What is Yoga?
Yogic lifestyle has always been the core of Indian Culture. Yoga practice is a thousand years old tradition that has traveled a long way into our lives. The term Yoga means “to join” or “to unite”, which actually is a spiritual practice, to connect yourself or your consciousness with that of eternal universal consciousness.
India, the land of yoga, has a variety of social conventions and rituals that show a love of ecological balance, tolerance for diversity, and a caring approach towards all creatures. Yoga has never been viewed from the lens of religion, belief system, or community. Instead, it has always been considered as a method for connecting to your inner self.
Yoga is often regarded as a form of therapy or an exercise technique for health and fitness. While one feels physical and mental wellness as natural outcomes of yoga, the primary purpose of yoga is far broader. It aligns our mind, body, and spirit all together bring out calmness within us.
COVID -19 has affected our daily routine in many ways. Not only does it curb our physical activities but has also negatively influenced our emotional health. It has resulted in drooping physical postures, sedentary working hours, emotional and mental breakdown, unhealthy eating habits, lack of community relations which further lead to conditions like loneliness and depression among many.
Practicing yoga in our daily routine not only improves our physical well-being but also soothes our minds. It’s the easiest way as it only requires a yoga mat, your little bit of time, and proper alignment. This can be achieved with the aid of a registered yoga teacher, available either in person or online.
Benefits of different types of yoga
Yoga is a lifestyle. One who practices yoga regularly can see a massive transformation in their body and health. Yoga has numerous benefits which are as follows:
Due to consistent practice, extra weight reduces.
Increases digestion and metabolism.
Improved blood circulation flow.
Increases longevity and slows down the aging of an individual as it is medicinal in nature.
Enhances physical stamina and strength.
Improves flexibility and mobility of muscles.
It improves fertility and reproductive health.
Enhances sleep cycle and relaxes your mind.
Helps in recovering injuries.
Enhances concentration and focus.
Cures chronic lower and neck pain.
Relaxes the mind and helps overcome anxiety.
Connects with Spirituality.
Here are some traditional types of yoga practices that really should be added to your routine!
Types of yoga
THE first and foremost yoga practice for every tenderfoot is Hatha yoga. The Sanskrit term ‘Hatha’ means ‘force’. Basically, it guides our force in a disciplined manner. It teaches us the physical practice of Hatha and some gentle basic yoga poses. It focuses on restoring energy and helps in maintaining proper body balance. It’s an introductory yoga practice that aims to amalgamate different yoga postures with breathing exercises to keep harmony and stability in our bodies.
It’s a vast term that holds a number of different asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) practiced together. It is usually suggested for beginners. Nowadays, you will find hatha yoga focused more on physical workouts tuned with breathing techniques rather than spiritual practice in yoga classes. It includes basic poses, which have proven stress relief. Therefore it is an excellent start for newcomers.
The Sanskrit term Ashtanga means ‘eight-limbed’, which means it’s a series of specific yoga asanas formulated on the philosophy of the Eightfold path. So basically, it follows the eight-limbed path to attain salvation or Samadhi. Ashtanga yoga is emerged in the early 20th century by Indian yoga guru K. Pattabhi Jois, which is considered to be the fusion of classical yoga practice with that of the contemporary style of yoga. So here are the Eight limbs or stages of Ashtanga yoga:
Yama (moral code)
Asana (yoga poses or postures)
Pranayama (breathing practices)
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
Dharana (the art of focusing on an object)
Dhyana (meditative style)
Samadhi ( salvation or deliverance)
Ashtanga yoga class can actually improve your cardiovascular fitness and nervous system which further relieves anxiety and depression.
Vinyasa yoga is also known as ‘flow yoga’ as it is the continuous flow of physical postures that forms an arrangement. In vinyasa yoga, each movement is channelized along with breathing techniques. Sun salutation is the best example of it as it follows a particular sequence of poses with correct inhale and exhale of breathing exercises. You can directly move from one yoga posture to the next one. The Sanskrit term Vinyasa means variations that can be followed within the given restrictions.
To know more about how to perform Sun salutations check this out.
This style of yoga is vigorous as compared to that of ashtanga yoga. It requires physical stamina so only those who really like high-intensity workouts better opt for it. The movements are synchronized together with proper breathing, resulting in a vigorous flowing style of yoga. Vinyasa flow yoga follows a particular pattern that commences with a child’s pose, following sun salutations that come to an end with Shavasana which literally means to lie down like a corpse which is the final resting pose.
For anyone who is new to vinyasa yoga the preferred order would be:
Originated by Bikram Choudhury, this type of yoga consists of a set of 26 poses and two breathing exercises that is to be practiced in a heated room or temperature above the body. The idea behind the hot yoga classes is to recreate the same environment as that of India.
Born in India, American yoga guru, and the founder of Bikram yoga or Hot yoga, Bikram Choudhary first came into light in 1971 in California, with his hot yoga classes that became so popular that today it has more than 1600 hot Yoga studio centers worldwide with celebrity followers.
