One of my favourite things in the world is yoga, so much so that it is one of my goals to get my yoga instructors certificate. I already have my Pilates instructors certificate but there is just something about yoga, its more than just working out, it’s a lifestyle, its magical.
Yoga has so many benefits for the body and mind.
For the body:
- Increases flexibility
- Can result in healthier blood and lower blood pressure
- Improves posture
- Reduces the risk of chronic disease
- Enhanced fat loss
- Improved balance
- Better breathing
- Reduces soreness
- Enhanced muscle strength, tone and core
- Improves digestion
- Body detoxification
- Relieves pain & tension
- Increased immunity
For the mind:
- Improves intuition
- Increases self acceptance
- Improved concentration
- Improves mental fitness
- Neutralises stress
- Improves memory
- Increased mental awareness
- Helps you to focus on the present
- Increases confidence
- Allows you to unlock energy flow
- Helps to balance brain hemispheres
Simple, Yoga makes you happier!
Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are trying to fit together broken pieces.
There are so many difference styles of yoga, each with their own focus and benefits.
Anusara: An uplifting and flowing style of yoga. Classes tend to be friendly and fill of laughter. Founded by American Yogi John Friend in 1997.
Who is it for, Those seeing a positive and lighthearted environment and people wanting an emotional yoga experience. Benefits of this style of yoga are improved core & muscle strength and balance and conditioning. The meaning is ‘to flow with grace’ and it aims to connect practitioners with their inner joy, creativity and playfulness. There are over 250 asanas , known as poses in the syllabus. There tends to be music during the classes and the teacher will talk more than in other types of yoga.
‘Yoga is about awakening, Yoga is about creating a life that brings more beauty and more love into the world’– John Friend
*Tips: Do not take yourself too seriously and embrace your playful side.
Ashtanga: Classes tend to be fast-paced when a series of poses are performed in a precise, sequential order, linked together with breathing. Developed and popularised by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in the late 1940’s.
Who is it for, The routine and strict guidelines appeal to yogi’s who like a sense of order and accuracy, people looking for a physical challenge. Benefits are core strength and flexibility. This is a vigorous and demanding practice and aims to synchronise breathing and movement to produce an internal heat to purify the body. The practice incorporates audible throat breathing known as ujjayi, which should sound like the ocean when done correctly. Classes are often taught in Sanskrit, the language of yoga.
‘Ashtanga yoga is 99% practice 1% theory. Practice, practice and all is coming’ – Sri K Pattabhi Jois
*Tips: Be patient, it takes a lot of practice to perfect all the poses in the Ashtanga sequence.
Bikram: Every class features the same 26 poses and takes place in a 105 degree Fahrenheit room with 40% humidity.
Who is it for, Yogis who want a physically demanding class, people who do not mind heat. Benefits are improved circulation and toxin release. This is a great yoga for weight loss and it aims to move fresh oxygenated blood to 100% of your body. It was introduced by Bikram Choudhury in 1973 and most classes are 90 minutes long and you can burn as many as 700 calories per class. Many yogis claim it is an addictive practice which explains the devoted following.
‘You are never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again’ -Bikram Chourhury
*Tips: Dress Lightly and bring plenty of water and a towel.
Iyengar: The practice of precision, Iyengar focuses heavily on structural alignment of each posture. Developed by B.K.S Iyengar in 1975.
Who is it for, Perfect for beginners and detail oriented yogis because of its focus on alignment, anatomy and movement. Benefits are that it can help with neck or back problems and it alleviates anxiety and fatigue. Poses tend to be held for long periods allowing the practitioner to relax, balance and breathe in the posture. B.K.S Iyengar was a favourite among celebrities and taught Queen Elizabeth of Belgium how to do a head stand when she was 85 years old. You can expect lots of standing and balancing poses, often with the aid of props such as blocks, chairs and straps.
‘It is through the alignment or the body that i discovered the alignment of my mine, self an intelligence’ -B.K.S Iyengar
*Tips: Be creative with your props. If you do not have a yoga block, use a pile of books. If you do not have a strap use a belt.
Jivamukti: A lifestyle rather than a form of exercise. It is based around the compassion and kindness for all beings and the main teachings revolve around animal rights and environmentalism. Emerged in 1984 from David Life and Sharon Gannon’s famous New York City studio.
Who is it for, Vegans & Vegetarians people ready to apply yogic philosophy to their daily lives. Benefits can be a sense of community and promoted a healthier and kinder lifestyle. A spiritual practice. It Means ‘liberation while living’ which is the ultimate aim of the practice. Classes typically follow a theme drawn from the ‘focus of the month’ (set by the founders) explored through music, chanting, meditation or breathing exercises. it is an intense flowing practice so get ready to challenge yourself.
‘You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal where you are resisting your natural state’ – Sharon Gannon
*Tips: Take time to learn the principles and philosophy being this practice.
