What is Yoga?
"Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind." (Yogash citta vrtti nirodha.) (Patanjali, 1975).
The word "Yoga" translates to "Union".
Beyond physical postures, Yoga refers to the freedom and the reunion with our higher, unconditioned mind. Beyond an exercise, Yoga is a lifestyle.
Let's look at seven popular styles today - and reimagine them as delicious foods!
How Does Yoga Happen?
The science of harmony begins on the mat.
When the physical body tries to align itself with a focused mind, curiosity is slowly invited into the Self.
One may begin to observe and understand the abstractions of their bodies and egos.
Indeed, this contemplative path is littered with deeper gifts such as mindfulness, and what awaits the practitioner at the destination is his quiet and clear mind.
Not Big on Fluffy Spirituality?
Whether your interest sits in Yoga's physical or mental aspect, the discipline has promising benefits for your health!
The engagement of our body from a variety of unusual directions not only helps to stretch and strengthen our muscles and bones, but also improves our respiration and circulatory health.
Regular practice institutes a calm and mindful outlook, which many may find helpful in their management of stress.
Bon Appétit! What is my style?
1. Hatha Yoga
Hello! I am Vanilla Ice Cream.
Don't underestimate my simplicity and mild flavor - for I too can be quite intense!
"Hatha" translates to "Sun-Moon", an allusion to balance and the union of oppositional elements.
It is a gentle form of yoga and has its focus on static poses and breathing techniques.
Due to poses being held for a longer period, the pace is relatively slow. You may find yourself searching for your inner white flag past the 30-second mark, but that is where you must also discover your inner warrior!
Good for: Beginners, individuals who prefer more time for awareness.
2. Vinyasa/ Power
Hello! I am smooth, strong and unpredictable.
I am Kinder Surprise!
"Vinyasa" translates to "To place in a special way".
Sequences are intelligently and artfully designed to be synchronized with the breath, working up to a peak pose and finishing with a cool down. It borrows the rich concept of symphonious progress, as such you will find that every pose is collaborative and linked to the next.
Vinyasa is synergetic, flows at a relatively faster pace, and much more animated!
Good for: Beginners, or individuals who prefer more dynamic exercises.
3. Hot/ Bikram
Hello! I am Wasabi.
So hot you don't even know if that was sweat or tears -
But you know I'm so fresh and satisfying!
Hot Yoga is any form of Yoga performed in a very warm and humid environment (usually 35C and above), with the purpose of seamless movements and detoxification of the body.
It was pioneered and popularized by Bikram Choudhury, who devised from Hatha Yoga a fixed sequence of 26 poses that most studios still practise today.
Somewhere through the vigorous practice, it is likely your sweat-stung eyes would be catching glimpses of a (perhaps unfamiliar…) focus and resolve in you. Do not worry, it is not a hallucination!
Good for: Strong-hearted individuals looking to sweat it out.
Hello! I am Coffee... shot!
Traditional, quick, strong and stimulating...
Can you handle me?!
Introduced in 1975 by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga includes a total of 6 series with varying levels of difficulty. The structured practice utilizes a specific sequence and method that synthesizes (a) gazing points, (b) body locks, (c) breathing techniques, and (d) transition poses.
Classes can be taught "Mysore style" where students' progress are individually observed and assessed, or "Led style" where everyone moves together through the sequence at the count and instruction of the teacher.
The speed, rigor and physical demands of this style may intimidate and overwhelm the physically unfit or beginners. However, understanding the rhythm of the sequence with time and dedication can transform the practice into an incredibly meditative and introspective experience.
Good for: More experienced practitioners, physically fit individuals seeking a challenge.
Hello! I am Warm, velvety and frothy.
You may find me bitter, you may find me sweet, but I'll thaw you with my energy.
I am Matcha!
Established in 1970 by Paulie Zink, Yin Yoga is a slow and gentle practice with emphasis on the body's "Yin" component. Most of us understand Yin as the cooler, more inward and feminine character. What are the Yin elements when it comes to our body?
Physically, it includes our connective tissues (tendons, fascia and ligaments), while Yang considers our more agile/ active muscles and blood.
Centering itself around the commitment to Stillness, Yin Yoga therefore quiets our Yang (muscles) by holding passive poses for longer periods. The stress of the poses may then arrive at our deeper body tissues to improve our flexibility and circulation.
We find our "edge", at which our body settles relatively effortlessly, only retreating at intolerable pain and advancing at the body's invitation. With a still body comes a calm breath, and with a calm breath comes naturally an unmoving mind.
Good for: Physically active individuals seeking a relaxing practice for balance, or distracted minds seeking some stillness.
Hello! I am Soufflé.
Execute my precise steps gently, and you shall create the perfect rise!
Developed in the 1970s and named after its founder B.K.S. Iyengar, this style directs practitioners towards details and precision.
An extensive inclusion of props (e.g. Straps, blocks, chairs, walls and bolsters) and dedication of time to holding the assisted poses allow practitioners to enter, experience and understand poses in proper alignment. It thus makes for a more static and slower pace, but is generally a safer and gentler practice.
Good for: Beginners, older adults or practitioners seeking to refine their pose alignment.
I will free your future from the weight of your attachments.
I am a fortune cookie, but I am empty!
Kundalini refers to the dormant life force energy seated at the base of the spine.
Often conceptualized as a coiled-up serpent, it suggests that one is ignorant of their innate power until movement of this energy is piqued.
A complex synthesis of chanting, singing, meditation and poses aims to awaken and steer the life force from the base of the spine through the 6 chakras up to the 7th (crown chakra). Through the discovery and free movement of our own vital energy, we may break out of our conditioned existence.
This is a profoundly spiritual practice aimed at elevation of our consciousness and self-awareness.
Good for: Spiritual individuals, New Age thinkers, Peace seekers.
What Will You Eat Today?
Whichever Yoga Style you end up choosing, practise with ease and appreciation of your own beautiful unfolding. The list provided here is non-exhaustive, so feel free to share any fantastic suggestions yourself!