12 July, 2015
There are many different styles of yoga to suit every kind of taste and constitution. Personally I have practised many varieties, including Power, Hatha Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yin, Meditation and more recently Iyengar. I suppose you could say that I am a mut when it comes to my yoga style. Yes I just compared myself to a dog. The loving, from the pound, street-wise kind of yogi :)
Depending on where you live and what stage of life you’re up to will influence the choice you make about what style to practise. For instance if your buddy is going to a local studio and gives you a good recommendation, you might follow along with them. Something particular will attract you to the style you first practise, an unseen magnetic pull.
Sadly I also hear people tell me that they tried yoga once, but it was too hard, too hot, too slow, too spiritual and they gave up and never went back. That’s why I advise my A Yogafied Life tribe to commit to a course of classes so they give themselves a chance to amalgamate the practices with their bodies and minds. God knows the first time I practised the asanas felt strange to me too. If you haven’t been a gymnast or a dancer your whole life, the mobility required for some shapes can seem quite peculiar.
Flexibility is just a minor tributary to the river of yoga’s main purpose. From what my teachers have instilled in me, the main focus in our yoga practice is creating healthy, even flowing, consistent energy to all aspects of our person; body, mind and spirit.
When we have access to this turbo juice then we will have immediate access to our authentic self, rarely get sick, fatigued or stressed, attract helpful, loving, fun people in our lives and generally be kick ass abundant in all that we do ~ sound good to you? It sounds good to me, and that is why I’m on this journey.
Essentially it’s important for you to know that there is only ONE ‘Yoga’ and the physical aspect (the work out part!) that is predominant in the West is the ‘Hatha’ part.
The different styles of Yoga that you hear about in the West- Iyengar, Ashtanga, etc - are all just kinds of Hatha. Think of them like brands. Conceptually, the difference is not dissimilar to, say, denim jeans brands. Do you prefer Levis, Lee or Nudie? The essential product is pretty much the same, but the packaging is different Most people, after a bit of trial and error, find one or two that suit them best. Yoga has undergone a big dose of marketing and we could debate till the cows come home whether that has been positive or negative.
Do I have to go to India and live in a cave to find true yoga? Nah I don’t reckon. For my students and me our karma is that of a house-holder. We have careers, families, communities, and mortgages. The trick is developing and expanding your consciousness, while the chaos plays on in the background.
Recently I have been attending Iyengar classes with Birkenhead yogi Marcia Leite. In Iyengar we are taught to fine tune our alignment, moving statically through postures, often with the help of props like blankets, blocks and straps. In the past I wasn’t attracted to it, because there wasn’t enough ‘flow’ or vinyasa for me. However Marcia’s classes have been enlightening and I have found particular progress around my shoulder stand (Sanskirt = Sarvāngāsana) through the support of props. Check out the following before and after photos. You’ll notice that by utilising the blankets under my shoulders and strapping my arms together tightly, my spine is straighter and hence in better alignment. It felt really good too.
I’m grateful that the universe continues to expose me to great yoga teachers wherever I go in the world and that I can pass on the teachings I learn to my students. My yoga will never be ‘perfect’ or ‘finished’ it is a eternal quest of self improvement and practice that produces delightful rewards.
Then you come off the mat. You start to observe your day-to-day temperament, the ups and downs, how you react to the simplest of life’s demands. Like this morning when my son Theo had been up all night coughing and crying with a bad virus and I’m waiting in a long cue of other parents at the local A & E centre with him going berserk in my arms, I’m loosing my cool and exchanging terse words with the receptionist about the wait –
The practice is far from over. One million shoulder stands to go.
Today’s kindness remedy? Two x juicy 20 minute meditations, One x luxuriating hot bath, One x strong G&T and some fish’n’chips for dinner. That should do it.
What will restore your flow today?
Namaste & big love