Kundalini: Although all yoga styles have a spiritual core, Kundalini is one of the schools with the strongest focus or spirituality and mindfulness. Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini to the west in 1968.
Who is it for, people seeking a deeper spiritual experience, Nearly anyone regardless of age, fitness or experience. Benefits of Kundalini are enhanced mind and body awareness and it helps connect with ones inner self. Features constantly moving and invigorating poses. Aims to release Kundalini, the untapped energy believed to sit at the base of the spine. Teachers and practitioners are encouraged to wear white clothing to nourish light and divinity. Expect spirituality and slow paced, back-centric poses.
‘The mind become(s) a monster when it becomes your master. The mind is an angel when it is your servant’ -Yogi Bhajan.
*Tips: Keep your head and spine warm during meditation with a wrap r shawl to help release the Kundalini energy and keep your mind focused.
Power Yoga: A fitness based practice with poses moving swiftly for a physically challenging cardio workout. The term was developed in the 1980’s by Bryan Kest and Beryl Bender Birch.
Who is it for, Intense exercisers including runners and endurance athletes. People aiming to lose weight. Benefits are an increase of cardiovascular circulation and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This practice is physically demanding and fast-moving and aims to challenge and relax the body and mind. It is grounded in Ashtanga yoga but is more flexible, allowing teachers to teach poses in any order. Expect classes to likely be accompanied by upbeat music.
‘Everybody wants to be pretty because that’s what they’ve been told will make them feel good even though there is no proof that people who are prettier are healthier and happier. So why don’s we just cut to the chase and go straight to what makes us feel good‘ -Bryan Kest
*Tips, As the poses move more rapidly, it can be beneficial to have some previous yoga experience.
Restorative yoga: A slow-paced practice. A class typically only involves a handful of poses and props such as bolsters, blocks and blankets are often used to eliminate unnecessary straining. Founded by physical therapist Judith Hanson Lasater who has taught yoga since 1971.
Who is it for, Anyone seeking respite from a high pressure lifestyle, it can be for people with injuries or illness also. Benefits of this style are it calms the body and can lower the heart rate and blood pressure and is ideal for injury or stress rehab. Restorative yoga allows practitioners to completely relax and rest. It aims to heal the mind and body through passive stretching poses. Each pose can he held for up to twenty minutes, allowing the practitioner to drop into a stress free state. In class, the lights may be dimmed and calm music played. Do not be surprised if the teacher covers you in blankets for extra warmth and comfort during certain poses.
‘Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down‘ -Judith Hanson Lasater
*Tips: If you are easily distracted by surroundings, use an eye mask during practice.
Vinyasa yoga: Vinyasa is an umbrella term for a range of yoga styles, but more commonly describes classes focusing on matching movements with breath. Indian Master Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) known as the ‘father of modern yoga’ is widely considered the architect of Vinyasa as we know it today.
Who is it for, Classes tend to be fast paced with little focus on the finer points of each pose. Therefore it is best suited to experienced yoga. A constantly moving practice, so perfect for people struggling to sit still. It builds lean muscles throughout the whole body and calms and purifies the mind and body. With its smooth and almost dance-like movements, it’s also known as flow yoga. The emphasis is on linking each pose with an exhalation or inhalation. It has a lot in common with Ashtanga, but its much more flexible as it allows teachers to freely mix up the order of the poses. It can be physically challenging, flowing practice so expect to get your heart pumping.
‘Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other’ -Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
*Tips, Do not give up if a class does not work for you. Classes can vary greatly, so you might have to try a few before finding the perfect one for you
Yin Yoga: A passive, slow-paced style focusing on seated and supine poses that are held for longer periods of time. Introduced by martial arts expert Paulie Zinc in the late 1970’s.
Who is it for, People wanting to compliment an active life with relaxed practice, Athletes looking to stretch without exhausting themselves for future training sessions. This practice calms the mind and rather than strengthening the muscles (Yang) the style targets deep tissues such a fascia and connective tissues (Yin). Typically practised sitting or lying down on the floor this practice aims to find stillness and cool down the body. Yin aims to compliment more vigorous yang exercises such as running or cycling. If one focuses only on the yang, it is believed that the body can suffer burnout. Yin = Passive Yang = Active. Poses are typically held between two and twenty minutes .
‘The most important thing to me is not a static posture, but the essence of the posture’ -Paulie Zinc
*Tips, It can be challenging for both mind and body to hold each pose for a long time, so if you are new to the practice, start holding each pose for one minute and gradually extend the time as you progress.
Now how many of you recognised benefits you thought you could enjoy in your life? I know which type of yoga appeals to me, which do you think will suit you?
Give it a try, I guarantee if you don’t love it you just need to try another style.
Yoga is a lifestyle not just a workout and practising yoga can enhance your life, health and wellbeing.