Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar is credited with popularizing yoga in the West, and even today in his 90s, he continues to practice yoga. He’s also credited with introducing the use of yoga props. Although modern students may not consider yoga towels and yoga mats props, per se, but rather necessities, these, as well as other tools, such as yoga blocks and yoga straps, are part of many yoga studios today. Iyengar believes that using props promotes proper alignment and body mechanics when performing the asanas (poses).
On the eightfold path of Classical yoga, the asanas, or positions, are one of the physical ways, along with pranayama, or regulated breathing, to attain samadhi, or self-enlightenment. Yoga asanas can be performed standing up, seated or lying down; they can be structured in terms of how they’re performed and in which order, such as in Bikram yoga, or free-flowing and at the whim of the yoga instructor. However, yoga asanas are all designed to ultimately challenge the student’s flexibility and motor control.
The surya namaskar, or sun salutation, series of yoga asanas is ideal for the beginning student.
During pregnancy, your body goes through some amazing changes, both physically and mentally. Unless your doctor prescribes otherwise, exercise should be a part of your pregnancy, and prenatal yoga is an ideal program to follow. Prenatal yoga gives expectant mothers the range of flexibility, muscle control and meditative focus that will come in handy along the way, in the delivery room and well afterward.
Many yoga studios and some local community recreation centers offer prenatal yoga classes; but if one isn’t available in your area, consider a beginning yoga class and tell the teacher that you’re expecting. Stay away from hot, or Bikram, yoga classes; these are conducted in rooms with temperatures of up to 105 degrees, which can raise your core body temperature and potentially affect fetal development.
In the eightfold path of Classical yoga, pranayama is the fourth step to achieve samadhi, or self-realization. As a yoga practice, pranayama is regulated or controlled breathing or breath flow used by students to transition between poses (asanas) as well as remain in them and achieve a meditative state.
Pranayama is the Sanskrit word for extended breath or, more strictly defined, prana (life force) and yama (extension). Beginning yoga students typically start with Hatha yoga, which involves regulated breathing, while performing the poses, to achieve more flexibility and control. With any type of physical conditioning, the proper breathing technique comes into play, whether you’re a first-time jogger contending with breathlessness or a conditioned athlete setting a personal best at the bench press. Think of it this way: breathing comes to us automatically unless we’re under stress, at which point it becomes an effort. Pranayama regulates the breathing so that the body directs its focus to the task set forth, be it a difficult pose or a stressful life event.
Kundalini yoga is believed to be the pathway to enlightenment through accessing the energy (prana) from the sacrum or lower spinal area. By clearing the way for this energy through the asanas (postures), breathing techniques (pranayama), finger positions (mudras), chanting (mantras) and body locks (bandhas), the student of kundalini yoga can access this chakra, envisioned as a sleeping, coiled-up serpent, which allows for a greater consciousness and increased perception of the everyday world. Indeed, this serpent chakra has been called the primal life force that ultimately connects the individual to the universal.
Through kundalini yoga, the blockages in the way of accessing this energy are removed through kriyas. Kriyas can take the form of long, sounded-out chants that make the body vibrate while performing the asanas. Controlled and sustained breathing comes into play when performing the mantras. Accessing this energy, through kundalini yoga, also involves working with bandhas, some of which resemble kegel exercises that regulate urinary flow. The mudras, or finger positions, allow the student to sustain poses longer by holding onto the extremities, such as the toes, or lifting the body from the floor with the palms. Read the rest of this entry
Bikram Hot yoga uses a series of 26 asanas, or poses, conducted in a studio with temperatures of up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and was developed by yoga master Bikram Choudhury, who brought it to the U.S. in 1973. Hot yoga incorporates controlled breathing as students transition between poses to achieve flexibility and mental clarity. “Hot yoga” has become a generic term, and without the qualifier of “Bikram,” the class most likely is not taught by someone certified through Bikram’s school. Read the rest of this entry
Power yoga follows two schools of thought. One is based on the principles of Ashtanga yoga, and its notable proponent is Bryan Kest, who studied under yogi Pattabhi Jois, the yoga master credited with introducing the eightfold path of Ashtanga yoga to Westerners in the 1970s. The other school of power yoga was developed by Baron Baptiste, who emphasizes the fitness aspect of yoga, rather than the contemplative element common in traditional yoga. Baptiste introduced power yoga to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles as part of their conditioning program in the 1990s and incorporated the techniques of Vinyasa, or flow, yoga that uses breathwork to transition between poses. Read the rest of this entry
Ashtanga yoga was developed by yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and incorporates regulated breathing in a series of asanas (positions) to raise the body’s core temperature, which releases toxins from the system. This technique enhances the body’s circulatory system, improves overall health and clears the mind.
Ashtanga yoga is based on the Yoga Korunta, an ancient text written by yogi Vamana Rishi. In 1927, Pattabhi Jois studied the text and, through his interpretation, began teaching its principles to students in 1948 at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Ashtanga, or eight-limbed, yoga follows the eightfold path, which first appeared in the Yoga Sutras from the Classical period in the 1500s. Read the rest of this entry
Bikram yoga also goes by the misnomer of “hot yoga” although the two methods are performed differently yet both conducted in very high temperatures. Bikram yoga is performed with the strict 26 “asana” series of postures established by Bikram Choudhury while “hot yoga” uses the “vinyasa” technique that transitions the poses between breaths.
After suffering a debilitating knee injury in his teens, Bikram Choudhury, India’s ranking yoga champion, developed a program with guidance from his mentor, yogi Bishnu Ghosh, to resolve chronic pain and restore function to musculature. Bikram yoga is an ideal way to recover from sports injuries during the off season and promote healing and blood flow to chronic, aching areas of the body. Bikram yoga has a devoted following; and since 1974, yogi Choudhury’s studio in Beverly Hills has spawned a wave of certified practitioners of his method.
Iyengar yoga, founded by yogi B.K.S. Iyengar, incorporates the eight limbs (ashtanga) of yoga, along with the use of props, such as belts, blankets and wooden blocks, to allow beginning students to achieve correct positioning for performing the poses (asanas). All yoga practitioners strive to perform the postures properly, yet they may not be physically capable of doing so; therefore using some type of positioning device allows them to hopefully achieve that goal. This method of performing hatha, or forceful, yoga makes it accessible to all potential students and dispels the notion that only the young or very flexible can develop the muscle strength and positioning to take advantage of yoga’s benefits. B.K.S Iyengar grew up penniless and suffered poor health as a child. He was taken under the wing of Krishnamacharya, who is widely recognized as “the father of modern yoga” in the 20th century. His guru took pity on Iyengar and taught him a few asanas in the hopes of improving his health. However, Iyengar was given very little instruction in how to actually perform the poses. When his guru visited Iyengar’s school in 1961, he noted his student’s ability to show others how to perform the poses correctly and told him he needed to disseminate this knowledge worldwide. Iyengar had already worked with famed violinist Yehudi Menuhin in the 1950s and privately tutored him as he toured throughout Europe. This association is credited with popularizing Iyengar yoga worldwide. Read the rest of this entry