Tips On Finding A Style That Fits
It seems like yoga is everywhere these days. There are yoga classes in gyms, high schools, senior citizen centers, and strip malls, each with a different spin: gentle yoga, hot yoga, restorative yoga, pre- and post-natal yoga, power yoga, and mommy and me yoga, just to name a few.
Why is yoga experiencing such popularity? It might be because of the health benefits yoga practitioners say they experience, and the fact that yoga can be tailored to their specific needs.
I am a firm believer that anyone can benefit from a dedicated yoga practice. Yoga can improve your health and bring clarity to your mind. Your muscles become stronger, and you will gain more flexibility in your joints, something that doesn’t happen from working out at the gym.
In fact, many students have come to me with injuries sustained from working with weights or from years of running. You have to be careful if you have injuries, but that shouldn’t prevent you from beginning a yoga practice. You should never feel pain in a posture. There are always modifications to protect an injured area.
Students Report Benefits
Dedicated yogis report all kinds of benefits from practicing yoga, from improved health to reduced pain.
“I began yoga to become flexible and strengthen my body for running, especially my upper body,” says Suzanne Gentry of Eaton’s Neck. “The benefits I have gained are numerous. I have a lot of flexibility, tighter abs, stronger legs and upper body. I am more relaxed and sleep well. I am able to run like I did ten years ago. My hamstrings no longer hurt and my quads are stronger.”
Susan Noddle of Manhattan reports that yoga has reduced her pain from two herniated discs in her back that lie on the L5 nerve root and cause discomfort in her foot.
“I have practiced with this injury and while at times I have to modify or take it slow, it has not prevented me from practicing for any sustained amount of time,” says Susan. “I have had to take a week or a few days off when it flares up, but I am always able to return. I also have had surgeries on both of my knees. My surgeon recommends yoga for my knees.”
Monica Diamond-Caravella of Huntington tells of the positive effects of yoga on her chronic neck pain. “I suffer from chronic neck pain related to a motor vehicle accident. I’ve been through physical therapy twice, for at least nine months each, with traction. Yoga keeps my neck supple and flexible and the majority of the time I have no pain. If I don’t keep up my practice, my neck pain comes back.”
Yoga For Any Age, Any Level of Ability
People of any age can practice yoga. My students are all ages: from teenagers to 70-year-olds. Not only is practicing yoga possible at any age, you don’t have to be able to touch your toes or bend like a pretzel to do it. Flexibility is a byproduct of practicing yoga. It’s one of the benefits.
If you’ve “tried yoga and didn’t like it,” I would encourage you to take a class with a different teacher or try a different style. Yoga is so beneficial on many levels, no matter what your age. Don’t give up because you didn’t like the teacher, or you felt the class was too difficult, or too easy. There’s a yoga class for everybody!
A Guide to the Types of Yoga
Not sure where to begin? Here are brief descriptions of some of the different types of yoga available in our area:
VINYASA FLOW – “Vinyasa” means “to move with the breath.” In some vinyasa-style yoga classes you will flow in and out of postures without having to hold one pose for very long. In others, the teacher may instruct you to stay in the posture longer, which may be more challenging. Anusara, Ashtanga, Jivamukti and Power Yoga are all vinyasa style practices.
ANUSARA – Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara is a vinyasa-style practice that emphasizes heart-opening through backbending and alignment and includes the use of props. Anusara means “flowing with Grace” and the practice aims to look for the good in all things. This class is good for students of all levels.
ASHTANGA – This system, passed on by Pattabhi Jois, involves linking movement to breath in a series of postures designed to detoxify, align and strengthen the body. In this type of yoga, the room in usually heated to 85 degrees. Many people find this a challenging practice.
JIVAMUKTI – Jivamukti means “liberation while living.” This type of yoga was founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon and incorporates chanting, yoga philosophy and meditation along with postures and breath.
POWER YOGA – Similar to Ashtanga, power yoga synchronizes breath and movement. These classes are designed to build strength and flexibility and can be quite challenging.
BIKRAM YOGA (or HOT YOGA) – Named after its founder, Bikram Choudhury, this type of yoga is practiced in a room heated to 100 degrees or more. Prepare to sweat. A lot! This method consists of a set series of 26 postures with each posture repeated twice in 90 minutes. Wear light clothing, bring a water bottle and a very big towel.
HATHA – A hatha yoga class is a good place for beginners to learn the basic standing, seated and balancing postures of yoga. These classes generally move at a slower pace.
KUNDALINI – Kundalini yoga is designed to free energy in the lower body, allowing it to move upwards, awakening the seven charkas. This class consists of rapid, repetitive movements done with breath or holding a pose while breathing in a particular way. Classes include chanting and can be physically intense.
IYENGAR – This style is named after its originator, BKS Iyengar, and is characterized by precise attention to alignment in each posture. You will more than likely hear the teacher direct your attention to your feet, knees, hips, spine, sternum, neck, head, and other body parts in just about every pose. The use of props such as blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets is encouraged.
RESTORATIVE – These classes focus on relaxing the body in postures that are comfortable, usually using props such as bolsters and blankets.