By Subodh Gupta
Mar 28, 2017: Whenever you hear about yoga what comes to your mind? Some sort of aerobics? Tiring exercises? Impossible asanas? Or mere meditation? In fact, most yoga schools have made these popular in the name of yoga. But neither of these is yoga. Let us first understand what yoga actually means. Yoga simply means union and that?s it. In spiritual terms it can be seen as union of
individual consciousness with supreme consciousness, and to achieve this union we need a very strong body and mind. Keeping this in mind, our ancient scientists (the saints and sages) developed a system to keep the body and mind strong so that the higher purpose or this union can be achieved. This system involves yogasana (which normally people understand as yoga), meditation, pranayama, relaxation and proper diet. This system is called yoga. Or we can say, the physical-level yoga is a system to keep the body and mind stronger, which ultimately helps us to achieve union in our lives.
As yoga?s popularity swells, so does the number of hatha yoga styles (hatha yoga is the branch of yoga that focuses primarily on the physical wellbeing of a person). Many hatha yoga styles have flourished in the last few decades, and many new styles pop up every now and then. But the styles which are more popularly practiced in the East as well as West are Sivananda Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga, Bikram, Viniyoga, Ananda,
Kripalu and many more. However, the emphasis varies in various yoga schools of practices, as some focus mainly on the physical level and some more on pranic and mental level.
Which style is for you?
To begin with, it will be helpful to list out clearly the priorities you want to fulfil. Are you looking for a style to sweat your way into a lean form? I mean, are you looking for a hatha yoga class, which will provide you with strong physical challenges? Or does a gentler, more meditative approach sound more appealing to you? That means, you may favour a style that stress more on spirit than the physical health. Or maybe you will enjoy a yoga style that will look into details and help you meet your individual needs. Or are you looking for a style that will heal you?
Let me assure you, no style is better than the other. The style you use or want to use is a matter of your personal preference or a matter of need. To understand which style will suit your needs, first let us understand the various styles of yoga that are more popular these days.
ANANDA: Emphasis on meditation
Ananda Yoga is a relatively gentle style and do not stress on building a strong body. It helps to achieve spiritual growth by releasing unwanted tensions. It is object is to awaken, experience, and begin to control the subtle energies within oneself, and use these energies to harmonise the body, mind and emotions, and above all to attune oneself with higher levels of awareness. One unique feature of this system is the use of silent affirmations while in the asana as a means of working more directly and consciously with the subtle energies to achieve this harmony. This gentle and highly effective approach is suitable for all ages and all body types. Ananda Yoga helps you feel relaxed, revitalised, and uplifted.
Developed by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, Ananda Yoga is a classical approach that includes asana (yoga postures), pranayama (special breathing and energy-control techniques), classical yoga meditation techniques, and applied yoga philosophy.
ASHTANGA: The power of yoga
Ashtanga Yoga is physically demanding. It is not for the beginners or anyone who?s been taking a leisurely approach to fitness. Participants move through a series of flows, jumping from one posture to another in order to build strength, flexibility and stamina. This method of yoga involves synchronising the breath with progressive series of postures?a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.
Ashtanga Yoga practice involves performing challenging sequence of poses. This yoga style uses a system based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty. The so-called Power Yoga, more popular in the West, is based on Ashtanga Yoga developed by K Pattabhi Jois.
IYENGAR: Symmetry and alignment
Iyengar Yoga is perfect for beginners and those who haven?t exercised in a while as it is a gentle and classical style of yoga. This style is famous for great attention to details and precise alignment of postures. It encourages a student to penetrate deeper into the experience of each pose. The yoga
poses are held much longer than in other schools of yoga and repeated several times. This great attention to details, posture, and alignment has also become the notable characteristics of Iyengar
Yoga, named after B K S Iyengar. He also popularized the use of yoga props such as blocks, belts, chairs straps, pillows and even sandbags to compensate for a lack of flexibility, which is helpful for anyone with back or joint problems. The benefits of this style include toning of muscles, eliminating tension and easing chronic pain.
SIVANANDA: Encouraging a healthy lifestyle
Sivananda Yoga style focuses on pranayama, classic asanas, relaxation, proper diet and meditation. It is a style that emphasise more on spirit than the physical details of asanas. This style consists of 12 poses that seek to increase strength, flexibility, proper breathing and meditation. It was developed by Vishnudevananda, who named Sivananda Yoga after his teacher Swami Sivananda, one of the greatest yoga gurus in the world.
VINIYOGA: Gentle flow
Viniyoga, a gentle style of yoga practice, has been rooted from the principle practiced by T Krishnamacharya, the teacher of well-knowncontemporary masters B K S Iyengar and K Pattabhi Jois. His son T K V Desikachar continued this principle and developed the practice of Viniyoga. Viniyoga make use of modified yoga poses that are designed to meet the specific needs of an individual and to enhance healing, flexibility and strength of joints. Viniyoga practice emphasizes on coordinating breath and movement.
BIKRAM: Turning up the heat
Bikram Yoga is practiced in a room with high temperature and thus one sweats a lot as it is believed that sweat helps to remove toxins from our body. Designed by Bikram Choudhury, it is a method of staying healthy from inside out. Bikram students perform a series of 26 traditional asanas to address the proper functioning of every bodily system. Each posture is usually performed twice and held for a certain period of time. The yoga sessions start with standing postures and gradually go into backbends, forward bends and twists.
People who are already in good shape may practice this style of yoga. While all yoga styles seek to balance the body, mind, and spirit, they go about it in various ways. They just differ in how asanas are done and where they focus the attention. Some uses props for the asanas; others increase the temperature in the room and go for the sweat. No style is better than another; it is simply a matter of personal preference. Find a teacher that you can relate to and a style that furthers your own personal growth.
Subodh Gupta is a Corporate Yoga Trainer and has conducted more than 500 workshops on yoga. He has introduced scientific sleep for stress management in India and London. www.subodhgupta.com