Which Yoga is Right For You?

Which Yoga is Right For You?
Tips On Finding A Style That Fits
It seems like yoga is everywhere these days. There are yoga classes in gyms, high schools, senior citizen centers, and strip malls, each with a different spin: gentle yoga, hot yoga, restorative yoga, pre- and post-natal yoga, power yoga, and mommy and me yoga, just to name a few.
Why is yoga experiencing such popularity? It might be because of the health benefits yoga practitioners say they experience, and the fact that yoga can be tailored to their specific needs.
I am a firm believer that anyone can benefit from a dedicated yoga practice. Yoga can improve your health and bring clarity to your mind. Your muscles become stronger, and you will gain more flexibility in your joints, something that doesn't happen from working out at the gym.
In fact, many students have come to me with injuries sustained from working with weights or from years of running. You have to be careful if you have injuries, but that shouldn't prevent you from beginning a yoga practice. You should never feel pain in a posture. There are always modifications to protect an injured area.

Students Report Benefits
Dedicated yogis report all kinds of benefits from practicing yoga, from improved health to reduced pain.
"I began yoga to become flexible and strengthen my body for running, especially my upper body," says Suzanne Gentry of Eaton's Neck. "The benefits I have gained are numerous. I have a lot of flexibility, tighter abs, stronger legs and upper body. I am more relaxed and sleep well. I am able to run like I did ten years ago. My hamstrings no longer hurt and my quads are stronger."
Susan Noddle of Manhattan reports that yoga has reduced her pain from two herniated discs in her back that lie on the L5 nerve root and cause discomfort in her foot.
"I have practiced with this injury and while at times I have to modify or take it slow, it has not prevented me from practicing for any sustained amount of time," says Susan. "I have had to take a week or a few days off when it flares up, but I am always able to return. I also have had surgeries on both of my knees. My surgeon recommends yoga for my knees."
Monica Diamond-Caravella of Huntington tells of the positive effects of yoga on her chronic neck pain. "I suffer from chronic neck pain related to a motor vehicle accident. I've been through physical therapy twice, for at least nine months each, with traction. Yoga keeps my neck supple and flexible and the majority of the time I have no pain. If I don't keep up my practice, my neck pain comes back."
Yoga For Any Age, Any Level of Ability
People of any age can practice yoga. My students are all ages: from teenagers to 70-year-olds. Not only is practicing yoga possible at any age, you don't have to be able to touch your toes or bend like a pretzel to do it. Flexibility is a byproduct of practicing yoga. It's one of the benefits.
If you've "tried yoga and didn't like it," I would encourage you to take a class with a different teacher or try a different style. Yoga is so beneficial on many levels, no matter what your age. Don't give up because you didn't like the teacher, or you felt the class was too difficult, or too easy. There's a yoga class for everybody! 
A Guide to the Types of Yoga
Not sure where to begin? Here are brief descriptions of some of the different types of yoga available in our area:
VINYASA FLOW - "Vinyasa" means "to move with the breath." In some vinyasa-style yoga classes you will flow in and out of postures without having to hold one pose for very long. In others, the teacher may instruct you to stay in the posture longer, which may be more challenging. Anusara, Ashtanga, Jivamukti and Power Yoga are all vinyasa style practices.
ANUSARA - Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara is a vinyasa-style practice that emphasizes heart-opening through backbending and alignment and includes the use of props. Anusara means "flowing with Grace" and the practice aims to look for the good in all things. This class is good for students of all levels.

