Yoga

Are you curious about yoga? Have friends who take classes? Heard people from all over the world rave of the benefits? Yoga is growing on a global scale, and for many good reasons.

The word Yoga originally derives from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’, translated in English as ‘to yoke’ the body and the spirit as one.

Today, Yoga continues to be taught and practiced in its place of origin, India. But as yoga has traveled across the globe to the Western world, different schools have emerged and adapted ancient teachings to modern life. As a result we are blessed with many styles of yoga. The primary school, Hatha Yoga, means the union of Sun (Ha) and Moon (Tha). Hatha yoga is believed to have been designed as the preparatory stage of physical purification that prepares the body for higher states of experience, meditation, or yoga. There are nine internationally recognized styles of Hatha Yoga today.

There are many more styles of Yoga and Meditation.  Here are a few that you may have heard of in Beirut:

  • Ashtanga: The practice of Ashtanga yoga is a fast-paced series of sequential postures as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), who lived in Mysore, India. Today, yogis continue to spread Jois’s teachings worldwide, making it one of the most popular schools of yoga around. The system is based on six series of asanas that increase in difficulty, allowing students to gradually work at their own pace. In class, you’ll be led nonstop through the first series, and you’ll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose.
  • Power Yoga: In 1995, Bender Birch set out to challenge Americans’ understanding of what it really means to be fit with her book Power Yoga. Bender Birch’s intention was to give a Western spin to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. She explains: “Most people wouldn’t take a class called Ashtanga Yoga, because they had no idea what it meant. Power Yoga, on the other hand, was something Americans could relate to and know that they’d get a good workout.” Power Yoga’s popularity has spread to health clubs across the world and has taken on a broad range of applications. The common thread is a rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility while keeping students on the move.
  • Jivamukti: Looking for a highly meditative but physically challenging form of yoga? Try Jivamukti: You won’t be alone. Each week, more than 2,000 people visit the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City. Its popularity lies in the teaching approach of cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon, who opened their first studio in 1986, combining an Ashtanga background with a variety of ancient and modern spiritual teachings. In addition to vinyasa-style asanas, classes include chanting, meditation, readings, music, and affirmations. This spiritual resource center also offers specialized courses in Sanskrit and the sacred yoga texts.
  • Vinyasa Flow: Vinyasa Yoga is a flowing, dynamic sequence of poses that is one of the most popular styles of yoga in the world. Also sometimes called “Vinyasa Flow Yoga,” this type of practice involves synchronizing the breath with a continuous flow of postures. The fluid, almost dance-like movements increase flexibility, strength, and stamina, as it calms the mind and improves overall health. This popular, flowing style of yoga developed as a sort of “free-form” offshoot of the more methodical Ashtanga Yoga system. Vinyasa Yoga contains many, if not all, of the poses included in the Ashtanga Yoga series, but it does not require its students to perform them in exactly the same sequence. Vinyasa Yoga breaks the rules of the Ashtanga system, often including poses from various Ashtanga sequences in one class.
  • Iyengar: From his home in Pune, India, B.K.S. Iyengar reigns as one of the most influential yogis of his time. At 80 years old, he continues to teach thousands of students from all over the world, encouraging them to penetrate deeper into the experience of each pose. This is the trademark of Iyengar Yoga—an intense focus on the subtleties of each posture. In an Iyengar class, poses (especially standing postures) are typically held much longer than in other schools of yoga, so that practitioners can pay close attention to the precise muscular and skeletal alignment this system demands. Also specific to Iyengar, which is probably the most popular type of yoga practiced in the United States, is the use of props, including belts, chairs, blocks, and blankets, to help accommodate any special needs such as injuries or structural imbalances. What we today refer to as Restorative Yoga or Therapy Yoga, are in fact contemporary developments of Iyengar’s techniques.
  • Integrative Yoga Therapy: In 1993, Joseph Le Page, M.A., founded Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) in San Francisco. Le Page developed a yoga teacher-training program designed specifically for medical and mainstream wellness settings, including hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Two-week IYT intensives are offered worldwide, training health-care professionals, yoga teachers  and bodyworkers to adapt gentle postures, guided imagery, and breathing techniques for treating specific health issues such as heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and AIDS.
  • Bikram: When you take a Bikram yoga class, expect to sweat. Why the sauna-like effect? “Because sweat helps move the toxins out of your body,” explains Radha Garcia, owner of Bikram’s Yoga College of India in Boulder, Colorado. “Your body is like a sponge. To cleanse it, you need to wring it out to allow fresh blood and oxygen to circulate and keep your immune system running smoothly.”This method of staying healthy from the inside out was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who sequenced a series of 26 traditional hatha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system. Choudhury first visited the United States from India in 1971 on a trip sponsored by the American Medical Association to demonstrate his work using yoga to treat chronically ill patients. Today Choudhury continues teaching students of all ages and abilities from his studio in Los Angeles where he also conducts a certified teacher’s training program.
