There are so many kinds of yoga practices out there, it can be hard to know where to start.
Yoga is a broad system with many different detailed teachings and roots. The meaning of the word “yoga” means to yoke, or union, bringing together all the aspects of body, breath and mind, so that we can come back to our true self.
The main yoga practice that is familiar in the world today is asana, or yoga poses. Styles have adapted and developed to make it more accessible to so many people.
In the search to find a suitable practice, take into account that at various stages of life, years, or even days, one style might speak to us more than others. Here are some examples of various styles and their origins that might help you find the practice that is best suited for you.
All asana practice is derived from hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is the root from which Patanjali (an Indian sage and scholar) wrote The Yoga Sutras – a book of philosophy which is now used in many yoga traditions. The word Hatha in Sanskrit comes from two words Ha (sun) and Tha (moon) and explores the duality within us - the yin and yang, the dark and the light. Hatha yoga consists of a structured, foundational practice with its emphasis on breath and holding each pose for a longer period of time. Expect a slower-moving practice with lots of key alignment cues for each posture. The hatha practice is perfect for beginners or those who are just starting out on their yoga journey.
The words Vinyasa means Sequence or specific placement. This practice is more fluid and dynamic with many transitions from pose to pose. Expect a variety of sun salutations and linking the breath with the movement. Vinyasa is a more modern form of yoga asana and is perfect for those who want a faster practice with less time to spend in each pose. This practice can challenge the way in which the breath is utilised.
Find a soft and gentle place to practice from with yin yoga. Each pose is held for 3-5 minutes or longer. Mediation and calming the mind is the focus of this practice. Yin yoga focuses on the energy meridians of the body and improving their functions with specifically designed poses. Longer holds mean the body can replenish and open over time, without force or creating excess heat. Slowing down and being still will provide a space for relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. Yin yoga can still be a strong practice in that it will challenge the body and mind with longer holds.
A very gentle, slow and softer practice. Less energy is spent which will provide more nourishment for the body. Lots of props are used to assist the body in comfort and relaxation. Explore gentle movement, full breaths with slow-moving sequences for bodies and minds who find it hard to relax, slow down or for those who need to take it easy. This practice will nourish energy levels, quieten the mind and ground you back into your body.
Yoga is all about practicing mindfulness and general awareness of your mental well-being alongside the physical. Take this 'International Yoga Day' as an opportunity to dive deeper into your practice or into finding what your flow is all about.