The heating technique not only gives a feeling of Indian Climate, but it enhances cardiovascular fitness, increases flexibility, and more sweating refreshes and detoxifies body cells. It improves your blood flow and enriches your metabolism system.
Kundalini yoga is a combination of movement, sound, and breathing exercises in reoccurring poses in the form of chanting. The Sanskrit term kundalini means ‘kundal’ referring to circular or a coiled snake. The philosophy behind the same is that kundalini power or shakti is located undisturbed at the base of your spine like a snake sits in a coiled form. So fundamentally, kundalini yoga is a practice to activate the spiritual energy for a better understanding of ourselves. As it guides body awareness, therefore it is notably known as “yoga of awareness”.
Hence, a kundalini class begins with a song or chant usually accompanied by yoga postures and breathing techniques culminating with meditation. It is practiced to awaken the spiritual energy or shakti so that it flows in an upwards direction along our spine, passing through the ‘Seven Energy Centers’ or ‘chakras’, simulating them in their way which brings out physical wellness and spiritual enlightenment.
The seven energy centers from spinal base to top are:
root chakra – basic trust
sacral chakra – sexuality, creativity
naval chakra – wisdom, power
heart chakra – love, healing
throat chakra – communication
third eye chakra- awareness
crown chakra – spirituality
Iyengar yoga is developed and named after one of the foremost yoga teachers B.K.S. Iyengar falls on the list of 100 most influential persons in the world by Times Magazine. This type of yoga usually focuses on the proper alignment of postures of yoga and its accuracy of it. Basically, it emphasizes body alignment along with precision. It uses yoga blocks, yoga belts, and yoga bands to execute proper body alignment.
Unlike the vinyasa flowing style, the Iyengar class instead focuses more on holding poses with the help of props provided. This type of yoga is said to be a slower style of yoga as compared to other yoga, especially ashtanga yoga, as it takes patience and concentration to focus on a particular pose and remain stuck to it for a longer duration.
Iyengar classes help their students to achieve asanas for more extended periods and it also cures spinal disabilities. It improves body flexibility, mobility and strengthens the stability of poses. It helps in attaining holding poses and opening of the body, benefitting in relieving pains and toning muscles.
Restorative yoga, as the name suggests itself, is a type of yoga that aims to relax your body. This is a relaxing practice that focuses on slowing down and extending your body passively. Founded by B.K.S Iyengar, it is considered one of the best creations along with Iyengar yoga.
In a restorative yoga class, you might not move much at all, perhaps practicing a few poses over the course of an hour. One has to use props to support the body in this type of yoga. Restorative yoga includes guided meditation as an essential component. Restorative yoga is mainly concerned with resting the nervous system. This is the best way to actively de-stress and calm all those tense nerves. The objective is to stay in each yoga pose for at least 20 minutes.
Restorative yoga focuses on stress alleviation since resting in these poses for long periods of time allows you to tune in to your body’s signals and focus on your internal thoughts. Other benefits include a better sleep cycle, improved mental health, more concentration, and helps in stress relief. One should absolutely add this in your life to overcome the anxieties and depressions Covid-19 has brought in our lives.
Yin yoga is a trendy combination of physical and spiritual activity that has a slower- style like that of hatha yoga. The positions in Yin yoga are maintained for an extended period of time to target the connective tissues rather than the muscles. As a result, the asanas are more passive in nature, requiring minimal physical effort.
It was founded by martial arts trainer Paulie Zink in the early 1970s, Yin yoga is a blend of yoga and martial arts together, giving it a completely new style. It was originated in China and is based on the ancient Chinese theory of Yin and Yang that says how opposite forces may actually work together, representing balance. While Yin is stable, and Yang is said to be active or changing.
New learners usually find it challenging to hold postures for long periods therefore, 45 seconds to one minute is minimum. Experts have the ability to hold poses for five to ten minutes. In yin yoga, seated postures are held for long durations of time. This increases blood flow in the body and tones our muscles.
Prenatal yoga is a type of yoga that is specially designed for pregnant women so as to simplify the troubles and discomfort associated with pregnancy. It is essential to do yoga as it opens pelvic muscles that further ease childbirth, reduces lower back pain, improves sleep cycle, controls nausea and breathlessness, and relieves overall stress.
A certified personal trainer helps expectant mothers to give comfort during the pregnancy period and achieves postnatal yoga. It also helps in losing extra weight gained during the time of pregnancy. It is also found in a study that mothers who practice prenatal yoga tend to deliver healthy children more efficiently. After childbirth also, this yoga enables a mother to bring her body back in Shape!
Aerial yoga is a style of yoga in which one has to have props like a hammock or yoga swing to accomplish poses that they would not be able to do on the yoga mat. It is a fun yoga also known as Anti Gravity. It is a combination of traditional yoga practiced along with moves adopted by modern Pilates, dancing, and acrobatic.
