As yoga keeps growing there is an abundance of styles and teachers all over the world that you can choose from. As you walk thru the path of yoga you may realize that the variety not only relies on the style but also the instructors.
Some Yoga Styles
It is said that in the beginning yoga was a philosophical discipline to embrace a way of life that will lead us to enlightenment. The main branches: Jnana, karma & bhakti yoga had no physical positions at all, most of all they were based on connecting with the “divine” thru knowledge, service and devotion. Meditation of course was an essential component of the practice, as it still is. Then, hatha yoga emerged with the idea to integrate the body and unite with our mind and soul through movement, proper breathing and concentration. And 2,000 years later we found a vast amount of styles from the more classical ones like Lyengar, Kundalini or Ashtanga to the modern approaches such as Vinyasa Flow, which is actually derived from the Ashtanga method, and intended to provide the teacher with the freedom to integrate his/her creativity. Also, a new style of yoga that has emerged and grown quite rapidly in the last decade is yoga of “opening to grace”, or Anusara yoga. I am not a full-time practitioner of this style, but I do enjoy the ideas and concepts it brings and specially its focus on alignment.
Choosing The Right Yoga Style
I could keep naming yoga styles, but what I want to focus on, is how to choose the right type for you and here is a few tips if you want to embark yourself in the journey of practicing yoga:
First focus on what you want and where you are at in your life. By this I mean, focus on your age, lifestyle, what you are looking for, and what you feel you need. For example: If your intention goes mostly towards fitness, if you want to strength your body and have more flexibility, perhaps you should look into Vinyasa Flow, Power or Hot Yoga. If you are recovering from an injury, make sure you talk about it with your instructor before practicing, and that the teacher has the knowledge and experience required to meet your needs. Remember, a yoga teacher is not a physiotherapist, nor a psychologist. If you have a very specific intention, such as prenatal yoga, look for someone with plenty of experience on the subject, otherwise you may end up disappointed.
Take some time to try learning from different yoga teachers, styles, and schools before settling on the one that suits you the best. Remember that this is a process and that during the process there is a constant change in experiences and emotions. Live the experience; sometimes you may come out of the class feeling light with you heart open and full of energy, other days not so much. Yoga is not a magical medicine that cures and heals and makes everything perfect. It is an additional tool to improve your life. Also remember, your teacher or teachers are not perfect either, don’t expect from them to cure every wound and every pain, they are also students and they are on their own journey as well. Don’t let yourself be drawn by the impulse to keep changing teachers and schools out of disappointment.
I am in favor of videos, downloads, podcasts and all the modern tools provided to facilitate your yoga practice at home. However, these tools are better suited for those who understand the fundamental concepts of yoga, such as alignment and breathing, otherwise you may injur yourself. If you are living in a remote area where there are no schools or teachers nearby this is a very effective method to continue with your practice. It is also very helpful for those who don’t want to travel to yoga schools, follow a schedule, or sit in traffic. If you fall in any of these categories, technology is your best option as it makes it easy to jump on your yoga mat anytime.
I am one of those people who live in a relatively remote area therefore I have to practice on my own most of the time. I create most of my own sequences, but sometimes I need to follow someone else’s class. So, to find new classes I always rely on www.myyogaonline.com because they have all types of videos with many creative sequences, styles, and length of time. I also read a lot to enhance my meditation and philosophy section; at this moment I am reading Sally Kempton’s articles and information, which I highly recommend. She has a very simple, grounded and beautiful way of explaining valuable knowledge for ancient scripts, and how we can put them into action.
Finally, remember yoga can be anything you want it to be. It usually starts by being more like a physical practice, but if you continue on this path you may start noticing changes in the way you perceive life, in your emotions and thoughts, and even in your daily actions. Most important is to be open to the experience, have patience, and enjoy the process without obsessing with the results. Let your practice evolve without forcing it, and accept the ups and downs that come with it. The best you can do is to have fun with it and consider your practice as a time to play!