4 minute read
By Ece Ozkan
What is Yoga?
Taking its root from the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning to bind, join, yoke, as well as union or communion, it is often attributed as “ disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will.” One of the authoritative sources on yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which was compiled prior to 400 CE (!), describes yoga as “Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah” roughly meaning “the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness”, or controlling the chatter of the mind. What does that mean? Well, in its most simplistic way, it means that with a regular practice of postures, breathing techniques and meditative state of mind, we’d be able to identify and control patterns in the body and mind.
* Image from the Serene Yoga website
When one thinks about yoga, the first thing that comes to mind is the physical postures (asana). Yet this is actually just one aspect of yoga. If the nerd in you wants to learn more, I highly suggest reading a bit on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (Yoga Journal is a good start) but suffice to say he frames the core of yoga as “the eight limbs”. Breathing, for instance, is one of the limbs and on that, Pattabhi Jois – who developed and popularized Ashtanga Yoga, has a great quote as “Without focusing on the breath, the series (of yoga) is just an aerobic exercise.
The yoga practice as we know began to take shape more or less in the late 19th century with Krishnamacharya – who is referred to as “modern yoga’s inventor”. Krishnamacharya taught many of the well known yoga teachers such
as B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga), Desikachar (Viniyoga) and Indra Devi – who all helped popularizing yoga in the Western world. The reason Krishnamacharya influenced the yoga as we know is due to his emphasis on asana practice that’s become the signature of yoga today. Though there are many yoga styles in the modern world, they mainly take their roots from Krishnamacharya’s teachings.
* For a better resolution of the image, see Learntoloveyoga website here
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll go through the most well known 5 yoga styles in this article, and in the next post I’ll talk specifically about the styles practiced at Mandala Yoga.
The main thing to keep in mind, when you are looking for a yoga class is your own intention: do you want to get more of the physical benefits? – maybe get sweaty and have a fast moving pace, or a gentler and more restorative practice? That said, just like anything in life, our needs and wants change as well. The best approach is to have an open mind and give different styles a try, at least twice 🙂
1.Hatha: What a beautiful name, “sun and moon”, that’s what hatha means in Sanskrit, along with its other meaning “union”. This is a perfect name for this style as it is designed to balance opposing forces, just like sun and moon. Hatha is quite a traditional style often suggested for beginners. It’s a physical discipline mainly focused on postures (asanas) and breathwork along with some focus on meditation. Hence other types of yoga such as Bikram or Iyengar can also be considered as different branches of hatha.
Is it for you? If you are a beginner, or looking for a gentler/slower pace, a traditional hatha practice would be a good option.
2. Ashtanga: A fast-paced series of postures practiced by its guru Pattabhi Jois. Ashtanga is composed of a set of poses each held for only five breaths and concluded by a half sun salutation to keep up the pace. In its most traditional form, the sequence is memorized by the students and self-practiced. That said it’s possible to find more “led” classes in the West, where the students are taught through the first or second series over the class.
Is it for you? You like a good routine and discipline, and want to challenge yourself, then this is your practice.
3. Vinyasa: Also known as flow or vinyasa flow, this style has a more dynamic pace linking breath and movement. It’s one of the most common practising styles and has variations like power yoga, which is practiced at Mandala Yoga in 4 forms. One of the defining characteristics of vinyasa is the “flexibility” in the sequence; unlike Bikram yoga which has the same 26 postures every time or Ashtanga with the same sequence in all classes, vinyasa classes have a different sequence depending on the teacher and the level of the class.
Is it for you? Beginner or advanced, if you are craving for more movement, vinyasa is your first choice.
4. Power: Taking its roots from Ashtanga, – with a less regimented form, Power yoga is a dynamic flowing practice. At Mandala, you can try 4 variations of power yoga (open power, rocket power, slow power and em_power) and decide which one fits you better. More on the 4 Mandala power styles can be read here.
Is it for you? You like Ashtanga but want more flexibility in the practice, with a fast moving pace, give it a go.
5. Yin: Did you know yin yoga takes its roots from the martial arts? Aimed to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility, yin yoga is a slow paced style with poses being held for 45 sec – 2 minutes for beginners, and upto 5 minutes for advanced practitioners. Yin yoga is available for practice at Mandala Yoga, two times a week 🙂
Is it for you? You need to take it slow, recovering from a tough workout, or practice being still and quiet the mind and the body, here is your practice.
If you are interested in trying a beginner’s course yourself, Mandala Yoga is now offering a four week beginner’s course! You can click here to read more about the course and purchase it as well 🙂