Yoga Has A Rich History In The US

Yoga Has A Rich History In The US
It might surprise many people to learn that yoga has a long history in the United States. For a lot of Americans, their knowledge of yoga may only date back to the 1960s, when the concepts of spiritualism and meditation were embraced by the country's counterculture.
But it might surprise you to learn that yoga has a far longer history in the U.S., dating back to the late 1800s.
In 1883, Swami Vivekananda made an appearance at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago where he greeted his "sisters and brothers of America", a salutation that brought a standing ovation from the large audience in attendance. His idea that all of the religions of the world are merely separate parts of a larger religion was a new concept to those hearing him speak about the mind, body and spirit.
Shortly after the arrival of Swami Vivekananda, Yogendra Mastamani also traveled to the U.S. from India and set up a base in Long Island, N.Y. in 1919 and created the American branch of Kaivalyadhama, which is an India-based group that was a leader in the exploration of yoga from a scientific perspective. Mastamani introduced Hatha Yoga to the United States.
One year later, one of the most popular yogis of all time, Paramahansa Yogananda, arrived in Boston to introduce kriya yoga to the U.S. He created the Self-Realization Fellowship, which now has its headquarters in Los Angeles. Yogananda also wrote the world-famous best seller, "Autobiography of a Yogi", a book that is still an inspirational resource for many yoga instructors and students.
Beginning in the 1930s, Jiddu Krishnamurti achieved a new level of notoriety for a yogi when he began giving well-received, eloquent seminars on Jnana-Yoga, or the yoga of discernment. His enlightening talks brought him attention from a number of celebrities, including actors Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo and writers Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw.
In 1924, the U.S. imposed a restriction on the number of Indians it would allow to move to the U.S., meaning students who sought the teachings of yogis had to travel to India. One of these students was Theos Bernard, who traveled to India and came back in 1947 to write the book "Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience", an influential book which is still widely today.
In that same year, yogi Indra Devi, born in Russia, opened one of the original Hatha Yoga studios in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area and was given the title of "The First Lady of Yoga". Devi was admired by housewives across the U.S., as well as Hollywood stars such as Gloria Swanson, Jennifer Jones and Robert Ryan. Devi passed away in her Buenos Ares home in 2002.
But there is one man who is credited with bringing yoga into the mainstream of America and, ironically, he is not a native of India. While Richard Hittleman did study in India for several years, he came back to the U.S. in 1950 and worked as a yoga instructor in New York, introducing a non-spiritual version of yoga to the country and altered the way yoga is perceived in the U.S. Hittleman emphasized the physical aspects of yoga to a Western audience used to focusing on the body rather than the mind. Hittleman's goal was to teach American students to gradually embrace the spiritual side of yoga, which many people have.

What's Hot Now: The 30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge

What's Hot Now: The 30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge
Hot 26 Yoga, also called Bikram Yoga, is based on a sequence of yoga poses popularized by Bikram Choudhury of India and brought to the US in the early 1970s. In this invigorating yoga class, the room is heated to over 100 degrees to allow the body to move deeper into postures, with less possibility for injury. The yoga sequence is carefully chosen from among the many poses and their variations that belong to the 5000 year old yoga lineage of India.
These yoga poses are derived from traditional hatha yoga postures, known as "asanas." What makes Hot 26 Yoga different is the sweat and even tears it has been known to evoke from practitioners...and the huge files of anecdotal evidence of healing in all directions.
The Legend of Hot Yoga
Hot yoga is both aerobic and relaxing. It works on creating both core body solidity and loose flexible muscles. It is both challenging and calming all at once.
The legendary figure of hot yoga is Bikram Choudury, a yoga Champion and award winning body builder, who accidentally dropped barbels on his legs during one competition and was told by his doctors that he would not walk again.
This yoga was actually developed for Bikram by his Guru, Bishnu Ghosh, who created the sequence and set the heat and humidity specifically to heal Bikram. Needless to say, today Bikram is not just walking - he is strutting, the picture of youth at well over 60 years old. Bikram is the flamboyant yoga Guru who is anything but shy about the miracles of this yoga.
The yoga postures use proper alignment and holding of the poses for particular time periods to create a "tourniquet" effect, a damming up of blood and bodily fluids followed by a release and rush of those fluids through particular body parts. The series works against gravity to strengthen the bones, and is actually said to work every muscle, bone, system, and cell of the body from bones to skin, in just 90 minutes,
A Faster Route To Healing Benefits
If you want to be on the fast track, consider the 30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge which entails 30 consecutive days of consistent practice.
Thousands worldwide have taken on the 30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge. Many talk and blog openly about the healing they personally experienced. Migraines are cured. Lupus is under control. Sciatica magically disappeared. Back pain is eased. Bum knees are healed. Eyesight is reported to be improved. Sex drive has increased (this may have something to do with the skimpy outfits, sweaty bodies, and bending in hot yoga class).
No western medical doctor will confirm hot 26 yoga as a cure, and the advice often offered before each hot yoga class is to leave your complaints, excuses and ailments at the front door and enter the yoga room with an open mind.
30 Day Challenge: A Personal Story
After practicing hot yoga myself for over 15 years, I embarked on my first 30 Day Challenge in April.
This is a day-by-day commitment you must remake daily, as the first thing that happens for most is that all the excuses to not continue start to come to mind. I am always too busy. I can always be doing something more productive. I have too much work and too little time. I am tired. And I am not sick; I don't have any ailments to heal or broken body parts to mend. I won't get any of those miraculous healing - so what's the point really?
Thousands of others have done this 30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge and have reported the following:
Deeper, more regular sleep
Clear complexion, softer hair and skin
Way more flexibility and mobility of joints
Weight loss
Changes in weight distribution - tighter abs and thighs, more shapely arms, smaller waistline
Healthier diet - sugar cravings gone, and healthy foods preferred - fruits, vegetables and grains, 
What I learned from my 30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge
Regardless of the fact that I had "nothing to heal," my 30 Day Challenge has made an impact on my life. I discovered a great many things about myself, including:
I can tolerate discomfort: outside circumstances can change; heat and humidity may rise, but I can still remain calm, and even find inspiration to exceed all known limitations. It is always my choice.

