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Contemporary Yoga Styles

by the Staff of Santosha.com


Anusara Yoga

Anusara (a-nu-sar-a), means “flowing with Grace,” “going with the flow,” “following your heart.” Founded by John Friend in 1997, Anusara Yoga is a hatha yoga system that unifies Universal Principles of Alignment with a non-dual Tantric philosophy that is epitomized by a “celebration of the heart.” In this philosophy we take the premise that everything is supreme Consciousness - nothing exists that is not supreme Consciousness. It encompasses a vision of totality in which each person is seen as equally divine in every part - body, mind, and spirit. The body and mind are honored as sacred vessels through which the divine radiance of supreme Consciousness can shine. Each of us is regarded as essentially good, so there is a lot of acceptance and allowance in this system for difference and deviation.

Anusara is flowing with Grace by saying yes to the whole magical spectrum of life. It is a willingness to be aware of all parts of ourselves - the light and the dark, the full rainbow of sensation, perception, emotion, and thought. To be in the flow is to look at whatever arises with freshness and freedom. It is simply to open our hearts with love to the present moment without clinging or pushing. Anusara is accepting the world and ourselves as we are, and then responding with love.

The highest intention of practicing Anusara Yoga is to align with the flow of Grace, to awaken to the truth that our essential nature is part of this divine flow, and to lovingly and joyfully serve this flow. We delightfully dance with the flow of supreme Consciousness through each breath and every posture in our yoga practice. In each pose, we artistically offer our individual light and our unique music to the flow of life. The art of yoga is viewed as a co-participation with the Supreme - not a practice of domination, subjugation, or control of nature. The yoga reflects a healthy, balanced relationship with the Supreme.

Anusara Yoga is an all-inclusive yoga in which each student’s various unique abilities and limitations are deeply honored. It is through the limitations of the body/mind that we discover that our true nature is boundless goodness and vast luminous Consciousness. The body/mind is a gift from God to help us discover our glory, our greatness, and our worthiness to experience the highest sense of freedom.

The poses in Anusara Yoga are considered to be “heart-oriented,” and are expressed from “inside out.” Instead of only trying to control the body and mind from the outside, the poses originate from a deep artistic feeling inside. There is an emphasis on remembering the spiritual purpose of hatha yoga, which includes reconnecting with our innate goodness, power, and beauty, and expressing ourselves from that divine place.

To find out more about Anusara yoga, visit: http://www.anusara.com

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of Yoga recorded by the sage Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta, an ancient manuscript “said to contain lists of many different groupings of asanas, as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, bandhas, mudras, and philosophy”. The text of the Yoga Korunta “was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927". Since 1948, Pattabhi Jois has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga from his yoga shala, the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, according to the sacred tradition of Guru Parampara [disciplic succession].

Ashtanga Yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga,” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices: Yama [moral codes]. Niyama [self-purification and study]. Asana [posture]. Pranayama [breath control]. Pratyahara [sense control]. Dharan[concentration] Dhyana [meditation]. Samadhi [contemplation]

The first four limbs - yama, niyama, asana, pranayama - are considered external cleansing practices. According to Pattabhi Jois, defects in the external practices are correctable. However, defects in the internal cleansing practices - pratyahara, dharana, dhyana - are not correctable and can be dangerous to the mind unless the correct Ashtanga Yoga method is followed . For this reason, Pattabhi Jois emphasizes that the “Ashtanga Yoga method is Patanjali Yoga”.

The definition of Yoga is “the controlling of the mind”. The first two steps toward controlling the mind are the perfection of yama and niyama. However, it is “not possible to practice the limbs and sub-limbs of yama and niyama when the body and sense organs are weak and haunted by obstacles”. A person must first take up daily asana practice to make the body strong and healthy. With the body and sense organs thus stabilized, the mind can be steady and controlled. With mind control, one is able to pursue and grasp these first two limbs.

To perform asana correctly in Ashtanga Yoga, one must incorporate the use of vinyasa and tristhana. “Vinyasa means breathing and movement system. For each movement, there is one breath. For example, in Surya Namskar there are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising your arms over your head, and putting your hands together; the second is exhaling while bending forward, placing your hands next to your feet, etc. In this way all asanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas”.

“The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing”. Synchronizing breathing and movement in the asanas heats the blood, cleaning and thinning it so that it may circulate more freely. Improved blood circulation relieves joint pain and removes toxins and disease from the internal organs. The sweat generated from the heat of vinyasa then carries the impurities out of the body. Through the use of vinyasa, the body becomes healthy, light and strong.

Tristhana refers to the union of “three places of attention or action: posture, breathing system and looking place. These three are very important for yoga practice, and cover three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other”.

Posture: “The method for purifying and strengthening the body is called asana”. In Ashtanga Yoga, asana is grouped into six series. “The Primary Series [Yoga Chikitsa] detoxifies and aligns the body. The Intermediate Series [Nadi Shodhana] purifies the nervous system by opening and clearing the energy channels. The Advanced Series A, B, C, and D [Sthira Bhaga] integrate the strength and grace of the practice, requiring higher levels of flexibility and humility. Each level is to be fully developed before proceeding to the next, and the sequential order of asanas is to be meticulously followed. Each posture is a preparation for the next, developing the strength and balance required to move further”. Without an earnest effort and reverence towards the practice of yama and niyama, however, the practice of asana is of little benefit.

Breathing: The breathing tech-nique performed with vinyasa is called ujjayi [victorious breath], which consists of puraka [inhalation] and rechaka [exhalation]. “Both the inhale and exhale should be steady and even, the length of the inhale should be the same length as the exhale”. Over time, the length and intensity of the inhalation and exhalation should increase, such that the increased stretching of the breath initiates the increased stretching of the body. Long, even breathing also increases the internal fire and strengthens and purifies the nervous system.

To read the entire article, visit http://www.ashtanga.com/html/background.html

Bikram Yoga

Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class is a twenty-six asana series designed to scientifically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched.

Bikram Yoga’s 26 posture exercises systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ and fiber, restoring all systems to healthy working order, just as Nature intended. Proper weight, muscle tone, vibrant good health, and a sense of well-being will automatically follow.

Your Progress: How quickly you progress will depend entirely on you — upon your natural ability to a small extent, but mostly upon the time and effort you give to Yoga. It will have little to do with how “perfectly” you can do the poses. Few of us ever do the poses “perfectly”. Instead, it will have to do with how well you understand what you are trying to accomplish in each pose, how you try to accomplish your goal, and how supple your muscles and joints have become in comparison to the point at which you began. In Yoga there is no standard of comparison except yourself. To be ‘Perfect’ in Yoga is to do the best you can do.

Bikram teaches not only the ideal pose - how one will eventually be able to do it - but also the reality - detailing what problems one will have as he tries to do the pose, what clues will help one make rapid progress, and where one might be tempted to “cheat,” thus depriving himself of the benefit of doing the pose properly. Bikram explains in his inimitable humorous and informative way, how his scientifically designed series of twenty-six poses will enhance mind and body, relax, strengthen, reshape, and heal all of the body in 90 minutes.

For more info about Bikram yoga, visit www.bikramyoga .com

Hatha Yoga

The Sanskrit word hatha is thought to be derived from the verbal root hath which means “to force” or “hold firmly” and thus Hatha Yoga is sometimes called “forceful yoga.” It is also thought to be the combinates of two words ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon” and thus Hatha Yoga is said to balance the opposing energies of the body - sun and moon, male and female, etc. Hatha Yoga is most often identified with the practice of physical postures (asana) and breathing techniques (pranayama).

