the right yoga for you
This week I decided to look at something that has been a part of my life for about 25 years now.
And although I may not have practiced faithfully for 25 years, I have always been able to go back to it and draw on my experiences with it.
I have had times when I was forced to step away from practice ... I suffered from lingering hyper-mobility and joint instability after giving birth to my daughter, and although yoga felt good after she was born, it was actually making my back issues worse.
Over time I learned to listen more closely to what my body needs and the value of an amazing teacher (not just a video online). The power of having someone help me make accommodations for my back, knee, and ankle so that I am still able to embrace yoga and have it a part of my life despite all of my bodies challenges.
A note on the topic of Live Instruction vs Pre-recorded ... pre-recorded videos provide an amazing opportunity to access a wide range of classes not available in your area or timezone; however if you are a beginner or have challenges due to injuries or physical limitations, I highly recommend finding an instructor who does either in person classes or live online classes so that they can assist you and help to ensure that you do not hurt yourself getting into a posture that your body shouldn't go into. There are tons of accommodations that can be made, you just have to know what they are.
Before we explore the different types of yoga out there, I think we need to start by looking at what exactly Yoga is.
WHAT EXACTLY IS YOGA?
Yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which includes breathing control, simple meditation and the adoption of specific bodily postures; it is widely practiced for health and relaxation. The yoga widely known in the West is based on hatha yoga, which forms one aspect of the ancient Hindu system of religious and ascetic observance and meditation, the highest form of which is raja yoga and the ultimate aim of which is spiritual purification and self-understanding leading to samadhi or union with the divine. www.oxforddictionaries.com
Your options ...
Hatha Yoga - has been around since the 15th century in India, and became popular here in the west in the mid 20th century. Hatha is a holistic yoga path, it attempts to balance the mind and body via physical postures (asanas), purification practices, controlled breathing, and calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. It is great for beginners or to wind down in the evening.
Restorative Yoga - Is focused on relaxing your mind and body. It involves a handful of poses that are help for extended periods of time, poses to open your chest for breath work, and more lying down than is typical yoga practice. Restorative yoga will leave you feeling nourished and well rested.
Vinyasa Yoga - Is commonly called Vinyasa flow because you move or flow from one pose to the next. These classes typically start with a sun salutation then move to more postures or poses.
Bikram Yoga - More commonly known as Hot Yoga, is a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercise performed during a 90 minute class. Bikram is practiced in 105 degree heat and 40% humidity to allow loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating (thought to be cleansing). It was founded in 1970’s in LA and the postures are based on the postures or poses in traditional Hatha yoga.
Prenatal Yoga - This type of yoga practice is great not only while you are pregnant, but after your baby is born while you recover and regain your body. It helps to keep the core strong, helps with posture, and helps aid with pregnancy aches and pains. Prenatal yoga also focuses on breathing and can help you to develop good breathing habits before going into labour.
Kundalini Yoga - Kundalini refers to the energy of the root chakra, which surrounds the area around the lower spine. Kundalini yoga uses breath in conjunction with physical movements to free the energy in the lower body and allowing it to move upwards.
Ashtanga Yoga - Also known as Power Yoga, is a physically demanding practice of yoga that requires constant movement. If you are wanting to sculpt and define your muscles while getting cardio, give Ashtanga Yoga a try.
Lyengar Yoga - Lyengar is a methodical yoga practice using lots of props like blocks, straps and cushions. It focuses on body alignment and can be great for those in need of physical therapy because of this.
Anusara Yoga - Anusara may be the most spiritual type of yoga as it focuses on looking inwards, and seeing the light within yourself and others. Because it is a “celebration of the heart”, the classes have an upbeat, uplifting community type vibe that can be welcoming.
Jivamukti Yoga - Jivamukti means liberation while living, and is a mix of Vinyasa flow sequencing infused with chanting and a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.
I hope that this information on the different types of yoga inspires you to give one a try, or better yet try a number of them.
So grab a mat and allow yourself the time to balance you mind, body and spirit through regular yoga practice . . . you will love it, I am certain!
Definition of Namaste - a respectful greeting or salutation said when giving a namaskar (palms together in front of your chest like in the picture).
Origin: Hindi from Sanskrit namas ‘bowing’ + te ‘to you’
Hands up … who has ever been told they have bad posture?
Is your hand up? Because mine is, and I have to tell you, I’m not really a fan of my posture being judged as bad or good by anyone.
Posture is defined as “the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting”. This definition doesn’t actually give us a start point to qualify good vs bad, it’s just a position.
So maybe we need to look at posture as efficient or inefficient vs good or bad.
Efficient posture, would be the ability to hold or move your body in a way that puts the least amount of strain on supporting muscles and ligaments; as well as the ability to move into and out of any position easily and without discomfort. Efficient posture is very dynamic, allowing for minor corrections and adjustments by core supporting muscles to create balance.
Inefficient posture, would be the inability to move out of one posture into another (not being able to stand in tall neutral alignment from being hunched forward); also included in this would be the “it hurts to sit up straight” and discomfort or pain when moving into or out of a posture. Inefficient posture is often static, meaning that certain muscles don’t have to work at all to maintain the posture which in the long term means those muscles weaken.
Inefficient posture comes from a combination of weak and tight muscles, and placing your body long term in positions of great load. Weak muscles simply don’t have the strength and endurance to hold against the pull of gravity and tight muscles restrict your range of motion and flexibility.
We all fall victim to inefficient posture at one point or another, but the more time we spend in these positions, the harder it becomes to straighten up into a neutral posture and move without discomfort.
So, what exactly does neutral posture look like?
Standing, with your torso in a neutral position (neither flexed or extended), your ears sit above your shoulders, shoulders above hips; chin parallel to the ground; arms by your sides, palms facing thighs, shoulder blades retracted (flat against your ribs), elbows hanging just behind your midline; spine elongated, shoulders symmetrical, chest open; core muscles engage to form a natural corset; knees under hips, ankles under knees.
Sitting is virtually the same until you get to the hips. Ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips; chin parallel to the floor; shoulder blades retracted back (flat against your ribs) so that elbows sit at your midline or just behind; pelvis in neutral alignment, tailbone tucked under, no anterior/forward tilt; weight evenly distributed on sits bones (ischial tuberosity); knees bent at slightly greater than 90o; ankles under knees, feet flat on floor.
Remember, as soon as you shift forward or back you increase the work load on one set of muscles over another, which can lead to muscle fatigue and often pain or discomfort. Prolonged periods in these postures will ultimately lead to inefficient posture … some muscle groups having to over work to keep you upright, rather than all muscles working together in balance.
Efficient posture can take a little work and practice in the beginning, (you will most definitely find muscles you had long forgotten about) but trust me when I say that the effort is entirely worth it!
The first step is becoming more aware of what your posture actually looks and feels like. Second is regular posture checks. And the third step is correcting the muscles imbalances that prevent you from achieving truly efficient posture.
*stay tuned for Postural Imbalances 1 and Postural Imbalances 2
I am passionate not only about Massage Therapy, but also living a holistic lifestyle and empowering others to do the same!