fairly large tome.
The history of Yoga can conveniently be divided into the following four broad categories:
These categories are like static snapshots of something that is in actuality in continuous motion—the “march of history.”
5. Vedic YOGA
Now we are entering somewhat more technical territory, and I will have to use and explain a number of Sanskrit terms.
The yogic teachings found in the above-mentioned Rig-Veda and the other three ancient hymnodies are known as Vedic Yoga. The Sanskrit word veda means “knowledge,” while the Sanskrit term rig (from ric) means “praise.” Thus the sacred Rig-Veda is the collection of hymns that are in praise of a higher power. This collection is in fact the fountainhead of Hinduism, which has around one billion adherents today. You could say that the Rig-Veda is to Hinduism what the Book of Genesis is to Christianity.
The other three Vedic hymnodies are the Yajur-Veda (“Knowledge of Sacrifice”), Sama-Veda (“Knowledge of Chants”), and Atharva-Veda (“Knowledge of Atharvan”). The first collection contains the sacrificial formulas used by the Vedic priests. The second text contains the chants accompanying the sacrifices. The third hymnody is filled with magical incantations for all occasions but also includes a number of very powerful philosophical hymns. It is connected with Atharvan, a famous fire priest who is remembered as having been a master of magical rituals. These hymnodies can be compared to the various books of the Old Testament.
It is clear from what has been said thus far that Vedic Yoga—which could also be called Archaic Yoga—was intimately connected with the ritual life of the ancient Indians. It revolved around the idea of sacrifice as a means of joining the material world with the invisible world of the spirit. In order to perform the exacting rituals successfully, the sacrificers had to be able to focus their mind for a prolonged period of time. Such inner focusing for the sake of transcending the limitations of the ordinary mind is the root of Yoga.
When successful, the Vedic yogi was graced with a “vision” or experience of the transcendental reality. A great master of Vedic Yoga was called a “seer”—in Sanskrit rishi. The Vedic seers were able to see the very fabric of existence, and their hymns speak of their marvelous intuitions, which can still inspire us today.
6. Preclassical YOGA
This category covers an extensive period of approximately 2,000 years until the second century A.D. Preclassical Yoga comes in various forms and guises. The earliest manifestations were still closely associated with the Vedic sacrificial culture, as developed in the Brâhmanas and Âranyakas. The Brâhmanas are Sanskrit texts explaining the Vedic hymns and the rituals behind them. The Âranyakas are ritual texts specific to those who chose to live in seclusion in a forest hermitage.
Yoga came into its own with the Upanishads, which are gnostic texts expounding the hidden teaching about the ultimate unity of all things. There are over 200 of these scriptures, though only a handful of them were composed in the period prior to Gautama the Buddha (fifth century B.C.). These works can be likened to the New Testament, which rests on the Old Testament but at the same time goes beyond it.
One of the most remarkable Yoga scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ (“Lord’s Song”), of which the great social reformer Mahatma Gandhi spoke as follows:
When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavad-Gita. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies—and my life has been full of external tragedies—and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita. (Young India, 1925, pp. 1078-79)
In its significance, this work of only 700 verses perhaps is to Hindus what Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is to Christians. Its message, however, is not to turn the other cheek but to actively oppose evil in the world. In its present form, the Bhagavad-Gîtâ (Gîtâ for short) was composed around 500 B.C. and since then has been a daily inspiration to millions of Hindus. Its central teaching is to the point: To be alive means to be active and, if we want to avoid difficulties for ourselves and others, our actions must be benign and also go beyond the grip of the ego. A simple matter, really, but how difficult to accomplish in daily life!
Preclassical Yoga also comprises the many schools whose teachings can be found in India’s two great national epics, the Râmâyana and the Mahâbhârata (in which the Bhagavad-Gîtâ is embedded and which is seven times the size of the Iliad and Odyssey combined). These various preclassical schools developed all kinds of techniques for achieving deep meditation through which yogis and yoginis can transcend the body and mind and discover their true nature.
7. Classical YOGA
This label applies to the eightfold Yoga—also known as Râja-Yoga—taught by Patanjali in his Yoga-Sûtra. This Sanskrit text is composed of just under 200 aphoristic statements, which have been commented on over and over again through the centuries. Sooner or later all serious Yoga students discover this work and have to grapple with its terse statements. The word sûtra (which is related to Latin suture) means literally “thread.” Here it conveys a thread of memory, an aid to memorization for students eager to retain Patanjali’s knowledge and wisdom.
The Yoga-Sûtra was probably written some time in the second century A.D. The earliest available Sanskrit commentary on it is the Yoga-Bhâshya (“Speech on Yoga”) attributed to Vyâsa. It was authored in the fifth century A.D. and furnishes fundamental explanations of Patanjali’s often cryptic statements.
Beyond a few legends nothing is known about either Patanjali or Vyâsa. This is a problem with most ancient Yoga adepts and even with many more recent ones. Often all we have are their teachings, but this is of course more important than any historical information we could dig up about their personal lives.
Patanjali, who is by the way often wrongly called the “father of Yoga,” believed that each individual is a composite of matter (prakriti) and spirit (purusha). He understood the process of Yoga to bring about their separation, thereby restoring the spirit in its absolute purity. His formulation is generally characterized as philosophical dualism. This is an important point, because most of India’s philosophical systems favor one or the other kind of nondualism: The countless aspects or forms of the empirical world are in the last analysis the same “thing”—pure formless but conscious existence.
8. Postclassical YOGA
This is again a very comprehensive category, which refers to all those many types and schools of Yoga that have sprung up in the period after Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtra and that are independent of this seminal work. In contrast to classical Yoga, postclassical Yoga affirms the ultimate unity of everything. This is the core teaching of Vedânta, the philosophical system based on the teachings of the Upanishads.
In a way, the dualism of classical Yoga can be seen as a brief but powerful interlude in a stream of nondualist teachings going back to ancient Vedic times. According to these teachings, you, we, and everyone or everything else is an aspect or expression of one and the same reality. In Sanskrit that singular reality is called brahman (meaning “that which has grown expansive”) or âtman (the transcendental Self as opposed to the limited ego-self).
A few centuries after Patanjali, the evolution of Yoga took an interesting turn. Now some great adepts were beginning to probe the hidden potential of the body. Previous generations of yogis and yoginis had paid no particular attention to the body. They had been more interested in contemplation to the point where they could exit the body consciously. Their goal had been to leave the world behind and merge with the formless reality, the spirit.
Under the influence of alchemy—the spiritual forerunner of chemistry—the new breed of Yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong its life. They regarded the body as a temple of the immortal spirit, not merely as a container to be discarded at the first opportunity. They even explored through advanced yogic techniques the possibility of energizing the physical body to such a degree that its biochemistry is changed and even its basic matter is reorganized to render it immortal.
This preoccupation of theirs led to the creation of Hatha-Yoga, an amateur version of which is today widely practiced throughout the world. It also led to the various branches and schools of Tantra-Yoga, of which Hatha-Yoga is just one approach.
9. Modern YOGA
The history of modern Yoga is widely thought to begin with the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. It was at that congress that the young Swami Vivekananda—swami (svâmin) means “master”—made a big and lasting impression on the American public. At the behest of his teacher, the saintly Ramakrishna, he had found his way to the States where he didn’t know a soul. Thanks to some well-wishers who recognized the inner greatness of this adept of Jnâna-Yoga (the Yoga of discernment), he was invited to the Parliament and ended up being its most popular diplomat. In the following years, he traveled widely attracting many students to Yoga and Vedânta. His various books on Yoga are still useful and enjoyable to read.
Before Swami Vivekananda a few other Yoga masters had crossed the ocean to visit Europe, but their influence had remained local and ephemeral. Vivekananda’s immense success opened a sluice gate for other adepts from India, and the stream of Eastern gurus has not ceased.
After Swami Vivekananda, the most popular teacher in the early years of the Western Yoga movement was Paramahansa Yogananda, who arrived in Boston in 1920. Five years later, he established the Self-Realizaton Fellowship, which still has its headquarters in Los Angeles. Although he left his body (as yogins call it) in 1952 at the age of fifty-nine, he continues to have a worldwide following. His Autobiography of a Yogi makes for fascinating reading, but be prepared to suspend any materialistic bias you may have! As with some other yogis and Christian or Muslim saints, after his death Yogananda’s body showed no signs of decay for a full twenty days.
Of more limited appeal was Swami Rama Tirtha, a former mathematics teacher who preferred spiritual life to academia and who came to the United States in 1902 and founded a retreat center on Mount Shasta in California. He stayed for only two years and drowned in the Ganges (Ganga) River in 1906 at the young age of thirty-three. Some of his inspirational talks were gathered into the five volumes of In Woods of God-Realization, which are still worth dipping into.
In 1919, Yogendra Mastamani arrived in Long Island and for nearly three years demonstrated to astounded Americans the power and elegance of Hatha Yoga. Before returning to India, he founded the American branch of Kaivalyadhama, an Indian organization created by the late Swami Kuvalayananda, which has contributed greatly to the scientific study of Yoga.
A very popular figure for several decades after the 1920s was Ramacharaka, whose books can still be found in used bookstores. What few readers know, however, is that this Ramacharaka was apparently not an actual person. The name was the pseudonym of two people—William Walker Atkinson, who had left his law practice in Chicago to practice Yoga, and his teacher Baba Bharata.
Paul Brunton, a former journalist and editor, burst on the scene of Yoga in 1934 with his book A Search in Secret India, which introduced the great sage Ramana Maharshi to Western seekers. Many more works flowed from his pen over the following eighteen years, until the publication of The Spiritual Crisis of Man. Then, in the 1980s, his notebooks were published posthumously in sixteen volumes—a treasure-trove for serious Yoga students.
Since the early 1930s until his death in 1986, Jiddu Krishnamurti delighted or perplexed thousands of philosophically minded Westerners with his eloquent talks. He had been groomed by the Theosophical Society as the coming world leader but had rejected this mission, which surely is too big and burdensome for any one person, however great. He demonstrated the wisdom of Jnana-Yoga (the Yoga of discernment), and drew large crowds of listeners and readers. Among his close circle of friends were the likes of Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, Charles Chaplin, and Greta Garbo. Bernard Shaw described Krishnamurti as the most beautiful human being he ever saw.
Yoga, in the form of Hatha-Yoga, entered mainstream America when the Russian-born yoginî Indra Devi, who has been called the “First Lady of Yoga,” opened her Yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947. She taught stars like Gloria Swanson, Jennifer Jones, and Robert Ryan, and trained hundreds of teachers. Now in her nineties and living in Buenos Aires, she is still an influential voice for Yoga.
