Many Styles of Yoga
Everyone seems to be doing yoga. Dr. Oz uses yoga to focus his mind. Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow practice to stay in shape. It seems like it must be good for you, but what are people getting out of it, and why do there seem to be so many types and styles? And why have I been practicing yoga for 37 years?
Yoga is an ancient system of self improvement, mental expansion and spiritual development. It’s about living in balance, which, in turn, helps you live in peace, good health and harmony.
This thousands-of-years-old lifestyle science has many branches, which, when taken together, cover all the aspects of how to live a happy and fulfilled life. We may think of yoga as mainly a system of physical exercise, and this is certainly an important component of the yoga lifestyle, but the yoga system is also comprised of techniques in the areas of diet, relationships, meditation and ethical practices. The type of yoga I am involved with, kundalini yoga, includes a broad blend of all these subjects.
The Sanskrit word yoga means union, and has the same root as the English word yoke. In this language of ancient India where yoga originated, it was interpreted as a union occurring between the individual consciousness and the divine- a spiritual experience, or an experience of great insight. When seen as a complete lifestyle, yoga is more about meditation than exercise per se. About.com goes into more detail about meditation and yoga.
Each of the many lineages of yoga has its own perspective to share, so you might find that any given school might have something to offer that is right for you. Take a few classes in different locales to find a good fit. Yoga Journal has a good summary of various styles.
What’s your yoga type? To find out, you may want to try these approaches:
• Yoga type: Placid
Hatha- What most people think of as yoga. Slow-paced, gentle poses. Good basic introduction for less athletic, more reflective types.
• Yoga type: Gym Rat
Vinyasa- Synchronized breath with movement. Broad movement and intense stretching. For a free sprit, who likes an eclectic, different experience with each class.
Power- Vigorous, fitness-based, vinyasa-style. Intense, emphasizing strength and flexibility.
Bikram- Series of 26 yoga poses done in a heated room. For detoxification and flexibility.
• Yoga type: Traditional
Iyengar- Hatha with stress on physical alignment of the body in the poses. Use of props to enhance alignment.
• Yoga type: Spiritual Explorer
Kundalini- Vigorous movement and breath with chanting meditation. For active types who want the spiritual side.
I think that practicing yoga will improve just about anyone’s awareness of their own body, mind and spirit, and over time, will increase their level of physical comfort, health and happiness. As a bonus, you’ll improve your posture and develop greater self-confidence, and who couldn’t use a bit of both?