Which Yoga Class at The Sporting Club Is Right for Me?
Before you worry about whether you can touch your toes, consider these factors: your lifestyle, current or previous injuries, dedication and willingness to be patient with yourself. We are sometimes so caught up in the physical components of yoga, we forget that yoga was never intended to be just an exercise class.
Yoga means union; a balancing union of the mind and body. All styles of yoga connect to the original yoga discipline called Hatha Yoga. Consider Hatha Yoga like the trunk of a tree; all the styles of yoga evolved from this source and grew to form the branches of the tree. All yoga shares the same roots traced to India.
The goal of yoga has always been to create balance with the mind and body. The postures were originally intended as a transitional gateway to take the mind from one’s outer world to one’s quiet peaceful inner world. The benefit of yoga is not how much you sweat in a class, or whether you performed each posture, but rather the outcome of how you feel at the end of the class compared to when you entered the room. Repetition and regularity are key to seeing results. Over time individuals gain strength, mobility, stability and an overall sense of well-being. Yoga is much more than just a good workout. It is one part of a larger eight-limb system with postures being only one part, and conscious breathing, another. The other six areas involve inward focus (drishti), integrity, behavior and conduct in the world around us. For this article, I consulted several of our instructors to ensure I was accurate in defining the original “root” form he or she practices here at The Sporting Club.
Here are just some of the benefits one can gain from participating in any yoga class:
- Standing balance poses build concentration skills.
- Back bending poses are helpful for individuals struggling with depression.
- Twisting poses are cleansing. As the organs become more toned they perform more efficiently, improving digestion and metabolism.
- Forward folding poses aid in managing anxiety.
There are 5 basic branches, or styles of Hatha Yoga offered here at The Sporting Club. Some instructors blend multiple styles together in a class, or integrate other conscious movement (Feldenkraus) and mindfulness modalities. This creates an experience to draw participants toward an inward focus to calm the mind while opening, strengthening and lengthening the body.
Ashtanga translates to “power”. Power yoga is assigned to this style because these classes are typically associated with aerobically vigorous exercise, using sequenced yoga poses usually extended from the sun salutation sequence. Pattabhi Jois was the original yogi who coined the term Ashtanga. Balance and strength are typically components of this style. While the movement is quick through the postures, don’t hesitate to ask the teacher to help assure you are properly aligned to keep from hurting yourself from misalignment.
Iyengar is a traditional form of Hatha Yoga that has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama). Iyengar was named after and developed by B. K. S. Iyengar. Like Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga emphasizes the sun salutation, which includes downward dogs as a way of accessing all the major muscle groups. Instructors of this style are traditionally hands-on; adjusting clients posture to assure proper alignment.
Vinyasa means “to flow”. Like Ashtanga Yoga, this style also emphasizes the sun salutation as the prominent feature of the class. The pace is generally upbeat with little transition time between postures. In these first three styles, variations of the sun salutation and postures which build from the sun salutation sequence vary in difficulty depending on one’s level of strength and flexibility.
Yin traditionally has its roots embedded in China, although many American Yin Yoga teachers have developed a form of Yin from India’s Ashtanga based yoga. The poses are held for an extended period (typically three to five minutes or longer) to target the connective tissues (such as the ligaments) rather than focusing on the muscles. As a result, the asanas are more passive holds, with little muscular engagement. With a Yin Yoga class, one develops a more open body.
Tao Yin, or Taoist Yoga means “energy directing”. This form includes guided visualizations with medical benefits of the postures. Tao Yin Yoga was developed in China when Indian yogis migrated during the Aryan’s invasion in India. The most published of Taoist Teachers is Grandmaster Mantak Chia. Tao Yin Yoga is one component of a much broader system based on Chinese medicine, Tai Chi, meditation techniques and QiGong training. Similar in concept to the more popular and active yoga disciplines, which originated in India, Tao Yin Yoga was founded on the Taoist theory of yin and yang – opposite concepts that, together, represent balance. Yin is stable and passive, while yang is changing and active. It is typical to have a blend of QiGong integrated into the class at the beginning and/or end of class. Poses are a combination of Hatha postures and posture unique to the Taoist Yoga discipline. Unique strengthening and lengthening postures emphasize on restoring and rejuvenating the body.
Still concerned you won’t be able to “do” a pose? Be honest with yourself. Accept your limitations and let the teachers give you some suggestions for modifications. Yoga is like learning a language. None of us jumped from the crib to a full running gait. First, we learned two letter words. Then, we learned the alphabet and how to string letters together to make full words, first small ones, then larger ones. If you need to rest during your yoga class, please know it is okay! You are there to learn how to take care of yourself, not beat yourself up.
With consistent practice, your range of motion, strength and flexibility will improve. What’s important is the mental focus and engagement. Be mindful that no one else is ever going to live in the body you live in, so honor it, be gentle with it, and appreciate how amazing your body truly is!
by Deanna McLaughlin
Yoga Instructor at The Sporting Club at The Bellevue