Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yoga-nese: Getting Your Body to Speak a New Language



Yoga. We’ve all heard about it, heard about a class in our local gym, and maybe even passed one or two studios filled with people doing strange things with their bodies. Some of us have tried it, and just given up because we look around us and we can’t seem to move our bodies the way we  think we are supposed to. And some of us are scared to try either because we don’t want to look silly, we have misconceptions about what it really is, or we just can’t wrap our head around all the “ummm” sounds. I’ve had so many people say to me “Yoga is just for the mind” or “I’m not into spiritual meditation” or even “Yoga is not for me because I’m trying to build muscles, not just stretch”. Well, I’ll give you a little introduction to the different styles of yoga to ease some of those misconceptions. And if you do decide to try it, next week, I’ll walk you through how to do some basic yoga moves on your own.

Popular Yoga Styles
There are so many forms of yoga, especially since a lot of them are slight modifications of other versions named after the person who created the modification. But the basic forms we see in western society today are these five.
  1. Hatha yoga: Hatha yoga is a combination of all the other forms of yoga. It helps to learn all the basic yoga poses, but you’ll find yourself holding the poses for longer than you would in the other fast-pased or aerobic versions of yoga. It helps to build strength, endurance, and flexibility, and emphasizes breathing a lot. If you’ve been to any other type of yoga class, you’d see some of it incorporated in this version of yoga. One thing that is important to note is that although hatha involves a lot of stretching, this form of stretching helps to build muscle as well. If you’ve ever done any of the forms of yoga below and felt the pain the morning after, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.
  2. Ashtanga yoga: This is a very fast-paced style of yoga with six predetermined pose sequences that you do over and over throughout the class. It certainly helps improve your endurance, especially since you do the same poses over and over. I also think it improves your concentration because you tend to master the art of the class a short way through, and can try to (emphasis on “try to”) clear your mind as you keep going through the sequences. Because it is fast-paced, there is no time to get lost in the pose though. You have to keep moving, and movement burns calories, right? So doing this type of yoga frequently will help you lose weight. Plus, if you are OCD and want to know exactly what to expect from each class, ashtanga yoga is a good way to go.
  3. Power yoga: This is pretty much a westernized version of the ashtanga. Because the ashtanga is very repetitive movement, those of us who haven’t mastered the art of “just being” find it boring doing the same six movements over and over for about an hour. So this style of yoga was created to be fast moving, and to mimic the style of an aerobic class. There is some breathing, but the focus is on the movement and building muscle tone. Because of its fast pace, power yoga students sweat a lot and burn a lot of calories in the process. But one big difference is that a lot is left to the discretion of the instructor, who can make up his or her own poses, and change the order of poses to whatever seems to work for the class.
  4. Bikram yoga: This style of yoga has a defined flow. There are about 26 poses involved, and each pose is done twice. So when you attend a Bikram yoga class, you know exactly what you’re getting. The twist here is that these poses are done in a steam room sort of setting, with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (above 38 degrees Celsius) and with about 40% humidity. That may not seem that hot if you are from Lagos, but imagine having this indoors as you try to concentrate on your poses. Not so easy.  The positive about this style of yoga is that your muscles feel looser because of the heat, and it teaches you much endurance. But the negatives are that it is very very difficult to focus on the poses in immense heat, and the steam could actually leave you feeling light-headed. Because of all that sweat though, you burn tons of calories.
  5. Prenatal yoga: From the name, you can tell that it is for expectant mothers. Lamaze classes were created from this extension of yoga. This style of yoga focuses on keeping the muscles strong so that the mother can stay healthy and get her body back to normal much easier after labor. It is also structured to help with aches associated with pregnancy, and perfecting the pregnant posture.
I hope you’re beginning to see that there are different syles of yoga for everyone. And although some of the more meditative versions, like Bikram and Ashtanga, focus a lot on breathing, it is not all about the spiritual aspect. Very many people take yoga the physical benefits alone. Frankly, although there is a spiritual side to yoga, I have never tried taking it anywhere beyond the physical. For beginners, I would really encourage taking a look at www.yogabasics.com.

Next week, we’ll talk about a few beginner yoga poses. But till then, what has your experience with yoga been? Anything you’d like to share?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

3 comments:

  1. I've always wondered about the 'hmmm' Is there actual meditation at Yoga classes? And doesn't it conflict with the different religious groups the students may belong to?

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is some meditation depending on the type of yoga. But it's not like meditation based on a particular religious belief or anything. It's just meditation to clear your mind.

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