Yoga 101

Sep 11, 2007 | September 2007, Yoga

Different names, different styles – finding out what’s what

By Laura Brookover

When looking for a Yoga class, how does one know what is what with so many styles of Yoga from which to choose? Here’s a quick guide.

General term for yoga. Classes labeled “Hatha” are probably beginner and should cover the basics.

ASHTANGA (a.k.a. VINYASA, a.k.a. FLOW, a.k.a. POWER)
A vigorous series of postures performed in a specific order. Ashatanga follows a strict sequence. The other kinds of yoga are similar but allow instructors to create their own sequences for more variation.

This one is all about alignment. Alignment is the way in which your body should be positioned for maximum benefit and to avoid injury. Emphasizes holding poses over long periods of time. May use yoga blankets, blocks and straps in order to bring the body into alignment.

Breath work, chakra work, movement and chanting often taught by turban-clad instructors who keep a specifically “Kundalini” spiritual tradition. (Note: Gives some Westerners the heebie-jeebies!)

This style is based on a sequence of 26 postures that have been trademarked by the multimillionaire business whiz/self-styled guru, Bikram Choudery. Just as Big Mac can only be served by McDonalds, the Bikram sequences and name can be practiced only by Bikram franchise studios. Practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees.

The un-trademarked version of Bikram. Like Bikram, this style can be extremely dangerous to people with health conditions, as it poses serious risk of dehydration and over-extension of ligaments. On the upside, the well-hydrated experienced yogi, who is cleared by his or her doctor for this activity, might enjoy the intense buzz created by sweating through at least two towels. The exhilaration of escaping the room afterward — knowing that one did not go screaming for the door when, as the heat reached 105 and he felt his neighbors sweat, and when sweat has even condensed on the ceiling and is now dripping onto everyone’s body — is also a personal victory of sorts.

Now that you know the names, why not try one of these styles to see if yoga is right for you?

Laura Brookover, a personal trainer and yoga instructor, was first introduced to meditation when she was a member of the U.S.A. Gymnastics Team as a child. The U.S. Olympic Training Centers required meditation exercises for optimal performance training. At age 11, Brookover began studies under a guru, the Maharish Mahesh Yogi.

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