The focus of yoga is to practice the balance of body, mind and spirit. Yoga comes in many different shapes and sizes and it can be both confusing and daunting to try and figure out if 1) Yoga is right for you and 2) Which yoga is right for you. Many of you may have tried yoga once or twice maybe at a gym or a yoga studio and either didn't like it or felt it was too slow, too hard or just plain strange.
Don't give up on yoga after one try with one teacher, one class or one studio. Yoga is like any other workout it really depends on the class and the type of workout - yoga types and classes are as diverse as if you were trying to compare kick boxing with ballet, or a step class to hip hop or spinning. Yoga is not one thing - yoga is not just meditation, yoga is not just holding a pose for hours, yoga is not just bending your body like a pretzel - it's much more.
There is hot yoga, meditative yoga, restorative yoga, gym yoga (yes it has a name) and of course there is power yoga. Many people don't realize that you don't have to be flexible to do yoga, you don't have to have a quiet mind and chant to do yoga, yoga is not a religion... and yoga (contrary to popular belief) can be cardiovascular and can be an intense workout. And yes even when doing power yoga you will still feel invigorated, relaxed, re-energized, calm, happy and closer to the feeling of one with your body, mind and spirit.
Power yoga's (stemming from Ashtanga) purpose is to create heat in the body, leading to purification through increased circulation and sweating. By doing the Asanas (postures) you gain poise, balance & strength, improve the body's physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation in the pursuit of enlightenment.
Doing yoga can help you in all aspects of life not just simply getting in shape. Yoga will help with your balance which can be great for dancers, surfers, construction workers, etc. Yoga will help build strength in your entire body working muscles you never knew you had which in turn will alleviate headaches, back pain, and many ailments you may have or not know you have. Yoga helps with concentration and will improve your golf game, any professional sports you play, writing, and more. And yoga will calm your mind bringing you more tolerance, patience and overall happiness. Can any other workout do all that? Are you in LA? Check out our Yoga Class Schedule, try it, you might love it!
BIRTH OF YOGAThe primary text of the science of classical yoga was written down in history sometime between 200 and 400 B.C. Both ancient scholars and modern proponents argue over the identity of the true and original authors but everyone basically agrees that they were finally collated into a cohesive book format by a Sanskrit philosopher and spiritual scholar named Patanjali. (Sanskrit is the precursor language to Greek and Latin.) Called "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali," this initial, ancient written text explores and explains Astanga (or Ashtanga) yoga, what many modern-day devotees refer to as "Power Yoga."
In the last 50 years, another renowned Sanskrit scholar named Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (pah-TAH-bi-joyce) has inspired dozens of Western yogis with his particular Ashtanga yoga style and philosophies. Today, Jois' many followers have brought Power Yoga --as we know it-- to the Western World. Mark Blanchard is one of these yogis.
Practiced for over 5,000 years in India, Ashtanga Yoga is based on the most physical form of yoga or vinyasa style which consists of flowing from one posture to another. The purpose of vinyasa is to create heat in the body, leading to purification through increased circulation and sweating.
There are six series altogether. Each sequence typically begins with 10 Sun Salutations and the standing poses. This is referred to as the "opening sequence". The student then moves to either the Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, B, C, or D, depending on his or her skill level, finally closing with a set of inverted postures, referred to as the "finishing sequence". Ashtanga Yoga is traditionally taught in Mysore style (supervised self practice), where each student moves through the practice at his or her own pace and level. In the West, it is more common to find classes devoted to a specific series, and guided by an instructor.
The consensus for Ashtanga's creation seems to be that Jois was asked to devise a yoga sequence for young people, whom he had been asked to teach by his guru. Noticing that their attention spans were short, particularly for poses held for any length of time, and that introspection was not one of their strengths, Jois began to formulate a style of yoga that would cater to the youths' natural vigor and flexibility, while minimizing aspects they found tedious. And so he devised a new form of surya namaskara (sun salutation) with athletic jumps and challenging push ups, and a series of poses -- none of which would be held for more than five breaths with the exception of shoulder and headstand -- that were visually exciting, and physically demanding. The poses were sequenced to be performed without interruption, and the sequences were designed with young, flexible bodies in mind.
Swatmarama introduced Hatha Yoga as 'a stairway to the heights of Raja Yoga'. A preparatory stage of physical purification that renders the body fit for the practice of higher meditation. The Asanas and Pranayama in Raja Yoga were what the Hindu Yogis used to physically train their body for long periods of meditation. This practise is called shatkarma.
Hatha Yoga is what most people in the West associate with the word "Yoga" and is practiced for mental and physical health throughout the West. So, when someone says they practice "Hatha," they basically mean any physical-kind of yoga in which you move your body through space. The word Hatha is a compound of the words Ha and Tha meaning sun and moon.
Hatha Yoga is one of the two branches of Yoga that focus on the physical culture, the other one being Raja Yoga. Both of these are commonly referred to as Ashtanga Yoga. The main difference is that Raja Yoga uses asanas to mainly get the body ready for prolonged meditation, and hence focuses more on the meditative asana poses: Lotus Pose (Padmasana), Accomplished Pose (Siddhasana), Easy Pose (Sahajasana) and Pelvic Pose (Vajrasana); Hatha Yoga utilizes most of the asana poses.
Hatha yoga attempts to balance mind and body via physical exercises, or "asanas", controlled breathing, and the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. Asanas teach poise, balance & strength and are practiced to improve the body's physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation in the pursuit of enlightenment.