The Types of Yoga

The Types of Yoga
The term "yoga" is applied to an assortment of practices and methods that also include Hindu, Jain and Buddhist practices. In Hinduism these practices include Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Laya Yoga and Hatha Yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga Sutras of Pantajali, which are the oldest known written compilation about yoga, include the Raja Yoga or the Ashtanga Yoga, (the eight limbs to be practiced to attain Samadhi). The ultimate aim of the yoga practice is to obtain Samadhi or unity of the individual self with the Supreme Being. Patanjali states that one can achieve this supreme union by elimination the 'vruttis' or the different modifications of the mind. The mind can in turn be controlled by right discipline and training of the body. The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali comprise of:
Yama: Social restraints or ethical values for living. They include: Ahimsa (Non-violence), Satya (truthfulness) Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy, fidelity to one's partner) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
Niyama - They include the personal observances of - Sauca (clarity of mind, speech and body), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (perseverance). Svadhyaya (study of self, self-reflection, study of Vedas), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (contemplation of God/Supreme Being/True Self)
Asana: Literally means "seat", and in Patanjali's Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
Pranayama -Prana, breath, "ayama", to restrain or stop i.e., regulation of breath
Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the sense in preparation to meditation.
Dharana - Concentration
Dhyana - Meditation.
Samadhi - Liberating one's body to attain ecstasy.
Moreover, Patanjali has identified some basic obstacles that do not allow the mind from practicing yoga. He has divided them into 2 classes:
Antarayas (intruders in the path of yoga)
Viksepasahabhuvah (co-existing with mental distraction)
There are 9 Antarayas:
Vyadhi (physical illness) - If a body is suffering from some disease, it needs to be cured and restored to a healthy state. Disease causes disorder of the mind and makes it difficult to practice yoga or any other form of physical discipline
Styana (mental laziness) - The human desire to reap the fruits of action without any effort is not conducive to mental health. Strong will power needs to be employed to do away with this ailment.
Samshaya (doubt) - Faith is the only cure to dispel all arising doubts.
Pramada (heedlessness) - If one is oblivious to cultivate virtues, Yoga cannot be practiced.
Alasya (physical laziness) - Involving in healthy activities helps overcome this laziness
Avirati (detachment) - The mind needs to be detached from material objects to attain Yoga
Bhrantidarsana (false perception) - leads to self-conceit and needs to be kept away.
Alabdha- bhumikatva (non-attainment of yogic states) - Recognizing the evil traits in our personality and banishing them would help in the long run
Anavasthitatva (falling away from yogic states attained)
There are 4 Viksepasahabhuvah
Dukha - sorrow and suffering inflicting the human mind.
Daurmanasya - disappointment due to non-fulfillment of desires and ambition.
Angamejayatva - restlessness of the limbs due to mental agitation.
Shvasa and prashvasa - forced inhalation and exhalation. Controlled breathing or a balance in breathing exerts a calming influence in the mind.
Patanjali states that these impediments can be removed through meditation and devotion to God; which will pave the way for self-realization.

