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YOGA DISCIPLINES -
The following descriptions are of the predominant styles of Ha-tha yoga instruction taught at One Ocean Yoga Center and as well as the major studios in the surrounding area and New York City.
OTHER STYLES MENTIONED IN JENNIFER'S ARTICLE:
"NOT ALL YOGA IS CREATED EQUAL"
Excerpts from: YOGA JOURNALWORKSHOPS
Winter 1999 article by Jennifer Cook
As studies continue to reveal yoga's many health benefits, this centuries-old Eastern philosophy is fast becoming the new ness soul mate for workout enthusiasts. Contemporary devotees range from high-powered execs trying to keep hearts beating on a healthy note to image-conscious Hollywood stars striving for sleek physiques. Even prominent athletes are adding yoga to their training regime to develop balanced, injury-free muscles and spines.
Yet to applaud yoga for its physical benefits alone will only diminish what this entire system has to offer as a whole. By practicing yoga on a regular basis, you may be surprised to find that you're building much more than a strong, flexible body.
"Americans are usually drawn to yoga as a way to keep fit at first, but the idea behind the physical practice of yoga is to encourage a deeper mind-body awareness," explains New York yoga teacher and author Beryl Bender Birch. "Healing and balancing the physical body helps bring clarity and focus to the mind as well."
Initially, the sole purpose of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment. In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as "yoke" or "union," describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one's own pure, essential nature.
Classes that have gained popularity in the United States usually teach one of the many types of ha-tha yoga, a physical discipline which focuses mainly on asanas (postures) and breath work in order to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.
To get started on your individual yoga quest, it's helpful to begin with a list that clearly prioritizes what needs you want to fulfill; are you looking to sweat your way into a lean form, or does a gentler, more meditative approach sound more appealing?
"Not all practices fit into nice little cubby holes," warns Bender Birch. "There is a great deal of cross-over among the various yoga schools, and there's even a diversity in teaching approaches within each discipline."
Try attending a few different types of classes, and you'll quickly discover the right match to suit your needs. Below you'll find brief descriptions of some of the ha-tha yoga disciplines that are being taught in the Hampton's.
If you are browsing through a yoga studio's brochure of classes and the yoga offered is simply described as "hatha" or more correctly "ha-tha," chances are the teacher is offering an eclectic blend of two or more of the styles described below. It's a good idea to ask the teacher or director of the studio where he or she was trained and if the poses are held for a length of time or if you will be expected to move quickly from one pose to the next, and if meditation or chanting is included. This will give you a better idea if the class is vigorous or more meditative.
Ease Into Enlightenment
Anusara means, "to step into the current of divine will." Anusara Yoga is an integrated approach to ha-tha yoga in which the human spirit blends with precise science of biomechanics. It is a new system of ha-tha yoga that can be both spiritually inspiring and yet grounded in a deep knowledge of outer and inner body alignment. It can be therapeutically effective and physically transformative. The central philosophy of this yoga is that each person is equally divine in every part - body, mind, and spirit. Each student's various abilities and limitations are respected and honored. Anusara Yoga differentiates itself from other ha-tha yoga systems with three key areas of practice:
Attitude. The practitioner balances an opening to Grace with an aspiration for awakening to their true nature.
Alignment. Each pose is performed with an integrated awareness of all the different parts of the body.
Action. Each pose is performed as an artistic expression of the heart in which muscular stability is balanced with an expansive inner freedom.
For more information, visit www.anusara.com
Located in the Berkshire region of Western Massachusetts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health has helped guide thousands of people along their path of self-discovery by teaching a system of yoga developed over a 20-year period by yogi Amrit Desai and the Kripalu staff.
During the 1970s, while studying under Indian guru Kripaluvananda, Amrit felt his body begin to move in a spontaneous flow of postures without the direction of his mind. This deep release of prana (life's energy force) brought about a profound transformation in Amrit, so he developed these movements into three stages of practice which he could then teach to others.
