SOME BENEFITS OF A REGULAR YOGA PRACTICE:
Increases self-awareness, propioception and mind-body connection
Improves muscle tone and flexibility as well as the range of motion of joints
Pranayama (breathing practices) strengthens the respiratory system, calms the mind
Meditation and mindfulness practice soothes the nervous system, reduces stress levels, teaches acceptance
The yoga styles below are all styles I have gone to training for over the years and that I am certified to facilitate.
I took both of my hatha yoga trainings with the Integral Yoga Institute in NYC whose founder, Swami Satchidananda, is a disciple of Sivananda Saraswati. He first came to the States in 1966 at the request of the artist Peter Max and eventually stayed, teaching yoga and giving spiritual talks in NYC. He opened the Woodstock festival in 1969 with the message of harmony, acceptance and peace he is renowned for ("Truth is one, paths are many") and in 1986 he opened the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) in Yogaville, Virginia.
Integral yoga classes combine the various branches of yoga encouraging a holistic form of practice through a sequence of warm up exercises, classical surya namaskar (sun salutation), standing/balancing postures, back bends, forward bends, cooling inversion, twisting postures, yoga nidra, pranayama and meditation. The postures are held for a few breaths to help the body open gently as well as allowing time to align/adjust in the postures efficiently and consciously.
Integral Yoga Mission:
The goal and the birthright of all individuals is to realize the spiritual unity behind the diversity throughout creation and to live harmoniously as members of "one universal family". This goal is achieved by the maintaining of our natural condition as:
a body of optimal health and strength,
senses under total control,
a mind well-disciplined, clear, and calm,
an intellect as sharp as a razor,
a will as strong and pliable as steel,
a heart full of unconditional love and compassion,
an ego as pure as crystal, and
a life filled with supreme peace, joy and bliss.
Bikram yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury after his guru, Bishnu Gosh, asked him to travel the world and spread the benefits of yoga. Bikram Choudhury developed a sequence of 26 postures (the sequence never changes, allowing the students to refine each posture a bit more every class) practised in 40 degrees Celsius temperature and 40% humidity. While these specific conditions help the muscles and connective tissue stay warm and flexible, they also demand great concentration and focus of the mind. The heat makes the body sweat, detoxifying and purifying not only the physical body but the mind as the student learns to confront and embrace thought patterns that the heated environment may bring up. The 26 postures were designed so that anyone of any age, sex, background etc... can practise them.
Bikram Yoga Motto:
“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from the scratch once again.”
VINYASA FLOW YOGA:
I took the Vinyasa Flow yoga training with Frog Lotus Yoga International in their Suryalila yoga retreat centre in Andalusia, Spain. The centre was created by Vidya Jacqueline Heisel who has been practising, studying and teaching yoga for over 40 years and began her teaching career in India and eventually all over the world. Vidya has studied various styles of yoga and has incorporated some aspects of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, Iyengar, Forrest and Kundalini yoga in the Vinyasa Flow sequences as taught within the Frog Lotus system. The sequence generally starts with a focus on pranayama, followed by a thorough warm-up of all major joints, dynamic vinyasa flow, inversions such as handstand and forearm balance, backbends, forward
bends, twisting postures and ends with a cooling inversion such as headstand or shoulder stand into savasana. The term vinyasa is usually associated to the specific flow between adho mukha dandasana (plank pose) and adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog) but its broader meaning is the coordination of each breath with each movement throughout the practice in order to develop a greater control of the breath and the body while it moves from one posture to the next.
Vinyasa Flow Yoga:
Well-thought-out thematic sequencing and the use of hands-on assists and adjustments help the students refine their practice and develop mindfulness in the movement.
IT'S YOGA-ASHTANGA VINYASA YOGA & THE ROCKET
The It's Yoga system was founded by Larry Schultz in 1989 in San Francisco. Larry studied and practised the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga series for 7 years under the guidance of Pattabhi Jois before adapting the series to make it more accessible to the Western body and thereby creating The Rocket. The Rocket routines allow the student to progress through the same postures found in the classical Ashtanga Vinyasa series without the strict tradition that one can only move on to the next pose only after having mastered the previous one. However, although the sequences may vary, the core postures remain the same as well as the emphasis on using the bandhas, breath and drishti to deepen one's practice and quiet the mind. And despite its progressive approach, the It's Yoga system is deeply rooted to the Ashtanga Vinyasa lineage; always honouring K.S Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois. The It's Yoga system starts the weekly practice on Sunday with the traditional Primary Series, the Rocket I routine on Monday, Rocket II modified on Tuesday and Rocket II on Wednesday followed by a more gentle Modified Primary Series on Thursday before ending the week with the energetic Rocket III routine. The Rocket I focuses on legs, hips and abs while the Rocket II concentrate on arm balancing, back and shoulders. Rocket III is the 'Happy Hour' of It's Yoga, combining postures from both the Rocket I & II.
