Yoga may be seen as the language of the body, and like all languages it continues to gain depth and meaning as generations of teachers add their unique perspectives on its practice. So, just like when learning a foreign language the variety of yoga styles and their names may be confusing. However, despite the initial perplexity the variety of styles may bring, the diversity within yoga ensures that there is a path, and a style, for everyone to fulfill their physical, emotional, and spiritual goals. Some of the popular styles represented within our local community are Anusara, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Bikram, Iyengar, Kriya, Kundalini, and Sivananda, Svaroopa, Yogananda. When choosing a Yoga style, I encourage you to look deeply at what style will best serve you at this point in your life's journey. Below are brief descriptions of some of the above mentioned Yoga styles.
Anusara Yoga: is based upon five principles of alignment which are applied to each pose and help to combine tantric philosophy with the physical practice.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga: breath and the transition between poses is particularly emphasized in Ashtanga Yoga to create a dynamic journey where strenuous physical exertions are balanced by a rhythmic cycle of breath.
Bikram Yoga: taught at temperatures upward of 100°F, Bikram Yoga progresses through 26 postures which encourage you to push your body's limits while providing an excellent work out.
Core Opening Yoga: this safe, gentle style of yoga focuses on releasing core tension in the spine and pelvis through the use of props & detailed alignments to create restful postures. It is an excellent style for back problems & injury recovery.
Iyengar Yoga: this alignment based style offers careful sequencing and a wide variety of props are used so people may fully access the poses to relieve pain, stress, tensions, regain freedom of movement and body tone.
Kundalini Yoga: blends yoga, meditation, and philosophy to promote awareness and individual consciousness.
Svaroopa® Yoga: this style of yoga focuses on releasing core tensions along the spine to allow you to more fully experience your own divine essence and is wonderful for deepening meditation.
General physical health benefits which may stem from the practice of yoga include an increase in strength, endurance, and energy, as well as improvements to posture and sleep quality. Yoga may also contribute to the efficiency of internal functioning (such as the respiratory and cardiovascular systems) and help stabilize biochemical factors (such as cholesterol or hemoglobin). However, yoga's effect upon general well-being is not constrained merely to the physical but extends also to the emotional and psychological.
Yoga gains distinction from more conventional means of exercise in that it encourages internal awareness, self-actualization, and self-acceptance. It is also a means of releasing stress through balanced activity with less inherent risk of injury than other exercise. This connects to a happier and more contented frame of mind, greater confidence in social settings, and less depression or anxiety. So, while yoga may be the language of the body, it is also a path to empowerment regardless of age, strength, or experience.
Elke Brown is a Certified Yoga Teacher and owner of Full Life Yoga Studio in Nevada City, CA