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Finding A Style Of Practicing Yoga Which Speaks To You
DISCOVERING WHICH STYLE of Yoga speaks to you is largely a matter of taste. In Sanskrit, the word rasa means essence. When you are describing something’s rasa, you are talking about the qualities it has, the feeling behind those qualities, the flavor. Just as each being has its own essence, so does each style of Yoga. Some styles are infused with a lot of emphasis on the spiritual and meditative aspects of the practice, while others spend great amounts of time refining the physical details of the postures and others have more emphasis on a strong, athletic form of movement.
Yoga means union, which can be seen as uniting the individual with the divine or uniting the physical and spiritual aspects of self. Different styles of Yoga approach this union differently. Some techniques work from the inside out while others from the outside in. Discovering the feeling of bliss that comes from the practice is a matter of finding which style speaks to you. Perhaps in practicing you will be surprised by what you enjoy. You might find that you are attracted to a style that is completely different from your normal way of doing things. This can be a wonderful exploration into balance.
Achieving balance is a daily practice. Some days we need a little more output, some days a little more input, some days call for stillness. I encourage you to learn more about some of the styles of Yoga listed below, and get an idea of the rasa which it carries. Then, go out and try two or three different styles. It has been my experience that different styles attract us during different times of our lives.
Some schools of thought encourage you to stick with one style of Yoga, because it might conflict with the teachings of another. Most of the differences are in the physical technique, and the body can adjust accordingly. Once you find the style, the class, the teacher, the time of day which feels right to you, you will know, because you will want to keep going back. In the meantime, explore your options. Try a few different classes. Maybe you will enjoy a strong Ashtanga practice three days a week, and a candelight meditation once a week. Play, explore, and discover the rasa of your personal practice.
Yoga means union, which can be seen as uniting the individual with the divine or uniting the physical and spiritual aspects of self. Different styles of Yoga approach this union differently. Some techniques work from the inside out while others from the outside in.
Hatha Yoga ‘Ha,’ means sun, ‘tha’ means moon, and Yoga means union. This style of Yoga seeks to unite the masculine and feminine principles of self, the polarities which exist within. The masculine principles are more solar or yang, and relate to strength and action, the feminine principles are more lunar or yin, and relate to creativity and emotion. The blending of these two energies helps to imbue the practice of Yoga with a sense of balance. Hatha Yoga helps to teach us that there is strength in softness, and softness in strength. Hatha is the most common style of Yoga practiced in the West. Many of the named styles, such as Iyengar, Ashtanga (as taught by the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois), Bikram, Anusara, Viniyoga, Integral Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, vinyasa flow, power Yoga and Yin Yoga are all different varieties or ways to practice Hatha Yoga. Kundalini Yoga, as disseminated by Yogi Bhajan and his students, was a formerly secretive energetic practice that includes breathing techniques (pranayama), postures (asana), chanting (mantra) and meditation.
Once an obscure form of Yoga, the ancient practice of Hatha Yoga was revitalized in the last century by a number of teachers from India, including Swami Satchitananda, Swami Vishnudevananda, Bishnu Charan Ghosh and perhaps most famously, Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who taught, among others, Indra Devi, Srivasta Ramaswami, B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and the recently deceased Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. Krishnmacharya paid great attention to detail with a lot of focus given to asana practice. Hatha Yoga is the basis for most of the styles practiced today, and can be practiced in a gentle or more challenging manner. If you are going to attend a Hatha Yoga class, consider speaking to the instructor first, and discussing their philosophy and approach to the practice.
Desi Bartlett MS, CPT, has been teaching health and wellness for more than 20 years. Originally from Chicago, she has a degree in kinesiology and her master’s degree in corporate fitness. Desi holds advanced certifications in Yoga, personal training, group fitness, and is a certified pre- and post-natal fitness specialist.