In the 1950s, one of the most prominent Yoga teacher was Selvarajan Yesudian whose book Sport and Yoga has been translated into fourteen or so languages, with more than 500,000 copies sold. Today, as we mentioned before, many athletes have adopted yogic exercises into their training program because . . . it works. Among them are the Chicago Bulls. Just picture these champion basket ball players stretching out on extra-long Yoga mats under the watchful eye of Yoga teacher Paula Kout! In the early 1950s, Shri Yogendra of the Yoga Institute of Santa Cruz in India, visited the United States. He pioneered medical research on Yoga as early as 1918, and his son Jayadev Yogendra is continuing his valuable work, which demonstrates the efficacy of Yoga as a therapeutic tool.
In 1961, Richard Hittleman brought Hatha-Yoga to American television, and his book The Twenty-Eight-Day Yoga Plan sold millions of copies. In the mid-1960s, the Western Yoga movement received a big boost through Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, largely because of his brief association with the Beatles. He popularized yogic contemplation in the form of Transcendental Meditation (TM), which still has tens of thousands of practitioners around the world. TM practitioners also introduced meditation and Yoga into the corporate world. It, moreover, stimulated medical research on Yoga at various American universities.
In 1965, the then sixty-nine-year-old Shrila Prabhupada arrived in New York with a suitcase full of books and $8.00 in his pockets. Six years later he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and by the time of his death in 1977, he had created a worldwide spiritual movement based on Bhakti Yoga (the Yoga of devotion).
Also in the 1960s and 1970s, many swamis trained by the Himalayan master Swami Sivananda, a former physician who became a doctor of the soul, opened their schools in Europe and the two Americas. Most of them are still active today, and among them are Swami Vishnudevananda (author of the widely read Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga), Swami Satchitananda (well-known to Woodstock participants), Swami Sivananda Radha (a woman-swami who pioneered the link between Yoga spirituality and psychology), Swami Satyananda (about whom we will say more shortly), and Swami Chidananda (a saintly figure who directed the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, India). The last-mentioned master’s best known American student is the gentle Lilias Folan, made famous by her PBS television series Lilias, Yoga & You, broadcast between 1970 and 1979.
In 1969, Yogi Bhajan caused an uproar among the traditional Sikh community (an offshoot of Hinduism) when he broke with tradition and began to teach Kundalini Yoga to his Western students. Today his Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization—better known as 3HO—has more than 200 centers around the world.
A more controversial but wildly popular guru in the 1970 and 1980s was Bhagavan Rajneesh (now known as Osho), whose followers constantly made the headlines for their sexual orgies and other excesses. Rajneesh, a former philosophy professor, drew his teachings from authentic Yoga sources, mixed with his own personal experiences. His numerous books line the shelves of many second-hand bookstores. Rajneesh allowed his students to act out their repressed fantasies, notably of the sexual variety, in the hope that this would free them up for the deeper processes of Yoga. Many of them, however, got trapped in a mystically tinged hedonism, which proves the common-sense rule that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Even though many of his disciples felt bitterly disappointed by him and the sad events surrounding his organization in the years immediately preceding his death in 1990, just as many still regard him as a genuine Yoga master. His life illustrates that Yoga adepts come in all shapes and sizes and that, to coin a phrase, one person’s guru is another person’s uru. (The Sanskrit word uru denotes “empty space.”) Another maxim that applies here is caveat emptor, “buyer beware.”
Other renowned modern Yoga adepts of Indian origin are Sri Aurobindo (the father of Integral Yoga), Ramana Maharshi (an unparalleled master of Jnana-Yoga), Papa Ramdas (who lived and breathed Mantra-Yoga, the Yoga of transformative sound), Swami Nityananda (a miracle-working master of Siddha-Yoga), and his disciple Swami Muktananda (a powerful yogi who put Siddha-Yoga, which is a Tantric Yoga, on the map for Western seekers). All these teachers are no longer among us.
The great exponent in modern times of Hatha-Yoga was Sri Krishnamacharya, who died in 1989 at the ripe old age of 101. He practiced and taught the Viniyoga system of Hatha-Yoga until his last days. His son T. K. V. Desikachar continues his saintly father’s teachings and taught Yoga, among others, to the famous Jiddu Krishnamurti. Another well-known student of Sri Krishnamacharya and a master in his own right is Desikachar’s uncle B. K. S. Iyengar, who has taught tens of thousands of students, including the world-famous violinist Jehudi Menuhin.
Mention must also be made of Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi, both of whom studied with Krishnamacharya in their early years and have since then inspired thousands of Westerners.
Of living Yoga masters from India, I can mention Sri Chinmoy and Swami Satyananda (a Tantra master who established the well-known Bihar School of Yoga, has authored numerous books, and has disciples around the world). There are of course many other great Yoga adepts, both well known and more hidden, who represent Yoga in one form or another, but I leave it up to you to discover them.
Until modern times, the overwhelming majority of Yoga practitioners have been men, yogins. But there have also always been great female adepts, yoginîs. Happily, in recent years, a few woman saints—representing Bhakti-Yoga (Yoga of devotion)—have come to the West to bring their gospel of love to open-hearted seekers. Yoga embraces so many diverse approaches that anyone can find a home in it.
An exceptional woman teacher from India who fits none of the yogic stereotypes is Meera Ma (“Mother Meera”). She doesn’t teach in words but communicates in silence through her simple presence. Of all places, she has made her home in the middle of a quaint German village in the Black Forest, and every year is attracting thousands of people from all over the world.
Since Yoga is not restricted to Hinduism, we may also mention here the Dalai Lama, champion of nonviolence and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He is unquestionably one of the truly great yogis of modern Tibet, who, above all, demonstrates that the principles of Yoga can fruitfully be brought not only into a busy daily life but also into the arena of politics. Today Tibetan Buddhism (which is a form of Tantra-Yoga) is extremely popular among Westerners, and there are many lamas (spiritual teacher) who are willing to share with sincere seekers the secrets of their hitherto well-guarded tradition.
If you are curious about Westerners who have made a name for themselves as teachers in the modern Yoga movement (understood in the broadest terms), you may want to consult the encyclopedic work The Book of Enlightened Masters by Andrew Rawlinson. His book includes both genuine masters (like the Bulgarian teacher Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov on whom I have written a book—The Mystery of Light) and a galaxy of would-be masters.
II. YOGA HEALTH BENEFITS
Seeking reasons to try yoga? Here are some benefits that will motivate you to step on that mat.
As a passionate yoga practitioner, you must have noticed some yoga health benefits–better sleep, less fever, stress-free. However, you may find it difficult trying to explain the benefits of yoga–increases prana flow or build spine strength–to a newbie; they do not want to listen or are skeptical about it.
Researchers Are Catching On to Yoga's Benefits
At the moment, researchers are beginning to provide real evidence on how yoga works to improve optimal health, minimize illness, and treat aches and pain. Having an understanding of these benefits will motivate you to roll out that mat, and you’ve got some evidence to support your claim about yoga health benefits the next time someone asks.
1. Improves your heart rate
You lower the risk of developing heart attack and depression by frequently setting your heart rate at an aerobic range. Some yoga exercises are not aerobic; however, you can boost your heart into the aerobic range if you take flow or Ashtanga classes or practice it vigorously. You can also improve cardiovascular functions through yoga exercise that are not aerobic. Research has shown that yoga exercise can increase endurance, reduces heart rate in resting phase, and improve high intake of oxygen during workout. Another study also showed that people who practice only pranayama carried out more exercise using little oxygen.
2. Treat Hypertension
Another health benefit of yoga is that is can reduce blood pressure; thus. It is beneficial for hypertensive patients. Two studies carried out on patients with high blood pressure published in a The Lancet compared the effects of simply lying on a couch with Savasana (Corpse Pose). After 3 months, a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure was observed in Savasana and diastolic blood pressure showed a 15-point drop.
3. Improves Blood Circulation
Yoga helps increase blood flow and circulation of oxygen. Relaxation exercises practiced in yoga improves blood flow, especially in hands and also the feet. Inverted poses–headstand, shoulder stand, and handstand¬¬– encourages the flow of blood from veins in the pelvis and leg back to the heart. Twisting helps squeeze out blood in the veins from internal organs, allowing the flow of oxygenated upon releasing the twist.
This is useful in swelling in the legs caused by heart or kidney disorders. Yoga can also boost the levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Another yoga health benefit is that it thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and reduces the level of protein that promotes clotting in the blood; therefore, it reduces the risk of developing heart attacks and strokes.
4. Reduces Blood Sugar
People suffering from diabetes or insulin resistance can benefit from yoga. It can decrease blood glucose, and bad cholesterol (LDL), as well as boost good cholesterol (HDL). Yoda has been shown to reduce adrenaline levels and cortisol, improve sensitivity to insulin, and promote weight loss. With yoga, you can reduce blood sugar and minimize the risk of complications caused by diabetes such as heart failure, blindness, and kidney malfunction.
5. Controls your Nervous System
The nervous system controls every part of the body; however, a few advanced yoga practitioners have extraordinary control over their bodies. Scientist have observed yoga practitioners capable of generating specific brain-wave pattern, inducing unusual heart rhythms, and increase their hand temperature by fifteen degrees Fahrenheit using mediation technique.
If all this is possible with yoga, then you can also learn how to induce relaxation when you have problems falling asleep or improve the flow of blood to the pelvis if you are trying to conceive (get pregnant).
6. Drains lymph and improves immunity
Yoga postures and exercise increases lymph drainage (a viscous fluid that contains immune cells). This boost immunity as it helps the lymphatic system destroy cancerous cells, fight infection, and remove toxic waste product from the body.
7. Builds Muscle Strength
Besides the good look, having strong muscles prevents conditions such as back pain, arthritis and prevents fall in senior citizens. Building your muscle strength through yoga can help balance muscle strength with flexibility. Lifting weights in the gym may only increase your strength without regard for flexibility.
8. Increase your Flexibility
One of the obvious benefits of yoga is that it improves flexibility. You may find it difficult touching your toes during your first class, that’s not a problem, do something else like a backbend. But as you keep up with it, you will observe you are becoming flexible with time, and eventually, things you thought were impossible becomes possible.
Also, you might have noticed that aches and pains begins to disappear. It’s no coincidence. Tight hips may cause improper alignment of the shinbones and thigh; thus, strain the knee. Flattening of the lumbar spine caused by Tight hamstring can cause back pains. Also, poor posture can be caused by lack of flexibility in muscles and connective tissues (ligaments and fascia).
9. Improves bone health
Research has shown that weight-bearing exercise increase bone strength and prevents osteoporosis. Many yoga posture requires you to lift your body weight. Your arm bones are susceptible to osteoporotic fractures, yoga postures like Downward and Upward Facing Dog can help strengthen them. An unpublished study carried out in California State University showed that practicing yoga increases bone density in the spinal column. Yoga can help keep calcium in the bones by lowering the levels of cortisol (stress hormone).
10. Prevents failure of cartilage and joint
Practicing yoga allows the joints to move through their full range of motion. Doing this can alleviate disability and prevent degenerative arthritis by “squeezing & soaking” regions of the cartilage that is not frequently used. The joint-cartilage is like a sponge that only soaks up new nutrient when old fluids are squeezed out. Areas of the cartilage that are not used frequently may wear out if there is no proper sustenance; thus, exposing the underlying bones to damages. Picture brake pads that have worn-out, you will have an idea of what we are talking about.