  • Sivananda: At its core, Sivananda Yoga is geared toward helping students answer the age-old question “Who am I?” This yoga practice is based on the philosophy of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, who taught disciples to “serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize.” In order to achieve this goal, Sivananda advocated a path that would recognize and synthesize each level of the human experience including the intellect, heart, body, and mind. In 1957, his disciple Swami Vishnu-devananda introduced these teachings to an American audience. A few years later, Vishnu-devananda founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, summarizing Sivananda’s system into five main principles: proper exercise (asanas); proper breathing (pranayama); proper relaxation (Savasana); proper diet (vegetarian); and positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (dhyana).
  • Integral: In 1966, the Reverend Sri Swami Satchidananda introduced an entire generation of young people to his yogic philosophy: “an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life.” His goal was to help people integrate yoga’s teachings into their everyday work and relationships, which he hoped would promote greater peace and tolerance worldwide. “Integral Yoga uses classical hatha postures, which are meant to be performed as a meditation, balancing physical effort and relaxation,” says Swami Ramananda, president of the New York Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan. In addition to a gentle asana practice, classes also incorporate guided relaxation, breathing practices, sound vibration (repetition of mantra or chant), and silent meditation.
  • Kundalini Yoga: Stemming from the Tantra yoga path, at one time remained a closely guarded secret practiced only by a select few. In 1969, however, Yogi Bhajan decided to change this tradition by bringing Kundalini to the West. Yogi Bhajan’s reasoning was based on the philosophy that it’s everybody’s birthright to be “healthy, happy and holy,” and he believed Kundalini would help spiritual seekers from all religious paths tap into their greater potential. The practice of Kundalini Yoga incorporates postures, dynamic breathing techniques, and chanting and meditating on mantras such as “Sat Nam” (meaning “I am truth”). Practitioners concentrate on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward through each of the seven chakras.
  • Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga is a popular yoga choice in today’s fitness community. Groups and individuals use this ancient, classic yoga style to get fit and encourage a healthy mind-body connection. Knowing more about Hatha yoga will help fitness beginners see more about how this traditional yoga practice informs newer yoga styles and brings a lot of authentic principles to a yoga routine. One of the main stems of the pillars of the Hatha style: breathing. Controlling breath can help improve oxygenation of the body and alleviate stress in some forms. Other elements of Hatha yoga also help with relaxing the body and fighting the stresses of the modern world. As a historical preparation for intensive meditation, Hatha yoga has a lot to offer a modern Western audience.
  • Yoga Nidra: Yoga nidra is a simple yet profound technique, adapted by Swami Satyananda from the traditional tantric practices of nyasa. It is a systematic method of inducing complete mental, emotional and physical relaxation, suitable for all practitioners. Yoga Nidra is often referred to as sleep with a trace of awareness. It is a state of mind in between wakefulness and dream. Through practicing yoga nidra, we are opening deeper phases of the mind. In this moment, the intellectual mind is operating, but when you are able to relax, both the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind open. Through the practice of yoga nidra, the nature of the mind can be changed, diseases can be cured and the soul’s creative genius can be restored. The simple practice of yoga nidra has the capacity of penetrating into the depths of the human mind.
  • Yin Yoga: Yin Yoga is a practice developed by teacher Paul Grilley to find a way to stretch the body’s connective tissue, particularly around the joints. In order to do this, specific poses are help over the course of several minutes. Grilley started this method as a way to find comfort during long seated meditations.
  • Raja Yoga Meditation: Raja Yoga meditation redefines the self as a soul and enables a direct connection and relationship with the Supreme Source of purest energy and highest consciousness. Raja Yoga can be translated as ‘supreme union’, or as ‘highest connection’. Every soul has a right to experience this ultimate relationship. Like any skill, meditation requires practice to achieve satisfying results. More and more people are adding some kind of meditation to their daily routine either as an effective antidote to stress, or as a simple method of relaxation. By doing a little meditation every day, it soon becomes a natural and easy habit, which generously rewards you for the effort it involves

Why practice? Who should practice? Which yoga class to take?

There are many benefits to yoga, ranging from physical to emotional to spiritual. Yoga helps reduce stress, improves the cardiovascular system, and brings awareness to the breath – our source of life. Some yoga classes are also quite vigorous and offer a physically challenging practice, while others are slow and meditative. All yoga has the aim of a strong body, a calm mind, and a balanced life.

Anyone can safely practice yoga, regardless of age or health condition. At NOK we work hard to bring you a variety of yoga classes, taught by a great team of experienced, up to date, and highly qualified teachers. Try a class that sounds good to you, or contact one of our staff members to find out more about what we offer and what is the most suitable class for you.

We hope to welcome you soon to our space of peace.

Namaskars and Blessings, NOK Yoga Shala

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