The three stages of Kripalu yoga include: willful practice (a focus on alignment, breath, and the presence of consciousness); willful surrender (a conscious holding of the postures to the level of tolerance and beyond, deepening concentration and focus of internal thoughts and emotions); and meditation in motion (the body's complete release of internal tensions and a complete trust in the body's wisdom to perform the postures and movements needed to release physical and mental tensions and enter deep meditation).
For more information, visit www.kripalu.org
From his home in Pune, India, B.K.S. Iyengar reigns as one of the most influential yogis of his time. At 80 years old, he continues to teach thousands of students from all over the world, encouraging them to penetrate deeper into the experience of each pose. This is the trademark of Iyengar Yoga - an intense focus on the subtleties of each posture.
In an Iyengar class, poses (especially standing postures) are typically held much longer than in other schools of yoga, so that practitioners can pay close attention to the precise muscular and skeletal alignment this system demands. Also specific to Iyengar, which is probably the most popular type of yoga practiced in the United States, is the use of props, including belts, chairs, blocks, and blankets, to help accommodate any special needs such as injuries or structural imbalances.
"In forward bends, for example, if someone's hamstrings aren't flexible, he or she can use a prop to help extend the spine. The wall is often used for support in a variety of poses," explains Janet MacLeod, who teaches at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco. "Using props gives the student support, allowing them more freedom to breathe deeply into the pose."
For more information, visit www.iyisf.org
INNER BODY YOGA
The essence of yoga is to connect with a higher plane of spirituality and awareness, to allow your heart, soul and mind to open completely. Because the practice of yoga is centered on the individual, it should be taught in an individual way. In traditional yoga classes, the instructor orchestrates the class into a series of poses. You're told how to achieve the positions and how to hold them. There are no exceptions.
But the path to truth and spiritual freedom takes many turns and twists. To expect you to travel this path with a "vehicle" that is rigid and limiting is, in essence, preventing you from reaching your goals.
YOGA from the INNER BODY was developed by Angela Farmer and Victor Van Kooten. They believe that yoga is a kinetic process, involving every living cell. By exploring their own inner energy, students of Angela and Victor learn a more fulfilling and enriching approach to yoga. They learn to transform the light from within into poses projecting energy and life. Yoga becomes a whole body experience. A central focus of Angela and Victor is this source of energy. For more information, visit www.angela-victor.com
Vinyasa-style yoga combines a series of flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an intense body-mind workout. Here are a few different types:
The practice of Ashtanga that's getting mainstream attention today is a fast-paced series of sequential postures practiced by yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, who lives in Mysore, India. Today, yogis continue to spread Jois' teachings worldwide, making it one of the most popular schools of yoga around.
The system is based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. In class, you'll be led nonstop through one or more of the series. There's no time for adjustments - you'll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Be prepared to sweat.
For more information, visit Ashtanga teacher Richard Freeman's Web site: www.yogaworkshop.com
Looking for a highly meditative but physically challenging form of yoga? Try Jivamukti. You won't be alone.
Each week, more than 2,000 people visit the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City. Its popularity lies in the teaching approach of cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon, who opened their first studio in 1986, combining an Ashtanga background with a variety of ancient and modern spiritual teachings. In addition to vinyasa-style asanas, classes include chanting, meditation, readings, music, and affirmations. This spiritual resource center also offers specialized courses in Sanskrit and the sacred yoga texts.
"Over the course of time, students will get a broad yoga education," Life promises. "One week, a class may focus on a particular asana, while the next week's theme may discuss more metaphysical issues."
Beginner classes start by emphasizing standing poses, followed by instruction on forward bends, back-bends, and inversions. These classes also introduce chants.
For more information on class schedules or to find a certified instructor in your area, visit www.jivamuktiyoga.com
In 1995, Bender Birch set out to challenge Americans' understanding of what it really means to be fit with her book Power Yoga (Fireside, 1995). Bender Birch's intention was to give a Western spin to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, a challenging and disciplined series of poses designed to create heat and energy flow.
"Most people wouldn't take a class called Ashtanga Yoga, because they had no idea what it meant. Power Yoga, on the other hand, was something Americans could relate to and know that they'd get a good workout," says Bender Birch.
Power Yoga's popularity has spread to health clubs across the country and has taken on a broad range of applications. The common thread is a rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility while keeping students on the move. For specifics, consult individual instructors before signing up for a class.
