by Amy Vetter
Yoga is about the practice of connecting ones breath with the movement of the body. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word yoga is “to add, to join, to unite or to attach.” But yoga is more than just a physical practice; it attaches physical movements to the mental practice of controlled breathing and joins mind and body. With this connective practice of yoga, studies have shown improved musculoskeletal and mental health improvements in students. A recent article published by the American Osteopathic Association notes, “The relaxation techniques of yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.”
A common myth about yoga is that one needs to be flexible to begin a yoga practice. The only thing that requires flexibility to begin with yoga is the mind. Yoga will help us explore our body’s capabilities and get to know our limitations, while accepting where we are at any particular moment. There are many different yoga practices that people enjoy, based on how they are feeling on a given day; whether they want a workout or time to be alone to calm their mind.
Many people begin a yoga practice for the physical benefits it offers and soon realize there is much more to it than stretching. While building physical strength through challenging poses, it also develops an inner peace that can be carried throughout the entire day. More than 20 million Americans have tried yoga and experienced the physical and mental health it offers. It is important to find the type of yoga that works best for one’s lifestyle, physical and mental needs. There is a type of yoga for everyone, and practices vary significantly. It can be overwhelming to select a class without fully understanding the type of yoga it presents. This outline of several common yoga styles can help select the ideal form of practice.
This practice involves synchronizing the breath with a set of progressive postures. This process produces internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs.
Great for: students looking to build strength and flexibility with a challenging practice. A modified ashtanga class is ideal for beginners and experienced practitioners that want to refine their poses.
This is the foundational practice of yoga and the most practiced variety worldwide. The practice gently moves students through poses, or asanas, with the intent to elongate the spine and quiet the mind. Hatha yoga is recognized as a stress-reducing practice that also improves physical health.
Great for: students that are new to yoga and want to create a strong foundation for their practice. It is also beneficial to those that want to decrease stress while improving core strength, balance and flexibility. Hatha is suited for all levels.
Also referred to as flow yoga, Vinyasa classes connect each pose to the next in a natural, smooth transition. It is a faster-paced practice, with many sun salutations (a series of poses that flow from mountain, standing, to downward-facing-dog), where the breath is connected to each movement. These classes are designed to increase the heart rate, build core, leg and arm strength and elongate muscles and the spine. Heated class settings are common to create a purifying sweat that releases toxins and renews the skin.
Great for: experienced and athletic students that want a fast-paced class of hard work and sweat. This challenging class is recommended for active students, especially when practiced in a heated environment.
Developed by the Chinese, this practice was built around preserving and releasing tight connective tissues. Yin uses passive poses that are held from five to seven minutes each. Bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps are used to make each pose comfortable and beneficial. This class provides relaxation and deep tissue stretching for ligaments and tendons.
Great for: students with mobility issues, beginners, those recovering from an injury and athletes. This practice helps increase flexibility and is good for runners with tight muscles in need of repair, or those that sit for prolonged periods.
Amy Vetter is a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and owner of Drishtiq Yoga, in Mason, OH. For more information, visit DrishtiqYoga.com.