I was reunited with a long lost friend a few weeks back…my yoga mat. We’ve been hanging out at least twice a week now, and I love every second of it! If yoga is something you’ve always wanted to try I encourage you to go out and find a class immediately. Other yogis (people who practice yoga) will agree that there is a class out there for everyone to suit any fitness level and the benefits of yoga are tremendous!
First, there is one big yoga misconception that I’d like to clear up. Many believe that yoga is a religious practice. Although the origins of yoga are derived from religious practice, most classes do not discuss religion. Yoga is whatever you decide to make of it, which is where the real beauty lies. For many it’s about improving flexibility, others may find focus and balance, and for some it is very spiritual.
There are many different styles of yoga. Listed below are some of the most popular classes you may find at your local fitness center or yoga studio.
- Ashtanga Yoga – Broken down, the word “ashtanga” means eight- (ashta) limb (anga) practice. The eight limbs of ashtanga yoga are restraint, observance, posture, breath control, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditative absorption and enstasy (to bring into harmony). The practice is very much about elegance, power and ancient tradition.
- Bikram Yoga – Bikram yoga consists of 26 postures (asanas) designed to work every part of the body from muscles and organs right down to the ligaments. Bikram classes, also known as hot yoga, are held in heated rooms (around 105°F and 40% humidity) to warm up the body and promote flexibility.
- Hatha Yoga – The word “hatha” means willful or forceful. It refers to sequences of asanas designed to align your skin, muscles and bones. Hatha yoga is also meant to open up the energy channels of the body, the main one being the spine.
- Vinyasa Flow – Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement.” During this practice, your breath is what guides you through the asanas. If you’ve ever watched a vinyasa yoga class, you will notice that the movements are very smooth and students are practicing at the pace of their own breath.
- Yin Yoga – Yin yoga is designed to deeply work the body, heart and mind. Postures are passive in nature and are held for longer periods of time to focus on the ligaments, fascia, joints and bones. This also allows for a greater focus on the mind through meditation.
Practicing yoga is about finding inner peace, compassion, balance, mindfulness and self-acceptance. It is about opening your heart and sharing it with others. I highly encourage each and every one of you to try a class at least once. In order to fully understand the meaning of yoga you must experience yourself. If you already have a class you attend please comment and share your experience with others!
Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS