What is yoga

“There is light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart”

– Chandogya Upanishad (from “Teaching Yoga” by Mark Stephens)

The practice of yoga is about body awareness, mental awareness, and spiritual awareness harnessed through breath techniques (pranayama), physical postures (asanas) and meditation (dharana and dhyana). In one of the oldest yogic texts (dating from 200 CE), Patanjali was a sage who wrote the Yoga Sutras, one of the oldest yogic texts which describes the eight limbed path of yoga.

Pantali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga

The 6 Yama

  • Ahimsa: non-violence
  • Satya: truthfulness
  • Asteya: non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya: sexual restraint
  • Aparigraha: detachment

The 5 Niyama

  • Saucha: cleanliness, purity 
  • Santosha: contentment
  • Tapa: austerity
  • Svadhyaya: self study
  • Ishwara pranidhana: surrender to one’s higher self

Types of yoga that have influenced me

There are a number of yoga styles out there. Here I describe the various types that have influenced my practice and teaching.

 Anusara yoga

Founded by John Friend, this style focuses on opening up the heart and chest area, turning your gaze inward and celebrating the light within yourself and others.

Ashtanga yoga

Founded by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, this is a dynamic and demanding type of yoga with a series of set postures held for a set amount of time and linked through breath.

Hatha yoga

This style is the foundation for all other forms of yoga. It incorporates breath techniques (pranayama), physical postures (asanas) and meditation (dharana and dhyana) and is generally slower and more gentle than other styles. The asana sequences are more static than in ashtanga or vinyasa flow.

Iyengar yoga

Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar this style of yoga focuses on alignment and postures are held for longer than in other styles. To promote precise alignment, props (cushions, blankets, straps, blocks, chairs) are used, which also makes this style of yoga accessible even to the elderly or disabled.

Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose)

Vinyasa flow

A vinyasa is a sequence starting in plank pose (uttihita chaturanga dandasana), four-limbed staff pose (chaturanga dandasana), upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana) followed by downward facing dog (ado mukha svanasana). In this style of yoga movements are linked together through a vinyasa. Flow denotes using the breath to move fluidly between postures. This is a dynamic type of yoga is an offshoot of ashtanga yoga that builds strength and flexibility throughout the body.

Yin yoga

Yin yoga is a style of yoga where muscles are relaxed completely and held for long periods of time. This style is a restorative type of yoga that allows the yogi to connect more consciously with his/her breath and relax deeper into postures.

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