Brain overload!!

November 10, 2010 11:03 pm Published by

So ok had a great yoga class at Monument tonight with a fab teacher Gillian whose classes are strongly based on the principles of correct alignment and flow through the Asanas methodically and precisely. I managed to stretch out my back after a crippling Body Combat lesson yesterday, not very yogi at all!!!

Now I have made the decision to further my studies of yoga, I’m starting to get quite critical of myself, with my inner monologue correcting my faults and drawing my attention to areas I need to work on. I guess that can be a problem when you come to thinking about teaching anything, it can take away the joy you experience of doing that thing for your own pleasure and fulfilment!

So I realised tonight that I need to work on loosening my hip flexers and practise being able to sit in Sukhasana (which in English translates to the ‘easy pose’ or sat crossed legged) and I’m not finding it so easy!! I think this is what I love about yoga the most, its constant correction, ever changing state. Some days poses and sequences feel nicer and more natural with the body than other days, the same as some people can find the difficult poses easy and simple sitting positions a struggle (that’s me)!!

So when I started researching taking yoga more seriously than just 4 classes a week, I was overwhelmed with information on everything yoga! The different styles of yoga alone is enough to freak anyone out!

Ashtanga Yoga

This style of yoga is made up of an 8 limbed experimental systematic path of yoga. Pattanjali  wrote the Yoga Sutras which form part of ancient Indian Philosophy,  the sutras are based on the science of mind control (yoga psychology) and the 7 limbs when practised lead to the 8th limb,  Samadhi, enlightenment and realization of the divine. In Ashtanga yoga Asana (postures) only form 1 limb, with Yamas – Ethical and moral observations, Nyamas – Restraints to create inner integrity, Pranayama – Breath regulation, Pratyahara – Withdrawal from the senses, Dharana – Concentration, Dhyana – Meditation making up the other 6 limbs.  The asana limb of Ashtanga yoga involves working through demanding Vinyasas (a series of postures working with the breath), moving from one pose to another to build strength, stamina and flexibility.

The purpose of Vinyasa is to create heat in the body, which leads to purification through increased circulation and sweating. It also improves flexibility, which allows the student to practice advanced Asanas (poses) without risk of injury and to get the full body benefits that the Asanas have to offer.

Bikram Yoga

This is a series of 26 set asanas developed in California by Bikram Choudry. Bringing yoga to the warm climates of Los Angeles gave Bikram yoga the nickname ‘hot yoga’ due to the postures being performed in a minimum temperature of 40°C.

Performing energetic asanas and Pranayama in a hot room like this encourages practitioners to sweat considerably, removing toxins from the body. It is advisable before and after practise to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Bikram yoga is beneficial in promoting better sleep patterns, improves cardiac and pulmonary functions, strengthens the body’s immune system and helps the body’s natural processes of digestion and metabolism.

Hatha Yoga

This style of yoga is also known as Hatha Vidya and was created by Yogi Swatmarama in the 15th century in India.

Now extremely popular in the West, Hatha yoga balances the mind and body through a combination of Asanas (physical postures), Pranayama (controlled breathing) and meditation. The Asanas teach balance, poise and strength to improve the body’s physical health, while Pranayama and meditation clear the mind in pursuit of enlightenment.

Hatha yoga helps with strength, flexibility and relaxation. Some of the Asanas also benefit internal organs and can have a positive affect on certain ailments such as Diabetes, Arthritis and Hypertension, amongst other things. Equally, Pranayama can help alleviate Asthma and Bronchitis, and is a great way to relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

Iyengar Yoga

Another student to come from T Krishnamacharya’s school was B K S Iyengar. He developed Iyengar yoga, which is known for its use of props, such as belts and blocks, to aid the performance of Asanas (postures).

Iyengar yoga emphasizes the development of strength, stamina, balance and flexibility, as well as concentration and meditation.  By using props Iyengar is a good choice for beginners who can use the blocks, straps, benches or other aids to hold asanas more easily than they might without them. These props also allow ill or tired students to participate in yoga with less muscular effort.

Standing postures play an important part in Iyengar yoga. These asanas help increase strength in the legs, increase vitality, and improve circulation, coordination and balance.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga was first brought to the west by Yogi Bhajan in 1969 and is sometimes referred to as the “mother yoga” because it incorporates elements that are found in all other styles of yoga.

From the Sanskrit word “kundal” which means the curl of “the lock of hair of the beloved”. It is a poetic way of describing the flow of energy and consciousness that already exists within each one of us. Kundalini yoga is the awakening of this energy, or the self, through breath (pranayam), yoga postures (asanas), sound, chanting (mantra) and meditation. It is designed to provide you with the experience of your highest consciousness through the raising of your Kundalini.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is a vigorous western approach to Ashtanga yoga which found popularity in the west in the 1990s, introduced by followers of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. The term Power Yoga coined by renowned Ashtanga Yogi Beryl ‘Bender’ Birch.

Power yoga is directed at creating the highest level of energy, vitality and freedom. Practitioners are encouraged to work with themselves, not against themselves. By working hard sensitively, we create an environment that’s healing and that honours the individual.

Unlike Ashtanga, Power Yoga does not follow a set series of poses. Therefore, any Power Yoga class can vary widely from the next. What they have in common is an emphasis on strength and flexibility. The benefits gained from Power yoga include: body detoxification through perspiration, improved clarity or mind, and it increases strength, stamina and flexibility.


“Breath-synchronised movement” is the meaning of the Sanskrit word vinyasa. Vinyasa classes involve moving fluidly from one posture to the next in conjunction with synchronised inhalation and exhalation. This fluid movement, also know as Vinyasa Flow, almost takes the form of a dance and can generate intense internal heat and a cleansing sweat that purifies organs and muscles alike. It improves inner calm and focus, helps circulation and cardiovascular efficiency.

Vinyasa is also used to describe a sequence of postures, generally in Ashtanga. A Cat-Cow Stretch is an example of a very simple Vinyasa, because the spine is arched on an inhale and rounded on an exhale. A Sun Salutation sequence is an example of a more complex Vinyasa.

So that’s just to name a few! My brain hurts and I know enlightenment is not meant to be easy! I’m worried that like with anything you choose to study you can feel like you can never know enough to be truely satisfied that you are achieving!  This is both a wonderful but equally overwhelming part of learning! I think my biggest fear is failure, that i wont be as good as I want to be also perhaps that I may never be able to sit in Sukhasana or that when I turn up on teacher training courses in the future that I may not meet like minded individuals and they will all be a bunch of OM meditating, hippy types or that I may not have chosen the right style of yoga for me, but hey, I guess that in itself is all part of the experience of learning. . . So on that note after having spent 4 hours this evening reading and researching…

Namaste and Goodnight


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This post was written by Laura Avery