This type of yoga helps burn body fat, increases flexibility, improves the respiratory system, relaxes you, makes your core strong, and improves overall posture. Aerial yoga was originated in New York and designed by Christopher Harrison, who is a dancer with an acrobatics performance background, and since then, it has spread throughout the globe.
It is suggested to be advantageous for all but particularly for students who spend more hours sitting or for those who have back pain.
Sivananda yoga was created by Swami Sivananda in the early 1940s, who also established an ashram in Rishikesh. Based on his teachings, his follower Swami Vishnudevananda introduced the same in the West in the 1950s. Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and eleven ashramas may now be found in major cities across the United States, Western Europe, South America, and Asia.
This type of yoga aims at ensuring maximum health and retaining body vitality with spiritual growth. It will encourage you to learn and explore more about Indian philosophy. The five essential principles of Sivananda yoga are:
Vegetarian diet (Sattvic Aahar)
Positive thinking(Vedanta) with Meditation (Dhyana)
This yoga practice aims to improve one’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Because the asana system is quite rigid, you’ll need to understand working at your own pace carefully to learn the necessary yoga poses.
Power yoga, as the name tells itself, is a vigorous form of yoga that is said to be a modified version of classical ashtanga yoga, following the sequence of vinyasa yoga. It came into fame in the 1980s, by Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest, when after studying more about ashtanga yoga, they both decided to practice and spread the same in the U.S.A. People of America find this the best way to work out during gym sessions.
During active movements with loud music, one has to make quick shifts in the change of poses. Power yoga practitioners experience improved stamina, flexibility, posture, and mental focus. It also relaxes tension and eliminates toxins through sweating. As compared to other yoga practices, it burns more calories than most traditional types of yoga and, as a result, can aid in weight loss.
Acro yoga is the combination of yoga and acrobatics together. One partner supports the other as one acts as a base and the other as a flyer while performing aerial yoga. This yoga was started by Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein, who first met in 2003 in San Francisco, and from there onwards, they began practicing it together by combining their skills in yoga and circus arts to develop supported versions of basic yoga positions to promote human relationships and establish a yoga community.
It encourages trust and faith between the partners and develops proper interaction and cooperation among the partners. This yoga is considered to be a bit challenging as it needs an appropriate alignment of the body with the help of a yoga teacher to attain the desired aerial posture. It promotes mental as well as physical benefits.
John Friend founded Anusara yoga in 1959 in America. The term Anusara means flowing with grace and aligning with your inner self. It is said to be the modern form of hatha yoga. Its primary focus is to align your body to achieve your divine power. It increases flexibility, opens the heart, improves stamina, helps in increasing breathing and lung capacity, and it also enhances the meditative power of a person.
Karma yoga, as the name suggests, is a Sanskrit term that means ‘actions’ or ‘deeds’ of an individual. It is the sum total of all the past and present actions of persons. It is said to be the selfless path that a person undertakes in his journey towards helping others. It is the dedication of time, energy, efforts, and intentions out by an individual to accomplish any given task. Therefore, it is a path of compassion and egoless services done with the aim of doing good to others.
Among the four main paths of yoga, karma yoga is practiced along with:
Jnana -knowledge or self-study, having the practical wisdom of knowing oneself through meditative style,
Bhakti – worshipping God for one’s permanent liberation from the cycle of birth and death,
Raja – meditation, in Sanskrit it means the king. Similar to that of practices of ashtanga yoga, it helps in removing the sense of “ME” and relaxes our mind for spiritual connection. Each of the types leads to the path to ‘Moksha’ that is the spiritual liberation or salvation and self-realization. It is said to be the most effective medium for spiritual growth and knowledge.
The concept of Karma was initially been explained in the most acknowledged religious scripture of Hindu mythology Bhagavad Gita, dated late back in 400 BCE and 200 CE. It illuminates the true meaning of life, liberates us from personal suffering, talks about the importance of the true nature of divinity, self-realization, and connection with the all mighty, of which Karma yoga is undoubtedly the most practical form of it.
Last but not least, the Sanskrit term ‘Nidra’ means ‘sleep’, which means a sound relaxation technique. It’s a condition between lying down and relaxing your mind between your sleep and wake-up cycles. Yoga Nidra also uses the procedure of guided mediation for complete relaxation and withdrawal from senses.
Benefits of it involve calming of the mind, better sleep cycle, treating depression, improving overall concentration, smoothens neurological disorders, enhancing health, and improving immunity.
YOGA is therefore considered to be beneficial for all. It enhances your overall well-being. It is not only restricted to physical health but it has a broad horizon that adds to your spiritual development. Yoga practice aids in the development of a person’s sense of wholeness, allowing them to become active participants in more tremendous energy, purpose, and consciousness. Everyone has a yoga type made for them. So if you are planning to DO yoga, don’t plan, Just Start!
To know more about health and fitness check out, 7 Best Exercises on Grip Strength.