11. Protects the spine
Your spinal disks–the shock absorbers between the spinal column responsible for nerve herniation and compression–needs movement; that is the only way they obtain nutrient. You can keep increase flexibility of your spinal disks through a well-balanced asana practice with lots of twists, backbends, and forward bends.
12. Perfect posture
The head is like a ball–round, big, and heavy–placed directly on a straight spine. Thus, it requires support from the neck and also back muscles. When you move this bowling ball (your head) continuously, you begin to strain those muscles; this is one of the reasons why we get tired after a long day of work.
Besides fatigue, bad posture can lead to neck and back pains as well as problems with the joints and muscles. When you fall, the body might compensate through flattening the inward curves of the neck and back.
13. Improves balance
Regular yoga practice increase proprioception and improves balance. Poor proprioception can be seen in people with dysfunctional movement pattern or bad posture, this has been associated with back pain and knee problems. The more you have balance, the less you fall. For older individuals, it makes them more independent or delay admission into nursing homes or even getting admitted into one. Poor posture can make you lose confidence in yourself.
14. Relieves limb tension
Have you noticed yourself scrunching your face when you look at a computer screen or holding the cell phone or steer the car wheel with a strong grip. These unconscious behaviors can cause muscle fatigue, chronic tension and soreness the face, wrists, arms, neck, shoulder and face; this can increase your stress levels or cause depression.
Practicing yoga helps you identify regions in your body that holds tension; like your eyes, your tongue or your face muscles and neck muscles. With practice, you can relieve tension in the eyes and tongue. However, bigger muscles such as the buttocks, trapezius, and quadriceps may require much practice for years before learning how to put them at rest.
15. Keeps your system relaxed
Yoga encourages relaxation, slow breathing, helps you focus on current situations by shifting balance from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system (calm and restorative). This can help increase blood flow, lowers breathing and heart rate and decrease blood pressure–Herbert Benson, M.D., refers to this as the relaxation response.
16. Helps you focus
Yoga allows you focus on current situations. Several studies have shown that frequent yoga practice increases memory, reaction time, coordination, and also IQ. Problem-solving ability as well as being able to acquire and recall information easily has been observed in people who practice Transcendental Meditation¬–maybe because they don’t allow their thoughts distracts them.
17. Improves your mood (makes you happy)
A study revealed that practicing yoga consistently can improve depression and cause a substantial increase in the levels of serotonin and lowers the level of cortisol and monoamine oxidase (a neurotransmitter-breaking enzyme). At the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davisson, Ph.D., discovered that the left prefrontal cortex showed high activity in mediators, a finding that has been associated with high levels of happiness and improved immune function. More dramatic activation of the left side was observed in dedicated, long-term practitioners.
18. Develop a healthy lifestyle
Another yoga health benefit is that it helps you become active through exercise that burns calories and encourage good eating habits, thus, prevent overweight. With yoga, you stand to benefit on both fronts (exercise and diet). With yoga, you can be inspired to become a more conscious eater.
19. Improves function of the adrenal glands
Yoga can reduce the level of cortisol–a stress hormone. The adrenal gland produces cortisol in response to emergencies; this improves immune function for a short period. However, if the level of cortisol remains high after the crises, it can damage the immune system. Temporary boosts of cortisol can improve long-term memory, but high levels of this hormone may weaken memory and cause permanent changes in brain function.
In addition, high levels of cortisol have been linked with depression, hypertension, osteoporosis, and insulin resistance. Research has shown that the “food-seeking” behavior (the type that drives you to eat when angry or under stress) in rats is caused by high levels of cortisol. The body converts those extra calories and stores them as abdominal fats, causing weight gain, increased risk of diabetes and heart attack.
20. Create consciousness for transformation
You can build awareness with yoga and meditation. The more you are conscious of yourself, eliminating negative emotions such as anger becomes easy. Studies have shown that hostility and chronic anger are strongly related to heart disorders just as diabetes, smoking, and high cholesterol.
Yoga tends to decrease fury by improving moods of compassion, interconnection, as well as keeping the mind and nervous system calm. With yoga, you can remain calm when confronted with unpleasant news or conflicting events. It allows you to rethink before responding.
21. Employs the placebo effect to affect change
Yоu can get better by believing уоu wіll get bеttеr. Unfоrtunаtеlу, many соnvеntіоnаl scientists are оf the оріnіоn thаt іf ѕоmеthіng wоrkѕ by eliciting thе рlасеbо effect, іt dоеѕ nоt соunt. But еvеrу раtіеnt hореѕ tо gеt bеttеr, ѕо if chanting a mаntrа–lіkе hоw it is done аt thе ѕtаrt or еnd of уоgа сlаѕѕ, or all thrоugh mеdіtаtіоn, оr durіng the day–promotes hеаlіng, even if thіѕ іѕ juѕt a рlасеbо еffесt, whаt’ѕ ѕtорріng уоu frоm doing іt.
22. Provide service to others
Kama yoga–referred to as service to оthеrѕ–іѕ vіtаl tо уоgіс рhіlоѕорhу. It іѕ not a muѕt to serve оthеrѕ, but dоіng ѕо may іmрrоvе уоur health. A ѕtudу at thе University of Mісhіgаn ѕhоwеd that older adults whо vоluntееrеd a lіttlе of thеіr tіmе wеrе thrее tіmеѕ mоrе lіkеlу tо bе аlіvе аftеr seven уеаrѕ.
Yоu can gіvе mеаnіng оr рurроѕе to уоur lіfе when you serve оthеrѕ, and you may feel rеlаxеd wіth уоur рrоblеm whеn уоu see whаt others are going through.
23. Links you up with guidance
A good yoga instructor can do wonderful things for your health. Those that are exceptional can offer more than guide you through achieving a better posture. They can deliver hard truths with compassion, adjust your posture, enhance or personalized your practice, and help you relax. A healthy relationship with an instructor will go far towards promoting your health.
24. Benefits your relationships
Love can aid the process of healing. Cultivating emotional support for family, friends, and family has repeatedly been shown to boost health and healing. Practicing yoga regularly can help develop compassion, friendliness and greater patience.
Yoga philosophy emphasizes on speaking the truth, avoid bringing harm to others, not being selfish or greedy; all this can help improve your relationship with people.
25. Provides inner strength
You can make significant changes in your life with yoga. Tapas–a Sanskrit word for heat–is the fire and discipline that energize yoga practice. You can extend the Tapas you develop to different parts of your life to overcome apathy and change bad habits.
You can achieve all this without employing a particular method to change things. You will begin to eat well, do more exercise, or quit smoking after several years of failed attempts.
26. Improves your connective tissues
You must have observed that almost all the benefits of yoga are intertwined. Changing your posture will affect how you breathe. And when you change how you breath, it will change your nervous system. You can learn all this from yoga; everything has a connection–your ankle to your hipbone, you and your society, your society and the world.
All these connections are useful in knowing more of yoga. This holistic approach taps into various tools that have addictive and multiplicative effects. The healing effect of yoga can be attributed to this synergy.
27. Controls allergies and viral infection
Kriyas is another element of yoga that promotes rapid breath exercise to elaborate internal cleansing of the intestine. Jala neti, which has to do with a gentle lavage of the nasal route with salt water gets rid of pollen and viruses from the nasal region, prevents accumulation of mucus, and promotes drainage of the sinuses.
28. Improves lung function
Yоgа рrасtіtіоnеrѕ саn tаkе fewer brеаthѕ оf lаrgе vоlumе, whісh is mоrе еffесtіvе and calming. A ѕtudу in 1998 рublіѕhеd іn Thе Lаnсеt, a Brіtіѕh Mеdісаl Journal, tаught раtіеntѕ wіth lung рrоblеm caused bу cognitive heart fаіlurе a yoga tесhnіԛuеѕ knоwn аѕ “соmрlеtе brеаthіng.”
A month later, thеіr аvеrаgе rеѕріrаtоrу rаtе dесrеаѕеd to 7.4 brеаthѕ per mіnutе frоm 13.4. Alѕо, thеrе was a significant іnсrеаѕе іn their аbіlіtу tо еxеrсіѕе аnd аlѕо improve ѕаturаtіоn of оxуgеn in their blood. Addіng tо thіѕ, уоgа has bееn ѕhоwn to increase dіffеrеnt mеаѕurеѕ оf lung function such as thе еffісіеnсу of еxhаlаtіоn and mаxіmum volume оf brеаth.
Yoga аlѕо еnсоurаgеѕ brеаthіng thrоugh thе nоѕе; thіѕ filters the аіr, kеерѕ it wаrm (cold, dry аіr can trіggеr аn аѕthmаtіс аttасk in sensitive patients) аnd humidifies іt; thuѕ, іt removes dirt аnd оthеr thіngѕ thаt ѕhоuld nоt bе taken into thе lungs.
29. Improves your immune function
Pranayama and asana can boost immune function, but, thus far, scientific findings has been able to prove that meditation is better at enhancing the immune system.
Meditation can boost function (for instance, by increasing the levels of antibody in response to a vaccine) and lowers it when necessary (for example, mitigating an inappropriately aggressive immune function in autoimmune disease such as psoriasis).
30. Reduces drug consumption
You should consider yoga if your cabinet looks like a drug store. Studies have shown that people with hypertension, asthma, and diabetes reduced their drug dosage and some stopped their medication completely with the help of yoga.
With yoga, you can save more money from purchasing drugs and also prevent different side effects or drug reaction.
31. Promotes Self-Care
In conventional medicine, many patients are inert care-recipients. But in yoga, what you do for yourself is all that matters. Practicing yoga offers you the opportunity to get involved in taking care of yourself, discover how your involvement allows you to effect change, and see how these changes bring about hope, which itself promotes self-healing.
32. Guides healing of your body in the eyes of your mind
If you think of an image in your mind just as it is done in yoga nidra, you can effect changes in your body. Different studies have shown that guided imagery decreased postoperative pain, reduced rate of developing headaches and improves quality of life in people living with cancer or HIV.
33. Better Sleep
Stimulation is okay, but over stimulation may affect your nervous system. With yoga, you can relieve yourself from stress caused by the busy life we find ourselves in. Yoga Nidra ( guided form of relaxation), restorative asana, pranayama, savasana, and meditation promotes pratyahara, which is an inward turning of senses that offers the nervous system downtime.
Another positive outcome of practicing yoga according to studies is better sleep; this means you will be less stressed and tire, and reduced risk of having accidents.
34. Gives you rest of mind
Following Patanjali’s yoga sutra, yoga quells mind fluctuations; this implies that it reduces anger, regret, frustration, desire, and fear that can lead to stress.
Since stress has been linked with many health conditions such as insomnia, migraines, hypertension, and heart attracts, learning to have peace of mind can increase your chance of living healthily and longer.
