Welcome back to our exploration of the ancient practice of yoga and its many variations. In our last piece, yogi Daniele Jarman discussed what defines Hatha yoga, how Bikram and hot yoga have evolved into similar but distinct forms, and what differentiates Ashtanga yoga from Vinyasa. Now, let’s look at a few more important styles of this time-honored body-mind practice.
Created in the 1960s by B.K.S. Iyengar, this style of yoga emphasizes precision, careful attention to alignment, and mindful awareness of the body. In order to maximize yoga’s benefits, as well as to avoid causing injury or pain through incorrect movement or alignment, students of Iyengar yoga follow a specific sequence of asana or postures. They are encouraged to prioritize correct alignment over-speed or quantity of poses. Each posture is held for a relatively long time compared to other styles of yoga. This is believed to allow the muscles to relax and lengthen, and to strengthen the muscle memory that will help students become more proficient the more they practice.
Another characteristic of this style is the use of props, such as blocks, belts or straps, bolsters, and blankets. These items, in the Iyengar philosophy, can help level the proverbial playing field; they allow beginners, the elderly, people recovering from injury, or anyone who simply lacks the flexibility to perform the same postures as more experienced practitioners.
One of the more meditative styles of yoga, Daniele Jarman of Sarasota explains, yin yoga is a fantastic starting point for beginners. Unlike more active types of practice that will leave you drenched with sweat and in definite need of a cool-down, yin yoga is closer to meditation than to Crossfit. Neophytes will hold asanas anywhere from 45 seconds to two whole minutes; more advanced yogis will sometimes stay in a pose for up to five minutes at a stretch. Yin yoga is concerned with the emotional state, with the pursuit of inner silence as one of its main goals. From a physical perspective, yin yoga focuses on the fascia, tendons, and ligaments as much as the muscles or joints in order to improve a person’s circulation and range of motion.
Like acupuncture, qi gong, Reiki, and healing touch therapy, yin yoga aims to release and facilitate the movement of blocked energy within the body. This invisible energy is sometimes called qi (or chi); in sanskrit, it’s known as prana. When it is blocked within the body or unbalanced, the result is illness, pain, stiffness, lack of mobility, and other physical problems.
The last of the yoga styles that Daniele Jarman of Sarasota will explain in this post is kundalini. One of the oldest incarnations of yoga – some say the very first – kundalini is also concerned with the body’s energy, particularly the divine energy that, according to its teachings, resides at the base of one’s spine. Through the practice of yoga, we can work to move energy up through the chakras and outward. The result is energy that is freely flowing and balanced, as well as an increase in energetic awareness.
You will learn a lot of new terminology if you get into Kundalini yoga. One term you’ll need right off the bat is “kriya.” A kriya is an action comprising breathwork, posture, and sounds. In addition to the yoga poses, Kundalini practitioners use mudras, which are hand gestures or positions that activate energy in various parts of the body. Holding your hands in prayer position or namaste is a form of mudra. So is touching thumb to forefinger, and of course, there are many more.
According to Daniele Jarman, sound in the context of a kriya can be a chant, or mantra. These, too, are involved with the flow of energy within and around the body. Yogis use mantras to channel and attract positive energy. There’s even some scientific evidence that mantras can cause a chemical reaction in the brain that boosts your mood and overall well-being!
A Yoga Style for Everybody (and Every Body!)
As for Daniele Jarman, when she teaches a class or works with private clients, she draws upon eclectic inspiration from all of these styles of yoga, as well as many others. It may take some time and experimentation, she says, before you discover the right variety, or combination, of yoga that most suits your temperament, physique, spiritual alignment, and goals – but it’s a journey that will be well worth it.