Buddhism and Yoga - A Brief Summary

Buddhism and Yoga - A Brief Summary
Hatha Yoga is enjoying unprecedented growth globally and is being used as a tool for physical fitness, physical therapy, and spiritual development. Modern practice is derived from ancient Tantric exercises, but less well known are the systems of Buddhist Yoga, which share a common lineage with the ancient discipline.
History of Buddhist Yoga
"Yoga exists in the world because everything is linked"
References to Hatha Yoga predate the Buddhist period (6th century B.C.) by many centuries. It was originally developed as an integral part of the Spiritual Path, and as preparation for higher meditative practices. With the birth of Buddha in the 6th Century BC and subsequent popularity of the Buddha's teachings meditation became one of the main expression of Spiritual Practice along with exercises designed to still the mind towards this state.
More than 500 years after the Buddha's death, two great centres of Buddhist ideas were established in India. Nalanda became the centre of the Hinayana - Narrow Path Buddhism and Mingar became the centre for Mahayana - Great Path Buddhism.
The Narrow Path Buddhism claimed orthodoxy, whilst the Greater Path adopted a more liberal view of the teachings of the Buddha and also incorporated some practices not directly touched upon by the Buddha during his life. This included some indigenous Tantric practices, including Hatha Yoga Exercises.
The Buddha and Yoga
"This calm steadiness of the senses is called yoga.
Then one should become watchful, becomes yoga comes and go."
It is thought that an Indian disciple of the Buddha, Batuo transmitted Zen from India to China in the early 6th century C.E. and most modern Zen lineages trace their past directly to this monk and the Shaolin Monastery where he taught.
According to tradition, it was said he found the monks at Shaolin too weak to make satisfactory progress on their Spiritual Paths. So Batuo secluded himself in a cave for nine years, emerging with a solution (including Yoga) to the health problems of the Shaolin Monks and powerful practises to assist their spiritual development.
These practices became a set of Yogic exercises.
Before the arrival of the Batuo, meditation was the primary method used by Chinese Buddhists for seeking enlightenment. Yoga methods used in India had not been passed to the Chinese Monks
Buddhism, Meditation and Yoga
"Yoga is bodily gospel."
Early Buddhism incorporated meditation into its practice. In fact the oldest expression of Yoga is found in the early sermons of the Buddha. An innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditation should be combined with the practice of mindfulness with which Yoga could assist the practitioner to this end.
So the difference between the Buddha's teaching and the yoga presented in other early Indian texts is striking. Meditation alone is not an end, according to the Buddha, and even the highest meditative state is not liberating.
Instead of attaining a nothingness, the Buddha taught that some sort of mental activity must take place: based on the practice of mindful awareness.
The Yogic thoughts of the Buddha also departed from other traditional thoughts and the essence was that their point of reference became the sage who is liberated in life.