35. Prevents Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and digestive disorders
IBS, constipation, and ulcers can be aggravated by stress. Thus, you will suffer less from these conditions if your stress level is low. Just like every physical exercise, yoga can relieve constipation–and supposedly reduce the possibility of developing colon cancer–since frequent body movement promotes easy transport of foods and waste through the intestines.
Although there is no scientific backup, yoga practitioners believe that these twisting poses are useful in transporting waste through the intestines
36. Relieves pain
With yoga, you can alleviate pain. Based on some studies, meditation, asana, or combining both can ease pain in individuals with back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other severe conditions. Relieving pain can improve your mood and make you active, eliminating the need for several medications.
37. Employs sounds to soothe your sinuses
Yoga basis such as pranayama, asana, and meditation all function to enhance your health; however, that’s not all you stand to benefit. For instance, chanting helps to prolong exhalation and switches balance toward the parasympathetic nervous system.
Chanting can be a powerful, physical and emotional experience when done in a group. According to a study carried in Karolinska Institute in Sweden, it revealed that humming sounds like that made while chanting Om clears the sinuses and promotes drainage.
38. Improves self-confidence
Most people from poor self-esteem. And if you take care of this the wrong way–drug abuse, overeating, sleep around, too much work, – you will end up causing harm to your health, either mental, physical, and spiritual.
Taking a helpful approach by practicing yoga, you will start having value for yourself. You can access a different part of yourself by practicing yoga with the aim of examining yourself and self-improvement and not as an alternative for aerobics classes. Then, you will begin to feel gratitude, forgiveness, empathy, and sense of belonging.
III. DIFFERENT STYLES OF YOGA
One of the biggest hurdles to starting yoga is figuring out what style of yoga you want to try. It's often confusing for beginners because the class names and options are so broad. While almost all styles use the same physical postures, each has a particular emphasis. This cheat sheet highlights the differences so you can determine which type is most appealing to you.
Of course, the best way to start doing yoga is to take a class for beginners. If your local studio doesn't indicate which classes are geared toward newbies, ask in advance which class is going to offer basic instruction appropriate for someone new. If you're seeking out online videos, search specifically for beginner-level classes almost all online yoga video platforms let you search by ability-level.
Just keep in mind, if you don't like your first yoga class, that doesn't mean that you and yoga aren't meant to be. Because there are so many different styles of yoga and so many different instructors with their own approaches to teaching, it may take a few attempts before you find the right fit.
Given the many benefits of a regular yoga practice, if you don't like yoga initially, commit to trying several different classes before you write it off completely.
Aside from classes designated as "beginner yoga," generally speaking, classes labeled as "hatha" are slower-moving, thoughtful practices that focus on basic, beginner-friendly poses.
Of course, it's important to recognize that the term "hatha" is actually a generic designation for any form of yoga focused on movement. In America, almost every yoga class is, technically, hatha, so make sure you ask the instructor what you can expect before your first class.
Vinyasa classes are incredibly popular, but they tend to be faster-moving, which can be confusing for beginners who are unfamiliar with basic poses.
If you want to try a vinyasa class, seek out a beginner-level version.
Finally, Iyengar yoga is a form of yoga heavily focused on proper alignment. This is great for people who have injuries or who want to spend extra time getting each pose exactly right. You can expect a lot of instruction, which is great for beginners.
Remember, any style of yoga can be perfectly suitable for beginners as long as it's designated a "beginner" class, so if your local studio offers yin or Forrest yoga, feel free to give it a try. Just be sure to let your instructor know that you're new to the practice. By giving him the heads up, he'll know to keep an eye on you and to offer more detailed instructions as needed.
Different YOGA Styles Explained
You can try to identify your yoga type or figure out what your yoga personality is to see which of the following styles is best for you. There are many to choose from, but don't let that intimidate you. Try a beginner-friendly class before branching out (if you want to).
1 - HATHA YOGA
Hatha is a very general term that encompasses any of the physical styles of yoga. In contemporary yoga lingo, hatha has come to mean a slow-paced and gentle way of practicing. Hatha classes are often a good place to begin a yoga practice because they provides an introduction to the basic yoga poses in a low-key setting.
Hatha is a very broad term that encompasses any of the physical practices of yoga. It can be used to describe every kind of yoga asana practice from Iyengar to Ashtanga and everything that falls between and beyond. In fact, any of the many contemporary types of physical yoga that are popular today can be accurately described as Hatha yoga.
The History of Hatha
Hatha means forceful in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language that is the source of most of yoga's terminology.
According to Ellen Stansell, a scholar of yogic literature, the term may have come into use as early as the 12th century. Though Hatha is considered to be on the gentle end of the spectrum these days, Stansell posits that it must have seemed strong in comparison to more subtle practices (meditation, for example) that were available at the time.
The first Indian gurus who brought yoga to a Western audience in the mid-19th century took pains to distance themselves from Hatha yoga, which they associated with wandering street mendicants called yogins. In his book "Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice" Mark Singleton says it was not until the international popularity of the physical culture movement later in the 19th century that Hatha yoga was integrated into the teachings exported to the West.
Contemporary Hatha Yoga Classes
Given that the word has such an open meaning, what should you expect if you attend a Hatha yoga class?
Today, Hatha is most often used to describe gentle, basic yoga classes with no flow between poses. Expect a slower-paced stretching-focused class with some basic pranayama breathing exercises and perhaps a seated meditation at the end. Hatha classes are a good place to work on your alignment, learn relaxation techniques, and become comfortable with doing yoga while building strength and flexibility.
Hatha Flow Classes
Just to confuse things, some studios throw something called Hatha flow into the mix. Wait, didn't we just say that Hatha wasn't flow? Classes in which you move from pose to pose in a sequence without resting can also correctly be described as Vinyasa. To further add to the muddle, you might see both Hatha flow and Vinyasa on the schedule at your local studio. In this case, expect the Vinyasa to be a little more vigorous, but so much depends on the style of each individual teacher that it's impossible to be definitive on this point without taking specific classes. If you need more clarification, ask the studio how the classes differ or try them yourself to find out.
Is Hatha Yoga for You?
Try a Hatha class if the idea of gentle yoga appeals to you or seems right for your body. It can be a great introduction to yoga, but shouldn't be mistaken for easy yoga since it can still be challenging both physically and mentally. Hatha classes provide an opportunity to stretch, unwind, and release tension, providing a good counterpoint to both busy lifestyles and cardio workouts. If you go into a Hatha class and it feels too slow or not active enough, don't give up on yoga completely.
There are faster-paced, more athletic ways to do yoga. Try a Vinyasa or power yoga class and see if that is more your speed.
2 - VINYASA FLOW YOGA
Like hatha, vinyasa is a general term used to describe many different types of classes. Vinyasa tends to be a more vigorous style of yoga incorporating series of poses called sun salutations, in which each movement is matched to the breath.
A vinyasa class typically starts with a number of sun salutations to warm up the body for more intense stretching done at the end of class. Vinyasa is also called flow, in reference to the continuous movement from one posture to the next.
Vinyasa, also called flow because of the smooth way that the poses run together, is one of the most popular contemporary styles of yoga. It's a broad classification that encompasses many different types of yoga, including Ashtanga and power yoga.
In contemporary yoga parlance, vinyasa stands in opposition to hatha. Hatha classes tend to focus on one pose at a time with rest in between. In contrast, flow classes string poses together to make a sequence. The sequence may be fixed, as in Ashtanga in which the poses are always done in the same order, but most of the time vinyasa teachers have the discretion to arrange the progression of poses in their own ways.
In vinyasa yoga, each movement is synchronized to a breath. The breath is given primacy, acting as an anchor as you move from one pose to the next. A cat-cow stretch is an example of a very simple vinyasa. The spine is arched on an inhale and rounded on an exhale. A sun salutation sequence is a more complex vinyasa. Each movement in the series is cued by an inhalation or an exhalation of the breath.
The literal translation of vinyasa from Sanskrit is "connection," according to Ellen Stansell, Ph.D., RYT, and scholar of yogic literature. In terms of yoga asana, we can interpret this as a connection between movement and breath or as the connection between poses in a flowing sequence.
What to Expect
Vinyasa allows for a lot of variety, but will almost always include sun salutations. Expect to move, sometimes vigorously, from pose to pose. Whether the class is fast or slow, includes advanced poses, or is very alignment-oriented will depend on the individual teacher and the particular style in which he or she is trained.
Some classes include some warm-up stretches at the beginning while others launch straight into standing poses. Some very popular yoga styles fall under the vinyasa umbrella, including Jivamukti, CorePower, Baptiste Power Vinyasa, and Modo. If a class is simply identified as vinyasa, it may use of aspects of several different traditions. The one thing you can be sure if is the flow between poses. The rest is up to the teacher, but you can expect to go through any combination of the poses below.
Going Through Your Vinyasa
When vinyasa is used as a noun, it describes a series of three poses that are done as part of a sun salutation sequence. When the teacher says, "go through the vinyasa at your own pace," she means to do a plank, chaturanga, and upward facing dog (or their equivalent variations) using your breath to measure when to move on to the next pose.
If you start to get tired and this affects the quality of your poses, it's very acceptable to skip the vinyasa and wait for the class in downward facing dog.
The beginner's version of the vinyasa is plank → knees, chest, chin → cobra → downward facing dog.
The advanced version is plank → chaturanga dandasana → upward facing dog → downward facing dog.
Let's look a closer look at the beginners' sequence first and then on to the more advanced sequence.
Beginners Version: Plank Pose
Begin in a plank position. This is usually arrived at by stepping or jumping back from the front of your mat. If plank is too much for you, you can always drop your knees to the floor. Just make sure to keep your elbows aligned under your shoulders.
Lower to Knees, Chest, and Chin
Exhale to lower your knees, chest, and chin to your mat. Your butt stays high in the air and your elbows point straight back along your sides. This pose is a good warm-up for backbends and helps you develop arm strength.
Inhale and slide forward to a low cobra pose. Don't move your arms. As you lower your hips to the floor, your chest will come forward and lift up off the ground.
Try to make this lift come from the strength of your back, not pushing down into your hands. Keep little to no weight in your hands while you anchor your pelvis and the tops of your feet to the mat.
Downward Facing Dog
Exhale and curl your toes under as you straighten your arms to push back to downward facing dog. You can come through all fours or a child's pose in transition if you want to.
Advanced Version: Back to Plank Pose
Now let's take a look at the advanced version, which also begins with plank pose. During a sun salutation flow, advanced students will sometimes jump back from utanasana straight into chaturanga. In that case, skip the plank pose.
To prepare to lower from plank, shift forward onto your tip toes.
Exhale and bend your elbows straight back to lower to chaturanga dandasana . Your body is in one straight line and your shoulders should be no lower than your elbows. It's a tough position to hold but try not to rush on to the next pose.