There are many schools of Hatha Yoga, and many approaches to teaching. It is not unusual for teachers to study in various schools and to blend techniques to create their own approaches. Differences among the schools are usually about emphasis: One may focus on strict alignment of the body, another on coordination of breath and movement; one may focus on holding each posture for a period of time, another on the flow (vinyasa) from one posture to another. A new yoga may want to try classes in different styles and with different teachers to find those that best match his or her needs.

Many of the schools of Hatha Yoga popular today in the West can trace their roots to the Indian Sanskrit scholar and teacher Krishnamacharya (1889-1989), several of whose pupils have themselves become prominent teachers. Among the most popular and influential in the West are: B.K.S. Iyengar, who founded Iyengar yoga; T.K.V. Desikachar (Krishnama-charya’s son), who carries on the tradition, known as Viniyoga, that he learned from his father; and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who developed Ashtanga Yoga. There are, however, many popular schools of yoga that may be most suitable for the beginner student.

Integral Yoga

Sri Swami Satchidananda described Integral Yoga as: “...a flexible combination of specific methods to develop every aspect of the individual: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. It is a scientific system which integrates the various branches of Yoga in order to bring about a complete and harmonious development of the individual.”

Integral Yoga, as the name implies, integrates or gathers together various forms of Yoga into a unitive whole. These forms of Yoga include:

Hatha Yoga: Focuses on the physical aspects through asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), mudras, kriyas, yogic diet, and deep relaxation. Raja Yoga: Balance and control of the mind through ethical practices, concentration and meditation. Bhakti Yoga: The path of devotion, by constant love, thought, and service of the Divine. Bhakti Yoga can be practiced by everyone. All that is needed is faith and constant remembrance of God. Karma Yoga: The path of action and selfless service. Serving without attachment to the fruits (or results) of the action. Jnana Yoga:The intellectual approach. Through the knowledge of what really exists, that is, what is not changeable, one who engages in the Path of Wisdom realizes Oneness with the entire Universe. Japa Yoga: Japa means repetition of a mantram - a sound structure of one or more syllables which represents a particular aspect of the Divine Vibration.

The goal of Integral Yoga, and the birthright of every individual, is to realize the spiritual unity behind all the diversity in the entire creation and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family. This goal is achieved by maintaining our natural condition of:

a body of optimum health and strength;

senses under total control;

a mind well disciplined, clear, and calm;

an intellect as sharp as a razor;

a will as strong and pliable as steel;

a heart full of unconditional love and compassion;

an ego as pure as crystal;

a life filled with Supreme Peace and Joy.

By practising Integral Yoga we develop an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life.

For more information about Integral Yoga, visit http://www.yogaville.org

ISHTA Yoga

The word ISHTA has a two-fold definition. In Sanskrit, it means developing a personal yoga practice that meets your individual needs. ISHTA also stands for the Integrated Science of Hatha (the physical practice of yoga that creates balance), Tantra (the yogic philosophy that recognizes the perfection in all beings), and Ayurveda (the Indian science of healing). Developed by Alan Finger and his father Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger, it is a tradition with roots in teachings by Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi.

ISHTA yoga draws from the teachings of many yoga traditions: It incorporates the gentle, flowing poses of Viniyoga, the more vigorous flowing poses of Ashtanga yoga, the careful alignment and use of props of Iyengar yoga, as well as including various forms of meditation and relaxation.

For more info about ISHTA Yoga, visit www.beyoga.com/ishtayoga .htm

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga emphasizes posture and the development of balance and alignment. To support students’ explorations of postures, Iyengar yoga makes use of a wide variety of props: belts, blocks, pillows, and balls. Iyengar is one of the most widely practiced yoga techniques in the West. It was developed in India by B.K.S. Iyengar and responds to individuals with varying limitations and capacities for accomplishing postures. Iyengar yoga is noted for great attention to detail and the precise alignment of postures.

The Iyengar method of Yoga is initially learnt through the in-depth study of asanas (posture) and pranayama (breath control).

