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Written by Dr Ashwini Konnur,
in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
The origin of Yoga dates back to Vedic periods and there is mention of it in Rig Veda. Earlier texts of yoga are very unclear. Development of Yoga started in 5th & 6th Century BC and during the Buddhist period. The popularity of Yoga in West started in late 19th century with the success and popularity of Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of Guru Sri Ramakrishna, defined Yoga as a practice that unites a human to “reality” or “God”. His first speech made at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago where he addressed the audience as “sisters and brothers of America” received a standing ovation and thus began a love affair that continues to soar till date.
The term Yoga is applicable to a variety of practices and systems which includes the Jain and Buddhist practices. There are four main paths of Yoga – Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Each is suited to a different temperament or approach to life.
Karma Yoga is the method in which a man realizes his divinity through his physical work and duty, Bhakti Yoga is the realization of spirituality through devotion to and love of God, Jnana Yoga is the understanding of a man’s own divinity through knowledge and Raja Yoga also called Ashtanga Yoga referring to the eight limbs (a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading to enlightenment) leading to mental control. The chief practice of Raja Yoga is meditation. Two other forms of yoga are Laya Yoga or Kundalini Yoga focuses on realization through meditation, pranayama and chanting mantras and Hatha Yoga which uses physical postures or asanas to purify the mind and body. As the popularity for Yoga grew, it also started evolving. With evolution came different schools of yoga and different styles of Yoga.
Today, there are so many styles of yoga that have gained admiration. One could choose different style of yoga according to an individual’s interest.
It is said that God Shiva is the founder of Hatha Yoga. The word “Hata” in Sanskrit means Force; is a disciplined form of Yoga. Hatha yoga focuses on practice of postures called asanas and right technique of breathing called Pranayama. This aids in energizing the subtle channels or the nadis helping in removal of obstacles to attain a peace of mind. It’s possible to withdraw the mind (Prathyahara) to attain concentration (Dharana) for transcendental meditation (Dhyana) and balance of body, mind and soul (Samadhi). Hatha Yoga aims in achieving the ultimate bliss. Note: Hatha Yoga practice is most suitable for the beginners.
It is a modern style of fast-paced, energetic exercises and stretches practiced in combination with yoga breathing together with ancient yoga philosophy. This yoga style was popularized to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009). This system of yoga produces an intense internal heat and generates profuse sweating thus detoxifies muscles and organs. Ashtanga yoga means the eight-limbed yoga which is derived from the Patanjali Yoga sutras.
In 1948 Sri Pattabhi Jois established Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute for teaching and practicing this specific style of Yoga. Since it is based in Mysore, it is also known as Mysore style of Yoga. “Power Yoga” and “Vinyasa Yoga” are universal terms that may refer to types of acrobatically vigorous yoga exercise which are derivative of Ashtanga yoga. According to Sharath Jois (grandson of Sri Pattabhi Jois) the purpose of Vinyasa is for internal cleansing as breathing and moving together while performing asanas generates heat in the blood. The heat created from yoga cleanses the blood, making it thinner and non-toxic, helps in free circulation thus making the body healthier. It’s suitable for those who are very orderly and strict and like vigorous exercises.
Vinyasa in Sanskrit means to arrange in a specific style. So Vinyasa Yoga means performing yoga in flow or a specific way. Vinyasa Yoga began as Ashtanga Yoga by Sri Tirumala Krishnamacharya. Vinyasa Yoga is also known as Flow yoga due to the smooth way of the poses that run together becoming like a dance. In Vinyasa breathing acts as a connection as your body moves from one pose to another. Vinyasa Yoga is as per one’s strength and it has no hard and fast rules to follow. Sequence of yoga may vary from teacher to teacher. Often Vinyasa practice is a forecourt for teacher’s imaginative expression without much emphasis on the alignment and connection of the poses. So student must be able to connect with their teacher to enjoy this style.
If you like appreciate some free-style and flexibility in your practice, then this style is definitely worth trying.
It is a fitness Vinyasa practice. An offshoot of Ashtanga Yoga with the same qualities and benefits, including generating internal heat, improved stamina, and flexibility along with stress reduction. Original Power Yoga was recognized and popularized by Bryan Kest in late 80s. Baron Baptiste, a Bikram supporter, put his own gyration on the Power Yoga style, and patented it. Power yoga is usually taught in a heated studio which makes it a vigorous and vitalizing form of physical fitness. As the body adapts to one sequence the sequences are made more challenging to make the body fit and stabilized. This style is for those who want to burn calories and stay fit.
This is a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury amalgamated from traditional Hatha yoga techniques and it came to popularity in 1970s. It is a hot yoga style and usually practiced in a room heated to 40 degrees with 40 per cent humidity.
Bikram Yoga Beginning Series classes are the same and class duration is for 90 minutes and consists of the same sequences of 26 poses, including two breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga teachers are given a script and anywhere in the world the instruction given to the students is the same.
Iyengar Yoga, named after and established by B. K. S. Iyengar, is a form of Hatha Yoga that emphasizes on details, accuracy and alignment in the presentation of asanas and Pranayama. B.K.S. Iyengar has schematized over 200 classical yoga poses and 14 varieties of Pranayama (with modification) ranging from the basic to advanced levels. This style helps students to learn the asanas slowly step by step and develop the perfection gradually and thus attain body, mind and soul stability. Iyengar Yoga repeatedly makes utilization of props, such as belts, blocks, bolsters, stands, benches and blankets, as it aids in practicing asanas. Props allow the students to accomplish the postures correctly, minimizing the risk of unwanted injury or strain. These props also help both young and old to perform the asanas correctly.
Iyengar Yoga is firmly based on the traditional Ashtanga/ eight limbed yoga as explained by Patanjali Yoga Sutras. This yoga is best for those whose body is very rigid and stiff. The props help in the appropriate anatomical alignment of the body. In course of time the body slowly becomes flexible and stabilized.
Teaching of Yin yoga began in late 70’s and it was founded by a martial art expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Yin Yoga is established on the Taoist concept of yin and yang or opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. Yin-yang polarities include also includes cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.
Yin Yoga is not as popular as its peers.
Even though the Yin yoga poses or asanas resemble the asanas of Hatha yoga, they differ in their names and those who are familiar with Hatha yoga should not try to perform them in similar pattern. The postures of Yin yoga are practiced with slight muscular exertion. Yin yoga acts on the deeper connective tissue but the practice usually doesn’t generate body heat and thus Ying yoga teachers often recommend the practice room to be heated up. It is good to try Yin yoga to distress your muscles and to chill.
With so many choices available, there surely is a style for everyone. What is important is to choose a style one is comfortable with. Feel free to change the style when there are so many options available and once you have made the right choice keep practicing yoga to get the ultimate bliss.
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