The Eight Main Branches of Yoga

The Eight Main Branches of Yoga
Yoga may seem like it's a bunch of people stretching, perhaps in a hot room that makes them sweat. So is it only stretching? Is it weight loss, or a set of relaxation techniques? It is much more then these few things. Many people have the misunderstanding that Yoga is only this or that, but in reality it's many different techniques that attempt to pull the mind and the body together in unity.
If you look at the tradition of Yoga, you will see more than a dozen different areas with many sub areas below each area. It's easier if you picture it as a huge tree that has eight main branches. Each big branch is unique and has its own qualities, but is also part of the main tree. With so many different areas, you are guaranteed to find on that suits your personality, lifestyle and goals. We're going to talk about the most popular branch of Yoga, Hatha. We will not make the same mistake a lot of people make, reducing Yoga to a set of fitness training exercises. We also talk about the meditation and spiritual aspects.
Below are the seven principle areas and a short description:
Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of devotion 
Bhakti Yoga is a belief of a supreme being that transcends their lives. People that follow the belief believe that they can merge with this supreme being by showing devotion. Bhakti Yoga includes making offerings, singing hymns of praise and keeping your mind on the divine, supreme being.
Hatha Yoga: The Yoga of physical discipline 
Hatha Yoga help's to purify and prepare the body for enlightenment. All the areas of Yoga seek reach enlightenment, but this area does it by focusing on the body instead of the mind or emotions.
Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of wisdom 
Jnana Yoga is the teaching of nondualism, which is the belief that reality is singular and that your understanding of certain objects and things is a misconception. Once you reach enlightenment, everything becomes one and you become one with the immortal spirit.
Karma Yoga: The Yoga of self-transcending action 
Karma Yoga teaches followers to act unselfishly, without attachment to any objects and to act with integrity. The teachers of Karma Yoga believe that anything you say or do has consequences which you must take full responsibility for.
Mantra Yoga: The Yoga of potent sound 
Mantra Yoga uses a certain sound to harmonize the body and focus your mind. This can work with a single word, a syllable or a phrase. By humming this "mantra", you bring together your body and mind to form one entity.
Raja Yoga: The Royal Yoga 
Raja Yoga is a tradition approach to enlightenment. It has eight limbs, including moral discipline, self-restraint, posture, breath control, sensory inhibition, concentration, meditation and ecstasy.
Tantra Yoga: The Yoga of continuity 
Tantra Yoga is one of the most misunderstood branches of Yoga. People think that it only has to do with sex and different sexual positions. In reality, it's actually about rituals and visualizations of different deities.

Guru Yoga: The Yoga of dedication to a master 
Guru Yoga is very rare in the west. The goal of Guru Yoga is to become one with your master. Your master, or the teacher has assumedly already reached enlightenment and your goal is to meditate on your guru until you merge with them

Common Styles of Hatha Yoga

Common Styles of Hatha Yoga
Yoga is an important component of my healthy lifestyle. For me, a balanced healthy diet is about more than just what I eat and includes all aspects of my life. If you are interested in giving yoga a try, keep in mind that yoga, like healthy eating, is not one size fits all. There are many different styles of hatha yoga being taught today from slow, gentle, and alignment-focused to fast, flowing, and athletically-challenging with everything in between. Some styles of yoga consist of doing the same series or sequence of postures every time; others offer classes that are always different.
It may take a little searching to find the type of yoga and teaching style that is best for you. Here's an introduction to some of the more common styles of hatha yoga to help you get started.
Anusara Yoga
Anusara is a Sanskrit (Ancient Indian) word that means 'flowing with grace.' This relatively new style of hatha yoga focuses on attitude, alignment, and action. It's designed to be spiritually inspiring while focusing on proper biomechanics to keep you safe.
 Classes tend to include lots of flowery language (such as 'melt your heart with gratitude'), attention to alignment detail, and demonstrations of how to properly execute poses. While some may not be comfortable with the use of Sanskrit language and flowery metaphors, many find it motivating and uplifting. The focus on body alignment, proper body mechanics, and doing poses safely has allowed me to keep myself safe in a variety of other types of yoga classes.
Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a vigorous athletic style of hatha yoga that consists of set series of postures of increasing difficulty done in a fast paced flowing manner. This type of yoga is probably best suited for fit individuals looking for a rigorous, challenging workout. Power yoga is derived from Ashtanga.
Bikram Yoga
An athletic type of yoga where a set sequence of 26 poses is performed in an intensely heated and humidified room. Teachers often challenge you to push yourself harder and harder. Bikram yoga provides a vigorous, intense, sweaty workout for those looking for a challenge.
Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar yoga is another one of the types of yoga that emphasizes precise muscular and skeletal alignment. Lots of yoga gear and props are used -- like blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters to help you modify the poses to meet your abilities. This is one of the yoga styles perfect for those who love precision and detail and is widely taught throughout the US. It provides a good foundation and is appropriate for all ages and abilities.
Kripalu Yoga
Kripalu yoga is referred to as yoga of consciousness. This yoga style puts great emphasis on proper breath, alignment, coordinating breath and movement, and "honoring the wisdom of the body." You are encouraged to work according to the limits of your individual flexibility and strength.
Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini yoga combines yoga poses, breathing exercises, meditation and chanting with the intention of awakening your kundalini or serpent power that is believed to lie dormant at the base of your spine. There is a lot more focus on breathing exercises and less attention to postural alignment detail than with some other forms of hatha yoga.