ISHTA, an acronym for the Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda, is the yoga brainchild of South African native Alan Finger, who currently runs workshops at his yoga studio in Rhinebeck, New York. Finger blends 37 years of teaching experience with his eclectic studies under Sivananda and the tantric hermit Barati, helping students of all ages and abilities to get in touch with life's boundless energy.
"The sequence of postures is designed to help students integrate their individual sensations with a life energy force that's beyond sensing and perceiving," says Los Angeles-based ISHTA instructor Rod Stryker. "It's a tool for visualization and a way to become more fully oneself."
A typical ISHTA class mixes flowing Ashtanga-style asanas with the precise method of Iyengar, while including pranayama and meditation exercises as well. Instructors begin classes with warm-up poses, then gradually build to a more challenging practice.
For more information, visit www.beyoga.com
At its core, Sivananda Yoga is geared toward helping students answer the age-old question "Who am I?" This yoga practice is based on the philosophy of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, who taught disciples to "serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize." In order to achieve this goal, Sivananda advocated a path that would recognize and synthesize each level of the human experience including the intellect, heart, body, and mind.
In 1957, his disciple Swami Vishnu-Devananda introduced these teachings to an American audience. A few years later, Vishnu-Devananda founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, summarizing Sivananda's system into five main principles:
· proper exercise (asanas);
· proper breathing (pranayama);
· proper relaxation (Savasana);
· proper diet (vegetarian);
· positive thinking (Vedanta) and
· meditation (dyhana).
There are more than 80 centers worldwide, as well as ashrams and teacher-training programs, all of which follow a Ha-tha Yoga practice emphasizing 12 basic postures to increase strength and flexibility of the spine. Chanting, pranayama, and meditation are also included, helping students to release stress and blocked energy.
For more information, visit www.sivananda.org
In 1966, the Reverend Sri Swami Satchidananda introduced an entire generation of young people to his yogic philosophy: "an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life." His goal was to help people integrate yoga's teachings into their everyday work and relationships, which he hoped would promote greater peace and tolerance worldwide.
"Integral Yoga uses classical ha-tha postures, which are meant to be performed as a meditation, balancing physical effort and relaxation," says Swami Ramananda, president of the New York Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan. In addition to a gentle asana practice, classes also incorporate guided relaxation, breathing practices, sound vibration (repetition of mantra or chant), and silent meditation.
For more information, visit www.integralyogaofnewyork.org
When you take a Bikram yoga class, expect to sweat. Each studio is designed to replicate yoga's birthplace climate, with temperatures pushing 100° Fahrenheit.
Why the sauna-like effect?
"Because sweat helps move the toxins out of your body," explains Radha Garcia, owner of Bikram's Yoga College of India in Boulder, Colorado. "Your body is like a sponge. To cleanse it, you need to wring it out to allow fresh blood and oxygen to circulate and keep your immune system running smoothly."
This method of staying healthy from the inside out was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who sequenced a series of 26 traditional ha-tha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system.
Choudhury first visited the United States from India in 1971 on a trip sponsored by the American Medical Association to demonstrate his work using yoga to treat chronically ill patients. Today Choudhury continues teaching students of all ages and abilities from his studio in Los Angeles where he also conducts a certified teacher's training program.
Additional styles described in Jennifer Cooke's article with web addresses:
KALI RAY TRIYOGA - www.kaliraytriyoga.com
WHITE LOTUS - www.whitelotus.org
INTEGRATIVE YOGA THERAPY www.iytyogatherapy.com
PHOENIX RISING YOGA THERAPY - www.pryt.com
SVAROOPA - www.masteryoga.org
VINIYOGA - www.viniyoga.com
ANANDA - www.expanding light.org
KUNDALINI - www.3HO.org
TIBETAN - www.nyingma.org
1 The article is excerpted and edited to provide information and descriptions of the predominant styles of instruction taught at One Ocean Yoga and as well as the major studios in the surrounding area and New York City.
2 All of the above web addresses were functioning at the time of website publication. If addresses have changed, we cannot always know this, but we do upgrade these links when possible.