Inhale and straighten your arms, drop your hips, and roll over the toes to the tops of your feet into upward facing dog. You can flip the feet one at a time if that works better for you. Press into your hands and feet to keep your thighs lifted off the floor. Keep your shoulders moving away from your ears.
Downward Facing Dog
Exhale, roll over the toes and shift your hips up and back to downward facing dog.
Do the version of the vinyasa that you are most comfortable with. Even if you have a very competent chaturanga, it's nice to warm up with a few rounds of knees, chest, chin at the beginning of class.
Some flow classes have a lot of vinyasas. If you get tired and your form starts to slip, go back to the beginners' version or skip the vinyasa altogether. You can stay in plank or downward facing dog while you wait. Chaturanga is a tricky pose and injuries are more likely to happen when you're tired, so play it safe.
Is Vinyasa Flow Yoga for You?
Vinyasa’s strength is in its diversity. If you appreciate having things a little loose and unpredictable and like to keep moving, this style is definitely worth a try.
In most cases, there is no single philosophy, rulebook, or sequence that teachers must follow, so there is a lot of room for individual personalities and quirks to come through. This makes it essential that you find a teacher you enjoy and can relate to. If your first flow class doesn’t rock your world, keep trying different teachers until you find one that's a better fit.
3 - ANUSARA YOGA
Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara combines a strong emphasis on physical alignment with a positive philosophy based on a belief in the intrinsic goodness of all beings.
Classes are usually light-hearted and accessible, often with a focus on heart opening.
Unfortunately, Friend is no longer associated with Anusara due to his personal indiscretions. Anusara is now a teacher-led yoga school and Friend has started a new yoga style called Sridaiva.
Anusara, which means "flowing with grace," was founded in 1997 by American yogi John Friend and quickly grew into a respected yoga empire with a large following in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Anusara's upward momentum came to an abrupt halt, however, in 2012 when Friend resigned his leadership in the wake of a scandal.
The Rise of Anusara 1997-2012
John Friend was a senior level Iyengar yoga teacher before leaving the fold to pursue his own yoga method, which explains his ongoing concern with the importance of alignment.
The heart of Anusara Yoga and what sets it apart from other styles is what Friend called the Universal Principles of Alignment, a unique way of teaching yoga poses that emphasizes core stability and spinal mobility within a vinyasa-style practice. Anusara is a complete yoga system that includes its own philosophy, derived from Tantra, that teaches that all beings are inherently good. With its charismatic leader, rigorous initiation process (teacher-trainings were expensive and took years), and specialized vocabulary, Anusara carved out its own niche, becoming very influential in contemporary yoga throughout the first decade of the 21st century as Friend's singular approach to alignment and mystical rhetoric found purchase at a time that coincided with surge in yoga's popularity.
The Fall of John Friend
Anusara was rapidly expanding, with an expansive new headquarters planned in Encinitas, California, when accusations of personal and professional impropriety by John Friend threw the organization into turmoil.
A post on an anonymous website in February 2012, alleged that Friend had illegally suspended his employees' pension funds in order to pay for the new Anusara Center, used drugs, and led a Wiccan coven in which sexual rites were encouraged. Friend soon admitted having inappropriate sexual relationships with female students and employees.
He then announced that he would take a hiatus from teaching in order to evaluate his personal life and restructure the management of Anusara Yoga. As more details emerged about Friend's deviations from the moral code he had espoused and his apparent lack of contrition, many prominent Anusara teachers resigned their affiliations as their students became disillusioned with the teacher they had formerly revered. In the fall of 2012, Friend returned to teaching with a series of workshops introducing a new yoga system called Sridaiva. At about the same time, a group of senior Anusara teachers announced the formation, with Friend's blessing, of the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga, which continues to certify teachers and teach in the original Anusara style.
Anusara 2012- Present
Anusara's presence and influence are much diminished since John Friend's departure. The majority of Anusara's best-known teachers quickly eschewed their affiliations with the organization in the wake of the 2012 accusations. Those most dedicated to Friend shifted their loyalty to his new project, Sridaiva, which has its own alignment system and is building a following that is not dissimilar from the early days of Anusara.
However, a dedicated group of senior teachers has kept the Anusara boat afloat. Even as their faith in the style's founder was shaken, they remained convinced the validity and superiority of the Anusara method and have continued to teach it. Therefore, it's still possible to find quality Anusara classes though they are much less available than they were before the upheaval.
What to Expect If You Take an Anusara Class
Anusara classes are often lighthearted, positive, and fun. They are not easy, however, as they include vinyasa flow and a lot of alignment work. Anusara encourages the use of props, making classes accessible to students of differing abilities.
Anusara does have its own vocabulary, which takes some getting used to, though teachers are trained to explain the Universal Principals of Alignment in lay terms. Anusara appeals to those who want to work both their physical and spiritual well-being. Although it doesn't have the prominence and cachet that it once did, Anusara still has positive things to offer.
4 - ASHTANGA YOGA
Ashtanga is a fast-paced, intense, flowing style of yoga founded by Pattabhi Jois in the 1960s. 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.
It was one of the first yoga styles embraced by a large number of western students and had been very influential in the evolution of yoga in the past 30 years.
Ashtanga (also spelled Astanga) means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, which refers to the eight limbs of yoga laid out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Ashtanga method stresses daily vinyasa flow practice using ujjayibreathing, mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and drishti. There are six different Ashtanga series, through which a student progresses at his or her own pace.
The Ashtanga method of asana practice was interpreted by T. Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from an ancient text called the "Yoga Korunta," which they claimed described a unique system of hatha yoga developed by Vamana Rishi.
Founder Pattabhi Jois
K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009) began his yoga studies with Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India at the age of 12. He became the leading practitioner and teacher of Ashtanga yoga, which is a set series of poses done in a flowing vinyasa style. In 1962, he published his treatise on Ashtanga yoga, "Yoga Mala." His first Western students began to arrive in Mysore in the early 1970s. Through them, Ashtanga spread westward and profoundly influenced the way yoga is practiced today. After Pattabhi Jois died in 2009, his grandson Sharath took over the leadership role, including teaching the many students who continue to flock to Mysore to deepen their practices.
Ashtanga Series of Poses
The first, or primary, series is described in "Yoga Mala." The primary series is called Yoga Chikitsa, which means yoga therapy. It is intended to realign the spine, detoxify the body, and build strength, flexibility, and stamina. The series of about 75 poses takes an hour and a half to two hours to complete, beginning with sun salutations (surya namaskara A and surya namaskara B) and moving on to standing poses, seated poses, inversions, and backbends before relaxation.
The intermediate or second series is called Nadi Shodana, meaning nervous system purification. It cleanses and strengthens the nervous system and the subtle energy channels throughout the body. This series is only introduced when the student has mastered the primary series. It follows the same progression (sun salutations, standing, sitting, etc.) as the primary series, but introduces new poses and variations.
The four advanced series are called Sthira Bhaga, which means divine stability. Pattabhi Jois originally outlined two intensive advanced series, but later subdivided them into four series to make them accessible to more people. These series emphasize difficult arm balances and are only appropriate for extremely advanced students. There are very few students practicing beyond the second series.
Many yoga studios offer led Ashtanga classes, meaning a teacher leads the class and instructs students in the order of the poses, usually in the primary or secondary series. Students often may also opt for self-led, or Mysore style practice. This is an opportunity to practice at their own pace and level of ability, but in the company of other students and with the encouragement and advice of a teacher, as needed.
In the Mysore method, the student masters each pose in sequence and is given new poses to work on by their teachers as they become ready. Ashtanga can be an ideal foundation for home practitioners once they know the sequence of poses.
Is Ashtanga for You?
Ashtanga yoga is extremely popular and inspires fierce loyalty in its students. This vigorous, athletic style of practice appeals to those who like a sense of order and who like to do things independently. You may want to become familiar with Ashtanga vocabulary to help you feel comfortable with this style's specialized terminology.
5 - BAPTISTE POWER VINYASA YOGA
Baron Baptiste is a power yoga innovator who studied many different styles of yoga, martial arts, and meditation before coming up with his own unique yoga method, Baptiste Power Vinyasa.
His style is based on 5 Pillars: vinyasa, ujjayi pranayama, heat, uddiyana bandha, and drishti. Classes, which are conducted in a heated room, are typically strong and sweaty.
Baptiste Power Vinyasa (BPV) yoga is a type of hot power yoga. It was developed by Baron Baptiste, who says it is focused on asana (poses), meditation, and self inquiry and is intended to be adaptable to any level of physical ability. Learn the pillars of this style of yoga, its history, and where you can practice it.
History of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga
It would be hard to find a better yoga lineage than the one boasted by Baron Baptiste.
His parents, Walt and Magana Baptiste, opened the first yoga studio in San Francisco in 1952. Early on, Baptiste was taken with the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and Bikram Choudhury.
By the mid 1990s, Baptiste had synthesized these teachings, along with influences from Ashtanga and T.K.V. Desikachar (founder of Viniyoga and son of Krishnamacharya) into his own style of power yoga that also emphasized the importance of intuition. Elements from all these predecessors come together to form the foundations of Baptiste Power Vinyasa: drishti, bandhas, pranayama, vinyasa, alignment, and adaptability.
The 5 Pillars of Baptiste Power Vinyasa
The important aspects of the Baptiste method are summarized by the five pillars: breath, heat, flow, gaze, and core stabilization.
1. Breath: The primary pranayama used in BPV is ujjayi, which is associated with a strong vinyasa practice. In ujjayi breath, you tone or constrict the back of your throat (as you would when fogging up a mirror) as you inhale and exhale through your nose.
This takes some practice but soon become second nature. It has the effect of slowing down the breath to make keep it deep and powerful during challenging postures. When the breath becomes short and shallow, it can trigger the fight or flight panic reflexes in the body. Keep the breath long and deep helps you stay calm.
2. Heat: In official BPV classes, the room should be heated to 90 to 95 degrees. This external heating of the room is intended to allow students to quickly stoke their internal fires (tapas) for a loose, sweaty practice.
3. Flow: Flow is vinyasa style practice in which movement is linked to breath. Daily practice is encouraged. While there isn't a fixed series of poses in BPV, there is a pattern that most classes follow. Classes begin with several rounds of surya namaskara A and B, although there is room for some variation here. Then the teacher moves on to a standing series that includes vinyasa flow between sides. More advanced variations are offered in addition to adaptations for beginners. Classes often also include abdominal work, backbending, and hip opening.
4. Gaze: Drishti means looking at a particular place while doing yoga poses. It is an important part of Ashtanga yoga, where drishtis are taught as part of the alignment for each pose. In BPV, the gaze is not specific for each posture. Instead, students are directed to fix their attention on any point that doesn’t move and to keep their eyes soft as a way to turn their attention away from what's going on externally in the room around them and bring their focus inward.
5. Core Stabilization: Core stabilization is uddiyana bandha. In BPV, this means the constant drawing in of the belly button toward the spine. This is done throughout the practice, but it’s not exactly the deep uddiyana bandha seen in "Light on Yoga" in which the belly is completely hollowed until the ribs protrude. It is intended to provide support by engaging the core for balance and strength.
