Yoga Style Guide Table of Contents
Yoga Style Guide is a series consisting of 3 parts.
With nearly over 50 styles of yoga to choose from, how does one know what is best for their body type, previous injury and/or injury prevention, and let’s not forget just the right amount of “hippy dippy” spiritual stuff?
Is it possible that we have evolved so quickly and vastly with the differing styles of yoga that we have too many options? Similar to the Chinese food menu, where it may take you 20 minutes in a Chinese restaurant to choose your meal, by which the end result of your decision is based on familiarity and you choose the same thing no matter what: #11.
Yoga’s Evolving Tradition
Let’s face it, yoga has changed immensely in the palate of choices it now offers. For example, what is the difference from Hot Yoga to Bikram? And what is this Vinyasa Yoga, and is it different than Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga? What is Forrest Yoga and Prana Flow Yoga, or Anjali Restorative Yoga vs. Restorative Yoga?
With so many yoga flavors, it can not only be intimidating to get started but it can also be discouraging, especially for a beginner. So by default and through familiarity, we tend to just try one thing over and over thinking it is the best thing for us. But is it?
First and foremost, we must understand that yoga is yoga. No matter what style of yoga you are practicing, no matter what resonates best with your heart, mind and body, or that serenades songs of “this is the one” deep into your bones, each and every single yoga style out there will still define yoga the same.
Traditionally speaking, the word Yoga translates to mean “yoke”. In his book, Light on Yoga, Iyengar says “the word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yui meaning to bind, join, attach, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion.”
So what are we binding or necessarily joining? It can be translated to the connection of breath and body. This is usually the first step in yoga. For example, Inhale, bring your arms overhead and touch the palms together as you look at your thumbs. Exhale, circle your arms down by your sides as you hinge at the hips and fold forward over your pelvis. By joining together the breath and body movements, one is able to direct the mind to follow the flow of the breath and body, giving the mind a focal point. However, does this happen so simply at first, or even after years of practicing? Do you find that sometimes you have completely checked out of the mind and when the teacher reminds you to breath, you realize, “wow, I wasn’t conscious of my breath and I’m definitely making that salmon dish later”?
This is the yoga. We aim to connect these three, breath, body and mind. When we check out, we come back. Simple as that. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says yoga “is the science of the mind”. Meaning that as we practice yoga, we slowly begin to learn the mind, read the mind and understand the workings of the mind. Practicing yoga is an invitation to observe the stories we create, the thoughts we play over and over, and the patterns we use often to avoid reality.
Secondly, a lot of things in the different yoga styles will overlap. Even if you were to attend every single style of yoga out there today (which may take a very long time), if a teacher is teaching yoga, no matter the style, you will probably hear very similar messages. Words like “inhale” and “exhale” will be used A LOT. Concepts based around awareness, self-observation, mindfulness, slowing down, and checking in will appear often. Even several of the same poses, though sequenced differently, will be used in class. Some teachers my use the traditional Sanskrit while some will not even utter a word of Sanskrit once during the whole class, and for that, beginners may be very grateful!
So now you may be thinking, “Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but how do I know which one yoga style is best for me?” Good question. And the answer to that isn’t as direct as you may want it to be. In the grand scheme of things, it depends.
Find A Fit
Like going to the store to find a new pair of pants, perhaps in a new brand you’ve never worn before, you try them on. Yep, do some research to understand what you are getting into. For example, I wouldn’t really suggest someone arriving to a Hot Yoga class uneducated on the concept. I have heard horror stories of some arriving to a heated yoga class in jeans. They made it through, but whew! More power to them. Shopping for pants will not probably take you as long as finding that right yoga style for you. I don’t know, maybe it could.
Unlike trying on a pair of pants that may take an hour and a half though, yoga takes a little bit longer. Most classes are only an hour or slightly longer, and you may only attend two times a week. Hence, it may take several weeks or even a couple of months to figure it out. Let’s say, however, you begin by taking five classes a week. Now we are talking over five hours of trying on pants. Jeez! That’s a lot to ask a girl to do.
Accept that it will take time. That is part of the yoga journey, taking time to reflect, to observe, to learn and even appreciate.
Honor that it can change. As with all things in life we take on, we may begin to outgrow, seek more or tire of it. Yoga is a journey and an evolution of your life. Self-observation and exploration is a key concept and practice to the yoga. You may have finally found the one. Great! And now three years later, your favorite teacher in the style is moving away. This can be a great way to find another teacher in the same style or maybe to seek out a new style of yoga. Because the options are so many, it really can be a way for opportunity for growth!
Kristina will share many yoga styles in the upcoming articles in this series!
Kristina Kuzmich, born and raised in the Midwest, first found Colorado through Naropa University in 2004, and instantly called it “home.” Kristina is a 200 E-RYT and a Licensed Massage Therapist residing in the Vail Valley, and is the founder and owner of Mindful Evolution Yoga. She is the Yoga Director for the Aria Yoga Program at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, the only certified SmartFLOW © Yoga Teacher in Colorado and is proud to be a yoga ambassador for lululemon athletica and Manduka. A lover of dark chocolate and mate tea, an avid hiker, snowboarder, writer and community worker, she insists on traveling the globe in her diligent pursuit of perpetual growth. She is a junkie to the card game, Rummy, and while not shy to share her obsession for fairy tales, particularly devouring up The Brother’s Grimm, Kristina has an exploratory skill in creating meals in the kitchen. She isn’t afraid to dabble into her favorite styles of wine (all things French), share her opinions when asked, and will continually practice seeking the truth and finding clarity, though the wine may cloud that at times.
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