This type of a practice generally moves from one pose to another on every breath. As an example – inhale lift the arms overhead, exhale fold forward….or inhale step back to plank pose, exhale lower down in chattaranga (or knees chest chin to the floor), inhale to cobra, exhale to downward facing dog.
In some flow classes things might start off a little slower taking a couple of breaths in each pose, and then gain speed by moving on every breath. This is a very common style of class and can get your heart rate up a bit, while building strength and balance and working your core. The ongoing movements make it extremely important to focus on your breath as a source of energy for the movements, otherwise if you end up holding your breath the whole practice gets harder – and yes, I do know this from experience.
Bikram and hot yoga are often used interchangeably, but aren’t exactly the same thing. Bikram is a set sequence of 26 poses and breathing exercises, always performed in the exact same order in a room that is supposed to be 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot yoga can be any sequence of poses in a heated room. I’ve seen a trend of studios switching from Bikram specific classes to general hot yoga classes due to the founder of the Bikram sequence claiming trademark rights to the sequence and wanting compensation, beyond the fact that teachers have specifically been trained in the sequence and methodology.
Warnings about hot yoga classes – they can be very hot and uncomfortable. Your body can adjust and if you are interested and aren’t susceptible to heat related issues you should give yourself at least 3 classes to try and acclimate to the environment and the movement in such high temperatures. I liked the first class and made it through with only one break, my second class the heat was nearly intolerable, and the third class was more bearable and easier to handle. But you will leave dripping in sweat, looking like you’ve just jumped out of a pool of water!
Ashtanga is a set sequence of poses that is practiced the same every time. It is generally practiced 6 days in a row, with one day of rest. Ashtanga also honors the moon days, by not practicing on full moon and new moon days. Some studios offer Ashtanga classes, but they generally aren’t led classes. The Ashtanga time will be for 90 to 120 minutes and an instructor is present, however students work through the poses in the sequence on their own. If you are interested in trying Ashtanga, definitely worthwhile to find a class that is led so that you aren’t fumbling through or feeling intimidated by the regular practitioners.
Power yoga is what is most often thought of as what is taught in gyms these days and is high intensity work. There are even chain studios that focus on power yoga. In this type of yoga you’ll get your heart rate up, will be moving until the very final minutes of the class for savasana (corpse pose). Power classes tend to include a lot of inversions – like headstand and handstand, and arm balances – like crow, planks or eight angle pose. Some power classes are heated and even those that aren’t might feel like it with a room full of moving people for 60+ minutes!
Sun salutations are one of the most common flow sequences taught in yoga classes. There are three variations and often teachers will use the sun salutations as a basis for weaving in additional poses. The series can be used as: a warm-up at the beginning of a flow class, multiple rounds can be used for a stand alone home practice, the peak of a gentle class and anything in between, so it is a great series of poses to get familiar with.
Sun Salutations Video
Excuse the wind as background noise in the video. I will try to rerecord soon
Yin yoga is different than what most people think of when they think of yoga and isn’t one of the more popular forms in studios (unfortunately in my opinion). In yin the poses are all done sitting / laying on floor and the focus is not on strength or balance. Poses are held from 2 – 5 minutes, and the poses are often poses you’ll recognize as common stretches. The reason to hold the poses for an extended period is to really work into the connective tissues and joints, props (pillows / blankets / cushions anything off your couch will work) can be used for people that have tight hamstrings or hips if needed but the need for props is truly dependent on flexibility. The yin yoga system has some basis in the eastern medicine meridian system so that while the stretches are great for athletes, each pose also focuses on certain systems within the body such as heart, lungs, digestive tract, etc.
Despite “just” being deep stretching yin can be hard, because:
- It’s hard to be still
- It can be uncomfortable to be in the same position (but it shouldn’t hurt and body parts shouldn’t fall asleep so shift around if needed)
- Being still can cause lots of thoughts and emotions to start churning in the mind which can be mentally uncomfortable
Yin yoga is great for nearly everyone because:
- On the floor and with props really removes physical limitations, so any age any shape, no excuses!
- No matter what we do – sit at a desk all day, drive around, push ourselves athletically we can all stand to step back and heal our body and counteract the stresses we put on ourselves
- Can allow for great introspection
- Once you get past the mental uncomfortableness of being alone with your thoughts it can be a great anxiety reducer
- Recommend doing at night closer to bedtime because it can be so relaxing and help people that have difficulty sleeping
A video I would recommend as an introduction (although a class with an instructor to provide feedback and answer any questions is even better and safer – and I’m of course happy to answer any questions you might have):
As mentioned my post making yoga work for you – found here – there are many types of yoga and there is a definitely a type that is right for you. It may take some trial and error to find the right style and instructors for you but it can be done. Here I’m providing a list of types of yoga – generally in decreasing order of intensity. I’ll follow-up with more detail on each type in a future post and link the new posts back to this post.
Vinyasa or Flow
Bikram or Hot Yoga
My favorite poses are a blend of vinyasa, gentle, yin and restorative and a quick video demonstrating the poses (not a full practice) can be found here
By request, 15 minute run thru of poses that were listed in my “Favorite Poses” post as well as a couple of bonus poses. Please bear with me as this is my first attempt at using iMovie, you may also find that you need to crank the volume to hear my commentary.
This is part 2 of my 6 part series on the Koshas. Specifically the impact of practicing yoga and taking the teacher training on my physical self.
On a physical (annamaya) level the training has made me significantly more body aware, improved my posture on a day to day basis and also made my poses much sharper. This is partly due to the Tadasana Lab exercise that we did early on, where I learned that my right hip is higher than my left and my left shoulder higher than my right. I find myself adjusting to try to level my hips and distribute my weight evenly, whether I’m standing at the sink doing dishes or walking down the hall at work. Practicing yoga more frequently has made me much more aware of individual parts of my body and when an area needs attention before it becomes a problem. This is particularly true for my tight jaw and neck which gets too tight from tension and stress.
As far as poses, I’m more aware of my form, not necessarily what is “right” and perfectly aligned, but what is right for my body. In general, I think I listen to my body at least a little bit better and don’t feel bad if I want to down level a pose during a particular practice.
This training and focusing on a regular practice has done more for my posture and body awareness than years and years of parental nagging to “stand up straight or you’ll be wearing a back brace” with fingers jabbed into my spine. I will often catch my self slouching and immediately straighten up – lengthening the crown of my head towards the sky, drawing my abs in and dropping my shoulder blades down my back, because it feels better. And really isn’t feeling better a better reason than giving into lots of nagging!
Another dabbling in the philosophical aspects of yoga. This one is about the different layers of the body, all of which need nourishing and can impact our lives in multiple ways. The Koshas were first described in the Upanishads over 3,000 years ago, yet remain relevant today.
In this post I will briefly describe each of the five layers and in future posts will delve into each layer and how I feel that the layer within me has been impacted through the process of yoga teacher training as well as practicing yoga in general.
- Annamaya – the physical body, exactly what it sounds like
- Pranamaya – the energetic body, breath that is our source of life
- Manomaya – the mental body, our thought processes
- Vijanamaya – the wisdom body, perhaps thought of as the philosophical mind
- Anandamaya – the emotional body
All of these parts of our being need attention to live a balanced and fulfilled life. As we are all individuals, nurturing some of these aspects will come more naturally to each of us than others will. Some aspects will need more attention to become balanced and this can change depending on the seasons of the year and events of our lives.