Where to Practice Baptiste Power Vinyasa
There are two official Baptiste Yoga studios in Boston, Massachusetts, and San Francisco, California. However, there are affiliated studios throughout the U.S. Baptiste has a very open program in which independent studios teaching his method can become partner studios.
It may be that the hot yoga studio in your neighborhood is teaching BPV. Check the Baptiste website to find a studio near you. Baptiste is also active on the yoga festival and conference circuit, often appears in the pages of Yoga Journal and has written several books, including "Journey Into Power," "Being of Power," and "My Daddy is a Pretzel" for kids. Yogadownload.com offers BPV classes online.
6 - HOT YOGA (also known as BIKRAM)
Hot yoga was pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, whose name became synonymous with yoga classes taught in a room heated to 95 to 104 degrees. The heat facilitates the loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 poses, but not all hot classes make use of this series.
Hot yoga can refer to any yoga class done in a heated room. Though there are a few styles of hot yoga classes, Bikram yoga is the original hot yoga and among the best known. Even though some people may use "hot" and "Bikram" interchangeably, the truth is that all Bikram yoga is hot, but not all hot yoga is Bikram.
Hot yoga often tends to be a flowing vinyasa style of practice in which the teacher instructs students in a series of linked poses.
During class, the room is usually maintained at a temperature of 95 to 105 F. As you can imagine, a vigorous yoga session at high temperatures makes the body very warm and induces profuse sweating. The intent is that the heat loosens your muscles and the sweat helps cleanse your body.
Bikram yoga is just one style of hot yoga. Other popular hot yoga options include the Canadian import Moksha yoga (known as Modo yoga in the United States) and CorePower yoga, a rapidly expanding chain. Many locally-owned and independent yoga studios offer their own style of heated classes as well.
Tips and Precautions
Hot yoga will need preparation and gear that can handle the heat:
Bikram Choudhury is a hot yoga innovator and founder of the Bikram yoga system. His method is the original style to be set in a hot room. It is a set series of 26 postures, including two pranayama exercises, each of which is performed twice in a single 90-minute class.
Choudhury was born in Calcutta, India, in 1946. He was a yoga champion in his youth, as was his wife Rajashree. In 1974, Choudhury founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills, California, to teach his method. It soon became one of the most popular styles of yoga asana practiced in the West.
As Bikram's yoga classes began to draw members of the Hollywood elite, he embarked on an increasingly ostentatious lifestyle. He became known for his fleet of sports cars and for wearing expensive jewelry.
The successful yoga guru would, however, become embroiled in lawsuits and sexual assault allegations.
Bikram and Copyright
In 2002, Choudhury copyrighted his series of 26 poses done in a hot room. He has since been involved in a number of legal disputes, both over the unauthorized use of his name and the use of his method under a different name.
Choudhury successfully sued a Los Angeles yoga studio in 2003 for copyright and trademark infringement. He became the defendant in 2004 when he was sued by a San Francisco-based collective of hot yoga teachers. This group had received cease-and-desist letters over their unlicensed use of the Bikram method.
The plaintiffs argued that yoga cannot be copyrighted. The parties reached a settlement in 2005 in which Choudhury agreed not to sue them and they agreed not to use the Bikram name.
Choudhury filed another high-profile suit in 2011. This time it was against the New York-based studio Yoga to the People, which offers yoga classes by donation in several U.S. cities. This case was settled in 2012 when Yoga to the People owner Greg Gumucio agreed to stop using Bikram's name and series. Although the case didn't go to trial, it was significant because the U.S. Copyright Office announced that its previously issued copyright of Bikram's series was an error and that yoga postures could not be copyrighted.
Bikram and Sexual Assault
In 2015, the focus of Bikram's legal troubles shifted away from the protection of his yoga method. He became the subject of at least six civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or rape going back a number of years.
Though the details vary, they indicate a pattern of Choudhury preying on young female yoga students and teachers, often those enrolled in his intensive teacher training program. In early 2016, a Los Angles court ruled in favor of Choudhury's former legal advisor, who said that she was sexually harassed and fired from her position for investigating other women's harassment claims.
Around the same time, Rajashree Choudhury filed for divorce. Bikram also fled the United States. In May 2017, an arrest warrant was issued for him in California and by November he and his company had filed for bankruptcy.
The downfall of Choudhury can act as a cautionary tale within the yoga community. The nature of the practice often forms close relationships and some people may choose to take advantage of this.
Bikram studios remain open and many are operated by independent instructors. For this reason, it's important to remember that only the founder has been implicated in wrongdoing in these cases.
A Word From Bodydetoxtips 4U
Hot yoga is a viable option for many yoga students, though it is considerably more intense than classes offered in cooler rooms. Before taking a class, consider any medical conditions you may have and speak to your doctor about whether it's right for you
7 - LYENGER YOGA
Based on the teachings of the yoga master B.K.S Iyengar, this style of practice is all about bringing the body into its best possible alignment, often using props such as yoga blankets, blocks, and straps to assist students in mastering proper form.
Iyengar practices usually emphasize holding poses over longer periods of time instead of moving quickly from one pose to the next (as in a flow class). Iyengar has been very important in the development of modern yoga asana.
B.K.S. Iyengar was born on December 14, 1918. He started doing yoga as a teenager in an effort to improve his health after contracting tuberculosis, studying with his brother-in-law, Krishnamacharya, in Mysore, India. Iyengar began teaching yoga in 1936. As American and European students began seeking yoga instruction in the 1960s, Iyengar's method rose to prominence.
He established his principal school, the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (named for his wife) in Pune, India in 1975. This center became a nexus for the popularization of yoga. As one of the first teachers to teach yoga to westerners, Iyengar's influence on modern asana practice cannot be overstated. He died on August 20, 2014, at the age of 95. His son Prashant and daughter Geeta now administer the RIMYI.
The Iyengar Method: Alignment and Props
Iyengar's method, a form of hatha yoga, is based on giving primacy to the physical alignment of the body in the poses. In this style, it is taught that there is a correct way to do each pose and that every student will one day be able to attain perfect poses through consistent practice. Iyengar believed that once balance is achieved in a student's body, it will soon be reflected in his or her mind.
One of Iyengar's major innovations was the use of props.
Today, it is quite common to see blankets, blocks, straps, pillows, chairs and bolsters being used in yoga studios. The use of these props is comparatively new in the history of yoga and comes directly from Iyengar. The purpose of the props is to allow students to have the best possible alignment while their bodies are opening up.
Case Study: How to Use Props in the Iyengar Tradition
As an example, let's look at triangle pose. In this pose, your hand ideally comes to the floor on the outside of your front foot. But what if it is difficult or impossible for you to bring your hand to the floor without compromising the opening of your chest, which is one of the main purposes of the pose? In Iyengar's view, the alignment of the left shoulder over the right should be facilitated by the use of a block under the right hand until the body becomes open enough so that the block is no longer needed. This is one of the ways in which Iyengar's method makes yoga more accessible to a wide range of people. The props are used the adapt the body to the correct alignment, and can be used according to the student's own needs.
More About Iyengar's Method: No Flow
Vinyasa flow is a term used in yoga to describe the fluid transition from one pose to the next in conjunction with either an inhale or exhale of breath. Iyengar-style yoga includes very little vinyasa flow. Instead, poses are held for longer durations while the alignment is perfected. Therefore, Iyengar yoga is not as intense a cardiovascular experience as a more flowing style such as Ashtanga.
Holding the poses, however, is strenuous, builds strength, and is excellent for increasing flexibility. The absence of vinyasa flow is another reason why the Iyengar method brings yoga within reach of a broad population. It's a great place to start for people who are not physically able to do a flowing style practice. This makes Iyengar one of the most popular styles of yoga worldwide.
In addition to developing and popularizing his style of practice, Iyengar's books are highly respected and have become classic yoga texts. Chief among them is Light on Yoga, first published in 1966, which describes and illustrates hundreds of yoga poses and many breathing techniques.
His other important books include Light on Pranayama, which focuses on breath work, and Light on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is a translation and interpretation of the ancient Yoga Sutras, from which Iyengar drew the philosophical groundwork for his method of yoga. His last book, Light on Life, addresses the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga.
Is Iyengar Yoga for You?
Don't get the idea that an Iyengar class will be easy, even though the style of practice is adaptable to different levels. Iyengar is also very appealing to more advanced yogis who want to work on their alignment. People who are very meticulous, technical, have an interest in anatomy, and an appreciation of subtle movements in the body typically enjoy Iyengar-style practice. Even if you never take an Iyengar class, his influence is so prevalent today you will surely encounter it in the way poses are taught and props are used across the yoga spectrum.
8 - JIVAMUKTI YOGA
This style of yoga emerged in the 1980s from one of New York City’s best-known yoga studios. Jivamukti founders David Life and Sharon Gannon were influenced by the rigor of Ashtanga yoga in combination with chanting, meditation, and spiritual teachings. They have trained many teachers who have brought this style of yoga to studios and gyms, predominantly in the U.S. and Europe.
Jivamukti classes are physically intense and often include an inspirational theme selected by the teacher.
David Life and Sharon Gannon met in New York City in 1983 in the most Bohemian way possible when her band played at his restaurant, the iconic Life Cafe in the East Village. They were both deeply involved in art, music, and 80s counterculture and they soon began to practice yoga together. In 1984, they founded Jivamukti, one of the first hybrid yoga styles to emerge in the United States. Jivamukti is a hybrid because its methodology and philosophy synthesize elements from the teachings of several different gurus. Life and Gannon consider their three most influential teachers to have been Swami Nirmalanda, Ashtanga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati. The name Jivamukti was inspired by a Sanskrit word that means “liberation while living.” For many years, Jivamukti stayed close to its East Village roots, first on 2nd Avenue and 10th street and later on Lafayette Street. In 2006, Jivamukti moved to Union Square, opening a flagship studio with a cafe and boutique. Early devotees included such Hollywood and music industry celebrities as Gwyneth Paltrow, Christy Turlington, Uma Thurman, Russell Simmons, and Sting.
What to Expect from a Jivamukti Class
Jivamukti is a vinyasa style practice where the asana is usually quite vigorous, though classes can also be lighthearted and fun. Each class has a theme, which is explored through yoga scripture, chanting, meditation, asana, pranayama, and music, which is why Jivamukti appeals to people who want more than a good workout. Teachers are encouraged to make yoga principles relatable by drawing examples from modern life and contemporary music, so there is usually a presentation of the theme at the beginning of class and a reemphasis of it throughout. One of the strongest currents in Jivamukti's philosophy is a strict interpretation of the yamaahimsa, which means non-violence. Accordingly, Jivamukti teachers advocate, sometimes strongly, for a vegan diet.