Mr Iyengar has systematised over 200 classical yoga Asanas and 14 different types of Pranayamas (with variations of many of them) from the simple to the incredibly difficult. These have been structured and categorised so as to allow a beginner to progress surely and safely from basic postures to the most advanced as they gain flexibility, strength and sensitivity in mind, body and spirit.

Asana: In practice Iyengar yoga focuses particularly on three aspects. Correct body alignment allows the body to develop harmoniously in an anatomically correct way so that the student suffers no injury or pain when practising correctly. As all bodies are different and people have different weaknesses and strengths. Mr Iyengar has also developed the use of props to help the body into the correct positions required. Props are objects like wooden blocks, chairs, blankets and belts that help one adjust or support oneself in the different postures so that one can work in a range of motion that is safe and effective.

Pranayama: Pranayama is started once a firm foundation in asana has been established as physically the student requires the alignment, flexibility, lung capacity and training necessary to sit and breathe correctly while practicing. Pranayama gives numerous physical benefits including toning the circulatory, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems, activating the internal organs and creating a feeling of energy and calmness. Equally importantly it also brings the mind and senses under control and make the individual fit for the experience of meditation.

What distinguishes Iyengar Yoga from other styles of yoga? In summary, the Iyengar method of Yoga may be said to define itself as different from other styles of Yoga by 3 key elements, namely technique, sequence and timing:

Technique means that in practice one learns ever finer adjustments in the alignment of how one performs one’s asana and pranayama. Sequence refers to the sequences in which asana and pranayama are practiced. For example, by varying which postures are practiced after which, the mental and emotional effects of the practice can be intensified in a manner not otherwise possible in order to bring about changes to the whole being including ones spiritual evolution. Timing refers to the length of time spent in postures or pranayama. Postures cannot be done swiftly or without awareness. It takes time to move into a posture and become stable. When this has been achieved then one remains stably for some time to intensify the depth of the posture and so extract its benefit. Otherwise the potential effects and benefits remain small compared to what is possible.

So one can begin to see how Iyengar yoga cultivates all 8 disciplines of yoga and is far from merely “gymnastics and deep breathing.” With practice and understanding, one realises that Asana (posture) is as different from stretching or gymnastics just as Pranayama (Breath control) is different from merely deep breathing and meditation is different from self-induced trance.

The prolonged practice of asana and pranayama affects the individual on an organic (physiological), mental and spiritually level as well as just physically.

For more info visit: www.iyengar-yoga.com/iyengaryoga

Jivamukti Yoga

Jivamukti, a Sanskrit word meaning “liberation while living,” was developed by Sharon Gannon and David Life and combines a vigorous physical practice with an equally strong foundation in ancient spiritual traditions of Yoga. Its distinct style integrates the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of yoga practices into a modern lifestyle without losing sight of the ancient and universal goal of the practice - liberation. The Jivamukti Yoga practice provides a pragmatic and experientially oriented life philosophy, grounded in ethical precepts to guide inner and outer work, and an original, creative approach to living and being.

A Jivamukti Yoga class is a vigorous physical and spiritual practice that pushes beyond the limitations often imposed by the mind and incorporates chanting, asanas, music, meditation, and devotional practices. The five elements that form the foundation of each class are: scripture, bhakti (devotion to God), ahimsa (nonviolence and compassion), nada yoga (deep listening), and meditation (connection with the unchanging reality within).

Gannon and Life are cofounders of the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City and coauthors of Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul and The Art of Yoga. Gannon is an animal rights activist with a background in the performing arts. Life, also an artist, ran the Life Cafe in Manhattan for many years, a hot spot for music, art, and poetry. Both have studied yoga intensively with many masters.

