What is Yoga?
This post is for my Midwestern friends and any followers that may think yoga is about downward facing dog, tight pants, and being vegan. There are many types of yoga within the yoga world. I would know, because I’m trendy… or because I live in Los Angeles.
In Sanskrit yoga literally means “union”. It is the union of the mind and body. That’s why “doing yoga” usually consists of moving your body into a shape or holding a certain position. If your mind wanders (which it will) to anything other than that present posture/moment yoga will kindly remind you (maybe by falling flat on your face) that you must return to the moment and shift your focus within.
Yoga can be anything you do mindfully. Whether it’s running, welding, knitting or sweating on a mat in a room full of strangers trying to balance on one foot. But I believe the types of yoga that I go over in this article will improve your mental and physical state more effectively than sitting in a chair knitting.
In 2014 I started going to some Yoga Flow classes at Equinox Santa Monica while I was a personal trainer there. A few trainers and I would roll in, go to the very front of the room and take our shirts off. It was more of a marketing stunt for our personal training business than anything but it peaked my interest. My friends Mychal Prieto (@MychalAngelo) and Abe Maynard (@MaynardFitt) put me to shame with their balance, control and mobility.
Fast forward two years and my girlfriend convinced me to go to another flow or power type of yoga. It was a great wake up call for my current state of mobility/flexibility or lack thereof. I enjoyed the classes but it was difficult to get motivated to go “workout” before or after a 3 hour swim practice. I felt like I needed something different.
Then my mental performance coach and friend Wilma Wong (@healingwithWilma) introduced me to Yoga Works where they offer many types of yoga. I’m not going to go into detail about all of them but simply highlight the ones that I am exploring.
Most yoga studios teach Vinyasa, Bikram, Ashtanga or some kind of combination “flow”. The emphasis is on “yang” or muscle activation and getting your body moving. Not exactly what we all need in our constantly stressed and fast paced modern lives.
The following are the types of yoga I am currently exploring/beginning to explore
· Yin Yoga. I will have a whole article coming out soon on the Yang and Yin of training and how we must balance ourselves out. Yin yoga is a slow paced style of yoga with poses that are held for longer periods of time – five minutes or more per pose is typical. It’s teaching the western world, was founded by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Yin Yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body- the tendons, fascia, and ligaments- the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. A more meditative approach to yoga, yin aims at cultivating awareness of inner silence, and brining to light a universal, interconnecting quality. This yoga has had the largest impact on my swimming in only a matter or weeks. For over 20 years of my life, I was told to work hard, push through, be tough, go harder etc in the pool, weight room and everywhere else. That is all “Yang” training. If all you do is yang you are headed for self-destruction due to tension, traumas, adhesions and more. Despite all my hard training over the past few years I haven’t been able to improve my personal best times in the pool. I attribute this to an IMBALANCE in my training and philosophy. Don’t be like me and experience years of heartbreaking performances in your sport or work. Yin is changing my life and I know it can change yours.
· Iyengar Yoga, named after and developed by B.K.S Iyengar, is a form of Hatha yoga that has an emphasis on detail, precision, and alignment in the performance of posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama). The development of strength, mobility, and stability is gained through the asanas. (1)
Iyengar instructors go through 4 years of continuous study and practice with a certified Iyengar instructor to become certified themselves. So you know you aren’t being taught by someone who picked up a weekend yoga certification.
Be prepared to not do very many poses in these classes and challenge your desire to fidget. Its all about technique.
· Kundalini Yoga, also known as laya yoga, is a school of yoga that is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of meditation, pranayama (breathing), chanting mantra and yoga asana. Called by practitioners “the yoga of awareness”, it aims “to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others. (2)
· Jivamukti Yoga “On the path to enlightenment”. Jivamukti is a vinyasa style of yoga that attracts a wide varity of people including many celebrities. Meaning “liberation while living” it was created by David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1986. According to thesecretsofyoga.com, Jivamukti features five disciplines, which form the foundation of the practice and are incorporated into every class, these disciplines ensure that yoga is being practices for its original purpose: as a means to enlightenment and not merely as a physical exercise. (3)
· Yoga Tune Up I have been sharing with everyone I know how these balls changed my life. Many of you have seen people rolling on lacrosse balls or baseballs etc. but Jill Millers Yoga Tune Up balls are much more effective and less traumatic to work with. She has a book called Roll Model that I highly recommend.
My favorite part of using Yoga Tune Up is that I can improve my mobility, decrease muscle tension, release adhesions and decrease inflammation all while LAYING IN MY BED. I also take them on airplanes, car rides, to the beach and just about anywhere I go. If you want to find out what it feels like to get a massage everyday but don’t have the time or money for it, invest in some of these balls, get the book and find a tune up class to attend.
Yoga will change your life for the better in many different ways. Maybe it’s the ritual based movement, the mindful breathing, the high quality environment yoga studios provide full of positive people working on improving themselves, releasing muscle tension or simply "going within". Most of us in our fast paced lives exhibit too much of the Yang principle and Yin yoga may be just what you need. So go find a studio, get on Youtube or join Yoga Works and use their online classes. Start exploring yourself and you will be shocked at how quickly you can turn back the clock and start feeling younger.
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