Yoga is a mind and body practice with thousands of years of history in ancient Indian philosophy. Various styles combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
What is Yoga?
A group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which are widely practised around the world today. The purpose is to build strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body. For generations, this philosophy was passed on from the master teacher to the student, and today it is often recommended as an alternative or complementary health-promoting practice.
Where did Yoga originate?
The “Yoga Sutra”, a 2,000-year-old guidebook of yogic philosophy is the earliest written record of the practice. The guidebook provides the framework for all modern-day Yoga and teaches you how to master the mind, control the emotions, and grow spiritually. Within these texts, Patanjali wrote about the practice in an “eight-limbed path” containing steps and stages towards obtaining enlightenment, also called Samadhi. Patanjali is often considered the father of the practice and his Yoga Sutras strongly influence most styles today.
What are the eight limbs of Yoga?
- Yama – ethical rules on how to conduct yourself towards others or social discipline
- Niyama – correct conduct towards oneself, a means of aiding personal growth
- Asana – the practice of physical postures (undoubtedly the most well known of the eight limbs)
- Pranayama – controlling of the breath
- Pratyahara – controlling the senses
- Dharana – concentration, the process of drawing the senses inward
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – the union of mediation and the subject of meditation, often closely linked with obtaining enlightenment
What are the different types of Yoga?
There are many versions of Yoga classes. The different styles have derived from the basics and evolved into their own form and following. The types vary in difficulty and length and below you will find a selection of the most common ones practices today.
Hatha Yoga involves breath, body, and mind, and classes are usually 45 minutes to 90 minutes of breathing, poses, and meditation. Classes are usually slower and more gentle than Ashtanga and Vinyasa.
A challenging style of Yoga centred around a series of sequences, known as the Primary Series. Students practice on their own under the guidance of a teacher and classes include advanced poses such as arm balances, shoulder stands and headstands. If you are a beginner it is advised to study with an experienced teacher.
Vinyasa or Flow:
Classes usually consist of a flowing sequence of Yoga poses with varying levels of difficulty, and many vinyasa classes have musical accompaniment of the teacher’s choosing.
Iyengar Yoga focuses on the precision of your poses. Known for their use of blankets, straps, blocks and bolsters, to help support their practice. Some classes will include ropes anchored to the walls to assist you in inversions and other poses..
Yin Yoga is different than other styles and focuses on passive stretching, and improving flexibility in the connective tissues around the pelvis, sacrum, spine and knees. Poses are held for a longer amount of time in yin yoga classes, generally from three to five minutes. It is also a fairly quiet style and helps us to learn how to sit in silence and listen to our bodies.
If you are looking for a little more relaxation from your class, restorative might be right for you. Restorative poses include seated forward folds, gentle backbends and light twists usually practised together with props, blankets, blocks and bolsters. This style involves holding poses for long periods of time.
Classes integrate the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of Yoga. Classes are usually vinyasa-based with hands-on adjustments, breath awareness and meditation. Classes can also be themed and supported by Sanskrit chanting, music, readings and references to philosophical texts.
Kundalini Yoga is a combination of breath, movement, and sound. The practice is filled with breathing exercises coupled with poses and meditation. Its purpose is to activate your Kundalini energy or shakti. This is a spiritual energy that’s said to be located at the base of your spine.
This refers to any Yoga class that is done in a heated room — generally from 80 to 100 degrees. Often practised with a vinyasa style or a specific set of certain postures. It is important to be and stay hydrated before, after and during one of these classes. It is advised to check with your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions or if you are pregnant.
What are the benefits of Yoga?
Helps to reduce lower back pain
A study from 2005 published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed significant benefits in its participants relating to the reduction of lower back pain. The study “Comparing yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain” is the most important trial on yoga for lower back pain and the first high-quality trial on yoga. Based on this trial, yoga became increasingly recognised as an effective treatment for lower back pain.
Significant benefit on cardiovascular health
A study from 2013 by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology explored the benefits of Yoga on cardiovascular health. The study showed that in patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, practising yoga improved symptoms, arrhythmia burden, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression scores.
May improve quality of life for patients with diabetes
A study published in 2012 by the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that there was a significant improvement in the quality of life for people living with diabetes when practising Yoga. It also showed an improvement in glycemic control in the group practising the comprehensive yogic breathing program compared with the group that was following standard treatment alone.
Can relieve anxiety
A 2016 analysis found that practising Yoga had a promising effect on relieving anxiety. It was also most beneficial in people who had the highest levels of anxiety at the start of the study.
Additional support for managing depression
A 2017 systematic review found that Yoga could help reduce depressive symptoms for people, including those suffering from a depressive disorder, pregnant and postpartum women, and caregivers.
How do I find the right class or studio for me?
Try a few different introductory classes before committing to a course of classes. Pick an appropriate class – beginner, intermediate or advanced level and let the teacher know if you have any injuries or health issues so alternative asanas can be suggested for you. From spring 2021 you can find studios, classes and teachers in your area by visiting our website. Search and book your next session directly through our online marketplace.