Tuesday, 7 June 2011

You-ga: personalizing your yoga practice

Like stainless steel waterbottles and motorized scooters, yoga is making its way into the lives of many individuals. Regardless of age, profession, or ailment, more people are breathing, stretching, and flowing into various levels or yogis and yoginis.

Numerous studies are continuously published, revealing the many benefits of yoga, both physically and mentally. Flexibility and strength are obvious highlighted features, but the embedded body-mind awareness that soon follows allows for a balance that is difficult to achieve elsewhere.

As we progress, communities are becoming more aware of the benefits of yoga, and classes and studios are popping up in the smallest of towns. Most studios offer various versions of hatha yoga, a combination of postures (asanas) and breathwork.
Choosing the type of yoga that fits your needs is important – not all practices are the same. Here are the basic bunch offered at most studios to get you started.
HathaMore than likely, you’ve seen the term “Hatha yoga” before. It is primarily a generic term to describe a class where postures (asanas) are held for a specific length of time, combined with a slower-moving class. Most often good for beginners, Hatha promotes flexibility and tones the body as it improves strength and concentration.
VinyasaVinyasa yoga combines flowing postures with rhythmic breathing. It is a little more involved – better for people who are comfortable with the practice already.
AshtangaAshtanga yoga is a fast-paced variation of vinyasa, based on a six-series of postures (asanas) that increase in difficulty. Created by Pattabhi Jois, this yoga flows through series of poses that  remains the same until the student has perfected each movement and can move onto another series.
Power YogaPower yoga was developed by Bender Birch, and is a combination of Western practices with Ashtanga yoga. It, like Ashtanga, is a series of postures developed to instigate energy flow. Good for those who are already interested in everything fitness, power yoga is rigorous and flowing, focusing on strength combined with the flexibility of yoga.
IyengarHailing from Pune, India, 80 year old yogi B.K.S. Iyengar practices his version of yoga combining intense focus with posture. Each pose is held much longer than in other yoga practices, and Iyengar (or other teachers) analyze muscular and skeletal alignments in the students. For more information, visit iyisf.org.
Integrative Yoga TherapyDesigned specifcally for medical wellness centres, Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) was founded in 1993 by Joseph Le Page and has grown since. The program corresponds with the healing process by addressing physical, emotional and spiritual levels of the patient/student. For more information, visitiytyogatherapy.com.
ViniyogaA gentle practice created by T.K.V. Desikachar, which focuses on breath synchronized with poses. This integrated practice is customized – and always changing – to each person.  For more information, visitviniyoga.com.
BikramBikram yoga is sometimes referred to as “hot yoga”, with temperatures oven exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Sweating in these classes releases toxins from the body, cleansing it, and in turn, the immune system. For more information, visit bikramyoga.com.
Sivananda yoga is based on the philosophy of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, who taught disciples to “serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize.” Later, one disciple, Vishnu-devananda, founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, developing Sivananda’s system into five principles:  exercise (asanas);  breathing (pranayama);  relaxation (Savasana);  diet (vegetarian); and positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (dhyana).For more information, visit sivananda.org.
KripaluThe Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Western Massachusetts, focuses on a system of yoga developed over a 20-year period by yogi Amrit Desai and the Kripalu staff. This system is based on a series of movements situated into three stages, including willful practice (focusing on alignment, breath, and the presence of consciousness); willful surrender (holding postures to levels of tolerance and beyond, with deep concentration on internal feelings); and meditation in motion (release of internal tension with complete trust in the body’s wisdom). For more information, visit kripalu.org.
There are many other forms of yoga – both variations of these and new practices forming all the time. For more information, contact your local studios, visit yogafinder.com or explore Yoga Journal magazine.
What’s your favourite type of yoga? More of a relaxing hatha, or steady vinyasa flow? Perhaps some sort of obscure hybrid? We want to know about it!

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