Finding a Jivamukti Studio or Teacher
In addition to the Union Square location, there are several other licensed Jivamukti studios in the New York area and abroad. The U.S. locations are in Jersey City, New Jersey and Woodstock, New York. In Germany, there are centers in Berlin and Munich. London, Moscow, Sydney, and Puebla, Mexico are the other official locations. But don’t worry of you don’t live in one of these cities. There are many other ways to experience this yoga style. The Jivamukti website maintains a large list of affiliated studios and certified teachers. At affiliated studios, the majority of classes will be Jivamukti style. You may also find certified teachers offering Jivamukti classes in other contexts (non-affiliated studios, health clubs), so search for your location to see what’s available in your area. There are also several Jivamukti DVDsavailable, but this yoga style is so community oriented that you will have the fullest experience from taking a class.
Jivamukti runs one of the most respected teacher training programs in the U.S. One reason is that to become a certified Jivamukti teacher, you have to put in more hours than are required to earn the basic Yoga Alliance registered teacher status. The first level Jivamukti training is 300 hours. These rigorous trainings are month-long intensives taught by founders Life and Gannon with senior teachers. About four trainings are held each year in different locations around the world. Students are required to have practiced yoga for at least two years and be very familiar with the Jivamukti method. The areas of instruction are philosophy, anatomy, teaching methodology, Sanskrit, pranayama, and satsang, which means community and includes chanting, meditation, and more. The advanced Jivamukti training is an additional 500 hours of apprenticeship, resulting in an 800-hour certification.
Not Immune to Scandal
Despite its mostly favorable reputation and respected standing in the yoga community, Jivamukti is not immune to the types of scandal that have diminished other yoga styles with charismatic leaders in recent years, most notably Anusara and Bikram. A 2016 lawsuit against a senior Jivamukti teacher alleged that sexual harassment was all but sanctioned by the strict internal hierarchy that rewarded apprentice teachers who demonstrated complete devotion to their mentors. Plaintiff Holly Faurot's lawyers planned to paint a picture of Jivamukti as a cult, according to Michelle Goldberg's in-depth article that appeared in Slate in April 2016. The case was resolved with a confidential out-of-court settlement in June 2016, so this legal strategy remains untested. However, the suit itself has called the culture of Jivamukti's headquarters, encouraged by its founders, into question.
9 - KRIPALU YOGA
Kripalu is both a yoga style and a retreat center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 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, illness, or injury.
While most styles of yoga include meditation and breathing, Kripalu yoga places equal importance on the mind, body, and spirit. It's ideal for beginners and is accepting and adaptable to everyone, no matter your age, ability, size, or other circumstance.
For many, Kripalu yoga extends into their daily lives and it can be the source of great spiritual and mental transformation as well as physical health.
This is a very popular style and it's definitely something to consider as you explore yoga.
Basics of Kripalu Yoga
Kripalu is a gentle hatha yoga practice with a compassionate approach. It has an emphasis on meditation, physical healing, and spiritual transformation that overflows from the yoga mat into daily life. Over time, students are taught to observe their thoughts without judging and to accept and love themselves as they are.
In a Kripalu class, each student learns to find their own level of practice on a given day by looking inward. The classes usually begin with pranayama exercises and gentle stretches followed by asana practice and ending with final relaxation.
In classes for beginners, poses are held for a short time as students begin to feel the effects of prana in the body. More advanced classes include longer hold times and, eventually, flow.
At the end of class, Kripalu teachers say Jai Bhagwan instead of namaste.
The two terms essentially have the same meaning, but the former is in Hindi and the latter in Sanskrit.
Because of Kripalu's emphasis on adaptability and acceptance, it is a style that is welcoming to people who feel like they are outside the norm. It's also popular for those who are looking for transformation during difficult times of life or who have injuries or other physical limitations.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
The name Kripalu is associated both with a style of hatha yoga and a yoga and wellness center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Both were founded by yoga guru Amrit Desai who came to the United States from India in 1960. Kripalu was named for Desai's teacher, Sri Kripalvananda, a Kundalini yoga master.
After outgrowing two facilities in Pennsylvania, the Kripalu Center began operating out of its current home in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts in 1983. The programs at the center continued to expand until 1994. That is when it was revealed that founder Amrit Desai had engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with students. He left the center and the leadership was transferred to a group of senior members who began to rebuild.
Under this new management group, the Kripalu Center began to expand its class offerings to include a wide array of yoga styles and wellness topics. It also began to establish itself as a multi-dimensional retreat destination.
These days, the center offers an extremely diverse course schedule. It often hosts yoga's best-known teachers who lead weekend and week-long workshops. They also offer yoga, massage, and Ayurvedic teacher training.
It has become one of the most popular retreat centers in the United States.
Is Kripalu Yoga for You?
Kripalu appeals to people who want to work both physically and spiritually to improve their health and sense of well-being. The gentle and individualized approach makes it a good choice for students who can benefit from an adaptive practice. This includes people with arthritis, seniors, and anyone who may be overweight. Kripalu is also a wonderful introductory practice for almost anyone who has never done yoga before.
10 - KUNDALINI YOGA
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 through all the chakras.
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.
Kundalini yoga was brought to a western audience in 1968 when Yogi Bhajan began teaching in California. He founded 3HO (the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) in 1969 to introduce Kundalini yoga to a broader population. Before this, Kundalini was only taught in India and was passed down in the guru-student tradition. Although this type of yoga had not previously been offered to the public, Yogi Bhajan felt that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy its benefits.
What Does Kundalini Mean?
The Kundalini is untapped energy (prana) at the base of the spine that can be drawn up through the body awakening each of the seven chakras. Full enlightenment occurs when this energy reaches the crown chakra at the top of the head. Kundalini energy is often represented as a snake coiled at the bottom of the spine.
Kundalini Yoga asana sequences are called kriyas. Each kriya is preset series of poses that is done with a specific breathing technique and engagement of the bandhas to intensify the effects of the pose. Each kriya is associated with a particular chakra.
They may consist of rapid, repetitive movements coordinated with a designated breathing method or recitation of a mantra. In other kriyas, poses are held for several minutes, again with the inclusion of pranayama and mantra. Often mudras are also an important part of each kriya.
A personalized Kundalini practice would begin with a numerological analysis and diagnosis of which chakras seem to be blocked. Specific kriyas are then prescribed to help bring balance and move prana through all the chakras. In a group class situation, the teacher will typically pick a set of kriyas that will be beneficial to most people.
What to Expect in a Kundalini Class
A Kundalini class begins with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility. The main work of the class is the kriyas. The class ends with a meditation, which may be accompanied by the teacher playing a large gong, and a closing song.
Kundalini students often wear white clothing and head wraps but don't feel obligated to adopt this style of dress when you take the class. Some kundalinis also use sheepskins instead of yoga mats. Yoga Bhajan recommended this as a way to separate your body from the Earth's magnetic pull. However, it's optional. Even some of the most devoted Kundalini yogis object to this advice on ethical grounds.
Is Kundalini for You?
Kundalini is one of the most spiritual types of yoga. It goes beyond the asanas with its emphasis on opening the chakras through pranayama, meditation, mudras, bandhas, and chanting. However, Kundalini kriyas still can be very intense. Kundalini appeals to people who want a yoga method that stays grounded in the physical body while incorporating all of the traditional tools of a yogi to reach enlightenment. If you're not sure, give a few classes a try to see how they make you feel.
11 - INTEGRAL YOGA
Integral is a gentle hatha style of yoga based on the ideas and principals of Sri Swami Satchidananda, who sought to give followers guidelines on how to improve their lives. In an attempt to integrate mind, body, and spirit, classes also include pranayama, chanting, and meditation.
Integral yoga follows the teachings of Sri Swami Satchidananda, who came to the United States from India in the 1960s and eventually founded the famed Yogaville Ashram in Buckingham, Virginia and many other yoga institutes. Integral is a gentle, Hatha practice and classes often also include breathing exercises, chanting, kriyas, and meditation.
The Integral method, so called because it seeks to integrate the mind, body, and spirit, is intended to give students the tools they need to live peaceful, healthy, joyful, useful lives. Indeed, Satchidanada’s teachings go beyond the physical practice of yoga postures: He sought to inspire students to find fulfillment in themselves and promote a peaceful existence with others.
Sachidananda is also the author of many books. His translations and interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali make these arcane texts comprehensible to contemporary readers and applicable to modern life.
Integral Yoga Areas of Instruction
The practice of yoga postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), cleansing practices (kriyas) and deep relaxation to strengthen and purify the body.
The practice of meditation to balance and control the mind.
Devotion, manifested through constant love, to a God, the divine, or a spiritual teacher.
Selfless service, free from attachment to the idea of the results of these actions.
The intellectual approach, by which a transcendence of the body and mind is achieved through study, self-analysis, and awareness.
Repetition of a mantra, a sound vibration with an aspect of the divine.
Is Integral YOGA for You?
Integral yoga appeals to those who want an approach that addresses their whole life, including the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and interpersonal relationships. Classes tend to be gentle, accessible, and particularly non-competitive and the teachers are usually extremely knowledgeable.
12 - POWER YOGA
In the mid-1990s, several prominent teachers who were well-trained in traditional yoga were looking for ways to make flow yoga accessible to more people. The resulting classes came to be known by the umbrella term of power yoga.
Power yoga was initially influenced by the intensity of Ashtanga but allowed for variation in the sequencing of poses at the discretion of the teacher. Contemporary power yoga classes are essentially vigorous vinyasa flow.
Power yoga is a general term used to describe a vigorous, fitness-based approach to vinyasa-style yoga. Though many consider it to be "gym yoga," this style of practice was originally closely modeled on the Ashtanga method.
Power yoga takes the athleticism of Ashtanga, including lots of vinyasas, but gives each teacher the flexibility to teach any poses in any order, making every class different.
With its emphasis on strength and flexibility, power yoga brought yoga into the gyms of America as people began to see yoga as a way to work out.
What to Expect in a Power Yoga Class
Although power yoga classes vary widely from teacher to teacher, you can expect to find some intense flowing yoga with a minimal amount of chanting and meditation. Gyms and health clubs, in particular, have taken up the term as a way to let their clientele know that this is exercise. Prepare to work hard and work up a sweat.
Who Invented Power Yoga?
The term became common during the mid-1990s when two American yoga teachers who had studied with Ashtanga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois began to make what they had learned more accessible to Western students. They also wanted to move away from the rigid Ashtanga sequence, which is a set series of poses that are always done in the same order.
Bryan Kest, based in Los Angeles and Beryl Bender Birch, based in New York, are most often credited with the nearly simultaneous invention of power yoga on opposite coasts.
Both were part of the second generation of American Ashtanga students; Kest originally learned from David Williams and Bender Birth from Normal Allen. Williams and Allen were both among Jois's first western students. Kest went on to study with Jois in Mysore, India. Bender Birch, who had previously done Sivananda, Kundalini, and Iyengar yogas, worked with Jois during his trips to the U.S. in the 1980s.
