Blessings and welcome Dear Reader to the 4th post of 6 in a series of posts titled Yoga for Beginners. I pray you and your loved ones are well and enjoy radiant health. In the previous post we looked at some of the main factors to think about to help you choose the best style of yoga for you.
Building on from that information, in today’s post , we’ll look at six popular styles you could practice.
A Word Of Caution
At the end of the day, whatever class or style of yoga you choose to practice, remember, there are many paths on the road to health and harmony. Your needs (physical, emotional, spiritual) constantly evolve and change over time. What you practice today may not necessarily suit your needs at another time. The beauty of yoga is it teaches you to have an open, flexible mind and not to be attached to a particular teacher or style.
You are your best teacher. The more you practice, the easier it becomes for you to discern what you need at any moment in time.
What Is The Difference Between The Different Yoga Styles?
All styles of yoga are traditionally known as “Hatha Yoga” Within “Hatha Yoga” classes tend to range from a very dynamic physically challenging style, for example Astanga Yoga to a more gentle restorative form of practice, for example Scaraveilli Yoga.
What Is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha is the generic term used to describe the different styles of yoga. The word “Hatha” is a Sanskrit word, made up of “Ha” (sun) and “tha” (moon). “Yoga” is another Sanskrit word and means “union”. So “Hatha Yoga” means the sun and moon joining together as one. From an energetic perspective, the sun and moon represents different types of energy. The sun is regarded as the masculine/active pole of energy and the moon the feminine/receptive aspect of life. A yoga class will therefore offer you a balance of active/strenuous work (ha principle) and softer relaxation exercises (ha). Based on this principle, you will notice some styles are more active and others slower and gentler.
- Sivananda Yoga
Founded by Swamiji Sivananda (1887-1963) this form of yoga is considered a fairly gentle to moderate pace and good introduction into yoga.
Sivananda Yoga focuses on 12 core yoga postures which work primarily on the spine and central nervous system. Classes tend to place an emphasis on physical, mental and spiritual health, with restful poses (Corpse Pose and Child Pose) between the 12 core poses. Beginners are also taught The Sun Salutation, two main breathing exercises – Anumola Viloma and Kapalabhati. All classes start and end with chanting and prayers.
If you are looking for a more meditative and spiritual type of class, Sivananda with its emphasis on 12 core poses, chanting, prayers and meditation will suit you. You can find out more about Sivananda Yoga and teachings at http://www.sivananda.org/
- Iyengar Yoga:
B.K.S Iyengar (b.1918) – is the famous yoga teacher associated with this style of yoga. In Iyengar yoga, great emphasis is placed on the structural alignment of the body and teachers use props, such as chairs, ropes, bolsters to support the body align and achieve the poses. Iyengar yoga is considered a good introduction to yoga for beginners especially with its strong emphasis on postural alignment and anatomy. Poses are held for at least 7 rounds of breath.
If you are the sort of person who loves paying fine attention to detail and wants to get a detailed knowledge of your body’s anatomy as you practice, a good Iyengar class will suit you. You can find out more about Iyengar Yoga at www.bksiyengar.com
- Astanga Yoga:
Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) is the founder of this style of yoga.
Considered a more strenuous form of yoga and definitely more physically challenging than Sivananda or Iyengar, Astanga yoga is very good for those who like a physically dynamic challenging practice. The style and pace of the poses means you build up a lot of internal heat and you can end up very sweaty as well as very stretched.
Traditionally Astanga Yoga was taught Mysore style. This means you are taught a series of poses, including two types of Sun Salutations and over time encouraged to self practice.
If you are a naturally competitive type of person and looking for a “good physical dynamic work out” then you may enjoy Astanga Yoga. However, I find, some students are physically drawn to this dynamic style yet deep down your spirit may require a more soothing gentle style to counteract your tendency to always push yourself? The more you practice yoga, the easier it becomes for you to adapt and adjust your practice to suit your overall needs. You can find out more about Astanga Yoga at www.ashtanga.com
- Bikram Yoga:
Founded by Bikram Choudury, (b.1946) this system of yoga is extremely popular and introduced into America by Bikram Choudury in 1971. Bikram Yoga consists of you learning 26 basic postures and two main breathing exercises. Some people refer to Bikram Yoga as “Hot Yoga” as it is taught in rooms which are heated to at least 38 degree Celsius, which can feel like you are practicing in a sauna. You definitely sweat and have a good work out Bikram.
As a beginner, it is essential you are in reasonable health and feel comfortable in practicing yoga in a very hot environment. Make sure you wear suitable yoga clothing and bring a spare towel or two into the class. You can find out more about Bikram Yoga at www.bikramyoga.com
- Kundalini Yoga
Founded by Yoga Bhajan (1929-2004), the primary aim of Kundalini Yoga is to awaken “kundalini energy” (aka your positive life force) which in yogic terms is stored at the base of your spine and once opened leads to spiritual enlightenment. Through a series of strong breathing exercises, strong-fast paced asanas, mantras, and meditations and mudras (sealing gestures made using your hands) the practice encourages you to awaken your kundalini energy.
Kundalini Yoga is a great practice, especially if you like a strong dynamic poses and looking for a more spiritually-aligned practice. There are lots of myths and folklore surrounding the power of Kundalini and how you can tap into this energy and heighten your psychic abilities. To avoid this, make sure you chose a certified teacher and remember the goal of yoga is union with the divine, releasing attachment to your ego and not about developing and using your “super natural psychic powers” That is a by-product of the practice and not the aim of yoga. You can find out more about Kundalini Yoga at www.yogibhajan.com
- Scaravelli Yoga
Scaravelli Yoga, founded by Vande Scaravelli (1908-1999) emphasises and encourages students to actively listen and be aware of your spine and way you move your body as you practice. The practice flows at a slow gentle pace and is all about cultivating self awareness and ease in the way you move and position your body to get into the pose.. The emphasis is more about developing and getting in tune with the inner sensations and awareness of movement you feel as you focus on breathing and moving from your spine; and more about “doing less and being more” in the pose. Depending on your past experience of yoga and/or movement therapy this style of yoga can be very challenging as you are “required” to be mindful feel your way into the pose in a way which feels right for you as opposed to the “textbook” concept of the pose.
Scaravelli Yoga offers you a very unique way of connecting and understanding your body and the way your everyday habits influences the way you approach and practice yoga. It’s a very gentle, yet within its gentleness a different type of challenge for a lot of students. You can find out more about Scaravelli Yoga at http://www.relaxandrelease.co.uk/yoga.htm http://vandascaravelliyoga.com/
Final Thoughts and Encouragement
As you can see there are numerous styles and variations of yoga classes to choose from. We have touched upon six popular styles today- Sivananda Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Astanga Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and Scaravelli Yoga.
All yoga styles release tension from your body and promote a sense of calm and inner peace, how you wish to achieve this – whether through a fast paced practice or more gentle style, is up to you.
And finally, I’d love to know about your yoga journey. What style of yoga are you drawn to and what questions do you still have? What experiences can you share to help inspire others?
More Yoga Information?
If you are keen to discover more Yoga Info, check out my Starting Yoga, Look Good, Feel Great…The Complete Guide of Yoga for Beginners here on my website or over on my Amazon Kindle Bookstore.
Stay blessed and I look forward to sharing more Yoga posts for Beginners with you next week.
Images, with thanks,
via flickrr, from
Shar Ka’s photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/shaarka/
BKS Iyengar, MZagid photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/mzagid/
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