For more info visit: www.jivamukti yoga.com

Kripalu Yoga

Kripalu Yoga puts a great emphasis on the mechanics of Yoga - proper breath and alignment - as well as in the inner, spiritual dimensions of Yogic practice. Students are encouraged to honor “the wisdom of the body” and to work according to the limits of their individual flexibility and strength. There are three stages in Kripalu Yoga. Stage one focuses on learning the postures and exploring your body’s abilities. Stage two involves holding the postures for an extended time, developing concentration and inner awareness. Stage three is called “Meditation in Motion,” in which movement from one posture to another arises unconsciously and spontaneously. Kripalu Yoga was developed by Yogi Amrit Desai, who was inspired by his teacher, Swami Kripalvanandaji, a Kundalini Yoga master from India.

History of Kripalu: Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health had its beginnings in 1966 when Yogi Amrit Desai founded the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization providing yoga classes and training for yoga teachers. The name of the Society was later changed to Kripalu Yoga Fellowship (“Kripalu”), the nonprofit and charitable organization that still operates Kripalu Center.

Yogi Desai came from the small village of Halol in India. There, from the age of 15, he enjoyed a close personal relationship with his guru Swami Kripalvananda, for whom Kripalu Center is named.

Swami Kripalu is more commonly referred to as Bapuji, or “beloved grandfather.” He was a highly renowned master of kundalini yoga as well as a moving speaker, prolific writer, and talented musician. Bapuji spent four years in America (1977-1981) where he taught and practiced intense yoga and meditation. His teachings still serve as the foundation of Kripalu’s approach to yoga and spiritual life.

In 1972 the first Kripalu Yoga Ashram was established in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania and expanded to nearby Summit Station in 1975. Ashram is the traditional Indian name for a yoga center. Kripalu was run by a growing number of ashram residents. These residents were individuals of all ages and nationalities who shared a dedication to yoga practice and lived a simple communal life in service to Kripalu and its program guests. At Summit Station Kripalu expanded its offering of educational programs related to yoga and became a pioneer in the field of holistic health.

The facility that now houses Kripalu Center was originally built as a Jesuit seminary in 1957. Kripalu purchased the property in 1983 and countless hard-working residents renovated it into a comfortable yoga and spiritual retreat center that opened its doors to guests on December 1, 1983.

The 1980s were a time of growth and expansion for Kripalu. The number of full-time residents increased to 275. Over 10,000 guests visited Kripalu each year. In 1988 Kripalu formalized its legal status as a spiritual and volunteer organization modeled after the Hindu yoga ashram.

In 1994 Yogi Desai resigned as spiritual director of Kripalu. Kripalu is the first traditional yoga ashram founded on the guru-disciple model to transition to a new paradigm of spiritual education. This paradigm is designed to provide tools that help individuals access their inner wisdom and find support for their ongoing process of growth and spiritual development. Kripalu honors all traditional and contemporary spiritual teachings that support the individual’s direct experience of Spirit.

For more info visit: www.kripalu.com

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga in the tradition of Yogi Bhajan, who brought the style of Yoga to the West in 1969, focuses on the controlled release of kundalini energy, thought to reside at the base of the spine. This style of Yoga pays particular attention to breathwork, which aims to get energy moving quickly, but it also involves classic poses, coordination of breath and movement, and meditation.

Kundalini yoga is based on kriyas, or specially formulated sets of exercises. This allows you to target specific benefits and work on exactly those aspects of yourself that need work at the current time. Any amount of time spent practicing - whether three minutes or an hour a day - produces significant benefits, and in turn, motivate individuals to dedicate more time to its practice.

Practicing Kundalini Yoga keeps the body in shape and trains the mind to be strong and flexible in the face of stress and change. It increases oxygen capacity, boosts blood flow, balances the glandular system, strengthens the nervous system, and reduces stress-induced toxins such as adrenaline and cortol. The effect is a heightened self-awareness and vitality that allows you to harness mental and emotional energy. Individuals feel more in control of themselves, with enhanced peace of mind, concentration, and a deep inner calm and self-confidence. No matter what someone’s age or physical capacity is, Kundalini yoga and meditation can have immediate benefits.