Kest and Bender Birth both used the term power yoga to differentiate the intense, flowing style of yoga they were teaching from the gentle stretching and meditation that many Americans associated with yoga. Bender Birch has said that when she started calling her classes power yoga, she still taught the Ashtanga sequence of poses.
Styles of Power Yoga
Larry Schultz, who studied Ashtanga with Jois beginning in the 1980s, also introduced a form of power yoga at his iconic San Francisco studio, "It's Yoga," in the early 1990s. Schultz broke with Jois's method by mixing together poses from the first three Ashtanga series. Schultz later codified his approach into a style he named rocket yoga.
Baron Baptiste is another well-known yoga teacher who has successfully established his own style of power yoga, Baptiste Power Vinyasa. Baptiste had also studied Iyengar and Bikram. Using the non-specific term power yoga gave each of these innovators the freedom to draw methods and poses from all their influences simultaneously to create something new.
CorePower Yoga franchises hot yoga studios that use power yoga practices as a fitness workout.
13 - RESTORATIVE YOGA
Restorative yoga makes use of props to support the body as it relaxes into poses over the course of several minutes. The idea is to stay in each pose long enough to encourage passive stretching. Seated forward bends, gentle supine backbends, and twists are examples of the type of poses that can be adapted to be restorative with the addition of props like blankets and bolsters.
Restorative yoga is a practice that is all about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. If you take a restorative class, you may hardly move at all, doing just a few postures in the course of an hour. It is a completely different experience than most contemporary yoga.
The majority of yoga classes are an active practice in which you move from pose to pose, building heat and increasing your strength and flexibility in equal measure.
The general trend in yoga is toward more athletic and acrobatic styles of practice.
During the long holds of restorative yoga, however, your muscles are allowed to relax deeply. It's a unique feeling because props, rather than your muscles, are used to support your body. Restorative classes are very mellow, making them a good complement to more active practices and an excellent antidote to stress.
All Props All the Time
In restorative yoga, props are used extensively to support your body so you can hold poses for longer periods of time. Postures are usually adapted from supine or seated yoga poses with the addition of blocks, bolsters, and blankets to eliminate unnecessary straining.
For instance, a seated forward bend (paschimottanasana) can become restorative by placing a bolster or several folded blankets on top of your legs. This fully supports your forward bend by allowing your entire torso to rest on your props.
Legs up the wall (viparita karani) is a classic restorative pose that you might already know. In this case, the wall acts as a prop to support your legs. Other positions you may be familiar with, such as the reclined goddess pose and supported bridge pose, can also be adapted into restorative poses.
What to Expect in Class
Prepare yourself for deep relaxation when you attend a restorative class. Expect the teacher to arrange for the necessary props to be available for you. The lights may be dimmed and soft music played.
If it is chilly, keep your socks and sweatshirt on since you will not be warming up the body the way you would be in a regular class. In some poses, the teacher may even cocoon you in blankets for extra warmth and coziness.
After you are set up in a pose with all your props, you will hold the pose for an extended period, often up to ten or twenty minutes. Although you are supported, you will definitely still feel the stretching, which will probably help keep you awake.
You will continue to focus on your breath throughout. The teacher may talk you through a meditation or play music, depending on their style. You may only do four or five poses over the course of an entire class.
At the end of the session, your body feels open and refreshed. You may even be a little sore the next day from the deep stretching.
Once you learn the basic set-ups for a few postures, it's easy to do restorative yoga at home. You will need to assemble a few props, but many poses can be done with just a few blankets, which you probably already have.
Is Restorative YOGA for you?
Restorative yoga can be an excellent way to relieve stress and enjoy long, meditative stretches. Consider joining a class to get a feel for the pace before trying it at home. Have patience and enjoy the stillness of your body and mind. It takes some getting used to, but after awhile it becomes easier and you may be amazed at the benefits.
14 - SIVANANDA YOGA
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 on five principles, including the practices of asana, pranayama, and meditation. The mastery of twelve carefully selected poses is at the core of this practice.
Sivananda Yoga comes from the lineage of Swami Sivananda, as brought to the west by his disciple Swami Vishnudevananda in the late 1950s, making this style of practice an important part of yoga's first wave of popularity outside India.
Sivananda (1887-1963) was well-known in India in the 1930s, when he founded an ashram in Rishikesh. He had previously been a practicing doctor.
Because he spoke English well and wrote many treatises in English, he was sought after by western students who wished to study yoga and Vedanta. He founded the Divine Life Society in 1936 to organize and disseminate his teachings.
Sivananda's yoga and philosophies traveled west courtesy of several influential disciples. One was Swami Satchidananda, who founded Integral Yoga. Another was Vishnudevananda, who came to North America in 1957 and soon started the first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Montreal, Canada. The key philosophical points and yoga methodology associated with Sivananda Yoga were the efforts of Vishnudevananda on behalf of further spreading his guru's messages.
Today there are Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers in major cities in the U.S., western Europe, South America, and Asia, as well as nine ashram retreats.
The Sivananda method is based on five principles for optimal health and spiritual growth, as described by Vishnudevananda.
What to Expect
A typical class begins with pranayama exercises. After warming up with sun salutations, the focus is on mastery of the twelve basic poses in the following order:
- Seated Forward Bend
- Seated Spinal Twist
- Crow or Peacock
- Standing Forward Bend
Savasana closes the class. The 12 basic poses were carefully selected and include inversions, backbends, forward bends, twists, balances, and hamstring stretches. A little of everything, in other words. The poses are ideally done slowly and with control to stretch and strengthen the body as well as open the chakras. As students become proficient in the 12 basic poses, variations may be introduced.
Is Sivananda for You?
The goal of this practice is to promote physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The asana system is fairly fixed, so you must enjoy working slowly and methodically to fully master the prescribed poses. An interest in Indian philosophy is also a good indicator that you'll enjoy Sivananda yoga.
15 - VINIYOGA
Viniyoga is the term used by T.K.V. Desikachar to describe the methodology that his father, revered teacher T. Krishnamacharya, developed late in his life. It is based on an individualized approach to each student, creating a practice that suits his or her unique stage of life and state of health. Even in group classes, Viniyoga is adapted to fit each person's particular needs.
Viniyoga is not the same thing as vinyasa yoga and it is all about adaptation. It takes a holistic, therapeutic approach to teaching yoga that is designed to improve each student's health and well-being.
You can think of Viniyoga as yoga physical therapy or have a personal trainer for your yoga practice. This is because the teacher works one-on-one with a student and tailors the practice specifically for them.
That is why it's perfect if you need specialized attention due to your physical condition, an injury or illness, or any other concerns.
What Is Viniyoga?
Viniyoga is based on the guru/student model in which an experienced teacher works individually with each student. Teachers create a personalized yoga program for students based on factors like health, age, and physical condition. Viniyoga also takes into account any past or current injuries or illnesses.
When you attend your average group yoga class, there tends to be a one-size-fits-all approach. You are expected to make your body fit the poses even though the poses don't always fit your body.
A teacher may ask if there are any injuries, but no in-depth attempt is made to know more about your personal physical condition. Two students could have, for instance, back pain for entirely different reasons. A Viniyoga teacher would offer each student different modifications tailored to the root cause of their problem.
Viniyoga is intended to be adaptable to any person, regardless of physical ability. Due to this, Viniyoga teachers must be highly trained and tend to be experts on anatomy and yoga therapy.
The History of Viniyoga
Viniyoga is the legacy of the great guru Krishnamacharya, whose students included Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar.
These two are arguably the most prominent figures in yoga's dissemination to the west beginning in the 1970s.
Krishnamacharya's son T.K.V. Desikachar carried on his father's teachings as the founder of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandirum (KYM) in Chennai, India. Here, he began to call his method Viniyoga.
Desikachar died in August 2016. He had not taught publicly for some years before his death due to ill health and dementia. For a time the KYM was led by his son Kausthub. He stepped down in 2013 amid accusations of mental and physical harassment from female students.
Gary Kraftsow, the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, is the most prominent American proponent of T.K.V. Desikachar's method. Other notable students include Leslie Kaminoff, founder of The Breathing Project in New York City and co-author of Yoga Anatomy, and Chase Bossart.
What to Expect
A Viniyoga practice may include asana, pranayama, chanting, and meditation, depending on the students' needs. Because the practice is so adaptable, it makes yoga available to those with physical limitations, whether through injury, illness, or age.
It can be very gentle but is not exclusively so. If a student is more adept, his practice will be changed to suit him.
There is a strong focus on alignment and poses are often held for a consistent number of breaths with rest in between.
Though Viniyoga can be taught in group classes, it's not a place to try to fade into the background. Your teacher will want to get to know you so that she can offer you personalized instruction.
IV. UNDERSTAND YOGA BASIC POSES
Depending on the studio and instructor, pose names might be referenced in Hindi or English, or a combination thereof. This can be confusing the first few times you attend class.
It's a good idea to review some of the most common poses to familiarize yourself with English and Hindi names, as well as their basic form. Favorites like child's pose (balasana) and downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) are incorporated into just about every yoga class, so you might as well brush up in advance. Other common poses and sequences include the warrior poses and sun salutations.
Below you can watch the Hatha Yoga poses playlist that includes 70 Hatha yoga Poses!
1. Hatha YOGA Poses
The term hatha refers to one of the branches of the yoga tradition, under which many other styles and types of yoga that we know today fall under. Its practice is traditionally holistic in nature, involving not only the physical aspect of doing asanas or poses, but also breathing, purification, and meditation. However, Hatha yoga as it is known today and taught in most studios, generally means using a classical approach to teach students the fundamental poses and breathing exercises done in yoga.
There are no postures or exercises that can be dubbed specifically as Hatha yoga poses, because as mentioned, modern usage of the term "Hatha yoga" means doing the traditional / classical/ basic approach. To give you a better idea, here are some of the poses commonly done in the Hatha yoga classes being taught today.
2. Vinyasa YOGA Poses
The word “vinyasa” can be translated as “arranging something in a special way,” like yoga poses for example. In vinyasa yoga classes, students coordinate movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next. Ashtanga, Baptiste Yoga, Jivamukti, Power Yoga, and Prana Flow could all be considered vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa is also the term used to describe a specific sequence of poses (Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog) commonly used throughout a vinyasa class.
Below i have picked a playlist with more then 6 hours of Vinyasa poses and sequences for beginners so you can start tasting it.
3. Iyengar YOGA Poses
By paying close attention to anatomical details and the alignment of each posture, Iyengar Yoga is the practice of precision. Poses are held for long periods and often modified with props. This method is designed to systematically cultivate strength, flexibility, stability, and awareness, and can be therapeutic for specific conditions.
The inverted poses are intended for more experienced students, and can easily be left out by beginners. In addition to standing poses, techniques and methods for promoting healthy knees are explored in detail throughout the class.
The teaching points in this post will help to build a general understanding of standing poses, whilst also conveying the specific flavour of an individual class.