It's Yoga Purpose Statement:
The Mission of It's Yoga is to share the love of the practice. By facilitating classes, trainings and workshops based in the Ashtanga Vinyasa method as taught by Larry Schultz, the founder of It's Yoga, we are dedicated to keeping Larry's living legacy alive. Through the lineage of Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois and Larry Schultz, It's yoga introduces the Eastern practice of Yoga through a modern Western perspective. With the world recognised It's Yoga Teacher Training and Rocket routines, the It's Yoga family is committed to supporting lovers of Yoga to manifest their vision through a daily and practical experience of the ancient system of Ashtanga Yoga.
I like to think of yin as the twin sister of her yang brother. While yang strives on active movement, creating heat and stimulating our masculine sun energy, yin is about settling into stillness and allowing everything to just be. It connects us to our feminine moon side in long held poses which allows us to listen and observe. The muscles of the targeted area of the body are fully relaxed so that the deeper connective tissues around the joints can be stimulated and open, therefore improving joint mobility and increasing their range of motion. Mentally yin yoga is a great practice to develop self-awareness and identify thinking patterns which may be harmful to our inner well-being. It is a journey inward which develops patience, compassion and acceptance.
HORMONE YOGA THERAPY
Hormone yoga therapy was created by yoga therapist Dinah Rodrigues in the 1990's after a visit to her gynecologist highlighted her very good hormone levels and excellent health at the age of 63. As an avid Hatha yoga practitioner Dinah knew straight away that a regular yoga practice had contributed to those results. Encouraged by her gynecologist, Dinah decided to design a sequence of poses and breathing techniques specifically with the intent to stimulate the endocrine system and hormone production.
In Dinah's own words her "objective is to help women to reactivate their hormone production. She helps also women who have difficulty to get pregnant, polycystic ovaries, TPM and those in climacteric or suffering with the consequences of low hormone level." Although her method is often associated with issues related to women, it is equally relevant and helpful to the health and well-being of men. Both women and men benefit from her sequence which includes warm-up exercises, poses combined with breathing techniques and mudras (hand gestures) to stimulate different glands as well as yoga nidras and anti-stress techniques, making hormone yoga therapy a very well-rounded practice for body, mind and spirit.
My first experience with seated meditation took place at the end of my first yoga class; the teacher asked us to lift our arms over our heads and join our palms together before placing them on our knees and sit to reflect on the physical practice we just had. I remember feeling what I later realised to be my life force running down from my fingertips through my body as I had my arms overhead, and I felt extremely at peace while I sat there in stillness. Although I loved the moving practice, it was this moment which peaked my curiosity and drove my decision to come back to practise every week. Over the years that followed I kept with meditation in an on and off fashion, not because I did not enjoy it, but because I allowed my practice to be just as it was; coming and going.
That all changed in January 2016; I woke up one morning with a deep need to sit down in silence and stillness. At the time I was going through a difficult time when I could neither change my environment, nor the situation; so I sat and observed myself, and I kept on sitting every morning after waking up.
I am still living a difficult time (in many ways it could be said it has been an ongoing decline), but meditation has been a continuous support, an anchoring into the present moment when my mind and body want to run and hide from the past and future. And while I have experienced beautiful moments of transcending time and space, more often that not, my meditative states consist of keeping still while witnessing the seemingly incoherent flow of my thoughts and continuously bringing myself back to the here and now (often by way of the breath). Like everything else, meditation is a constant practice.
Pranayama is often defined as "control of the breath" or "control of the life force". I personally resonate more with expansion of the breath/life force. In many languages, to take a breath in also translates to "take the spirit in" - inspiration in French, inspiración in Spanish, inspiração in Portuguese. Also, the origin of the word spirit in Latin is "breath of God" and "animating or vital principle in man and animals." The Portuguese believe that a child invites his spirit in with his first breath and that we release it with our last. I love that image, it makes sense; life is therefore this continuous rhythm of breathing and exhaling, of finding balance between what to take in and what to let go of in order to create the most harmonious human life as possible.
At the beginning of my journey with pranayama the word control helped me grasp what I was attempting to do, but the more I consciously breathe the more I feel and connect with myself and realise that it is less about control and more about a divine experience. In addition to being divine :), breathing consciously has many benefits on our overall well-being: greater lung capacity, expulsion of toxins, efficient oxygenation, relaxation and a clearer mind.