For more information about Kundalini Yoga, visit: www.3h0.org

Power Yoga

Power Yoga combines the ancient “eight limbs” of Yogic wisdom revealing a systematic set of proven age-old principles, physical practices, attitudes, and perspectives. Power Yoga uncovers the root causes of stress and provides the means to conquer it, demonstrates the value of exercise and attitude, and harnesses the power of discipline and inner balance. It is a muscle-shaping, mind-sculpting workout that crosses all borders and appeals to any person who has the desire for true and permanent changes in his or her body and life. The most well-know proponent and teacher of Power Yoga is Baron Baptiste.

About Baron Baptiste: Through rigorous study in India and America that began at the early age of 12 years old, Baron has created a yoga practice without boundaries - it is a dynamic combination of strength, sweat and spirituality. It heals, detoxifies and electrifies the body and mind at their deepest levels. With this practice, Baron has knocked yoga off of its pedestal and demystified it by bringing it into people’s lives across America.

Baron teaches thousands of people of all abilities and all walks of life — NFL athletes, people struggling to control their weight, over-stressed, ambitious Type-A personalities, Hollywood celebrities; they all benefit. At the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute in Boston and Cambridge the diversity of the students is evident on a daily basis: there are surgeons, nannies, carpenters, housewives, writers, students, professional athletes, cancer patients, people living with the entire range of degenerative illnesses, the old, the young; the list does not end. In Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga America has found its Yoga!

For more information about Power Yoga, visit: http://www.baronbaptiste.com

Restorative Yoga

This is a gentle, therapeutic style of Yoga that uses props to support the body to deepen the benefits of the poses. It is a soothing and nurturing practice that promotes the effects of conscious relaxation.

Judith Lassater is perhaps the most well-known proponent, teacher and author on Restorative Yoga. In her book Relax and Renew she writes, “I often refer to restorative yoga poses as “active relaxation.” By supporting the body with props, we alternately stimulate and relax the body to move toward balance. Some poses have an overall benefit. Others target an individual part, such as the lungs or heart. All create specific physiological responses which are beneficial to health and can reduce the effects of stress-related disease.”

“In general, restorative poses are for those times when you feel weak, fatigued, or stressed from your daily activities. They are especially beneficial for the times before, during, and after major life events: death of a loved one, change of job or residence, marriage, divorce, major holidays, and vacations. In addition, you can practice the poses when ill, or recovering from illness or injury.”

Sivananda Yoga

Sivananda is one of the world’s largest schools of Yoga. It is very supportive to beginners. Developed by Swami Vishnu-Devananda and named for his teacher, Swami Sivananda, Sivananda Yoga follows a set structure that includes breathing, classic asanas, relaxation, as well as principles of diet and positive thinking. The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, written by Swami Vishnu-Devananda and first published in 1960, was one of the first, and continues to be one of the best, introductions to Yoga available.

About the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers: The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers is a nonprofit organization founded by Swami Vishnu-devananda to spread the teachings of Vedanta worldwide.

Upon the instruction of his guru, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, Swami Vishnu-devananda (in photo at left, standing next to his guru on the banks of the Ganges river in India) headed to the West and began travelling and teaching throughout the United States in 1957. He established the first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Montreal, Canada, in 1959. There are now close to 80 Sivananda locations (ashrams, yoga centers, and affiliated centers) around the world. The organization has trained more than 10,000 yoga teachers. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers are recognized worldwide for teaching yoga authentically, preserving its purity and tradition, which dates back several thousand years. About the Swami Vishnu-devananda:Founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, Swami Vishnu-devananda, was a world authority on Hatha and Raja Yoga. Swamiji was also known as the “Flying Swami” for the different peace missions he accomplished around the world.

For more info visit the website at www.sivananda.org

This article was submitted by the staff of Santosha.com, a web store featuring exceptional tools for yoga and meditation.


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