AHAA Living: Blog YOGA Namaste


Some of us here at the AHAA studio have been practicing yoga upwards of 20 years. When we started out, we dabbled: a little bit of Hatha here, some Ashtanga there, a meditation workshop, Kripalu, and so on. Each style of yoga offers something unique. Each teacher’s CV and personality are as similar as falling snowflakes – no matches.

Yoga can be taught in church basements, community centres, yoga studios, people’s private homes, on sandy beaches, on SUPs on a lake, and on grassy plains. To find a class, check local newspapers or do a Google search and you’ll see all the classes nearby. Make sure to talk to the teachers and/or studio owners before hand so you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Even without stepping into a class, you can learn a lot about the style of yoga from the community there and the atmosphere created for you to practice in.

If we can just offer one tiny pearl of wisdom, it’s this: do not be influenced by the yoga wear parade you may encounter. Yoga has become big business, and so has yoga wear; but the brand of your outfit truly does not matter. Start with some basics, like a light t-shirt you can tuck into workout shorts or leggings. If your hair is long, consider putting it up in an elastic so it stays out of your face during inverted poses. You don’t need to buy anything except the class pass; studios loan and/or rent out mats, props, and blankets.

The hardest part of any yoga class, like any other physical endeavour, is just showing up. The first class will always be the hardest because you won’t know what you are doing, but even the seasoned yogis have their off days. We’ve been in classes where some people just lie on their backs, the whole class. Yoga is about you, and your needs, so make sure you share those with the instructor; the good ones always, always, accommodate and welcome, without judgement.

Here is a glimpse into some of the most popular styles of yoga:

Let’s do this alphabetically: there’s Ashtanga, which fast-paced. The sequential postures are easy to learn, but every teacher has his or her own style and pace. A lot of focus is on the breathing: in through the nose, out through the nose. Some days your mind will wander and you’ll barely be able to balance; other days you’ll sweat profusely!

Now, Bikram yoga classes are definitely sweaty! Studios intentionally set their thermometers at 100 degrees Fahrenheit! The reason behind the extreme heat is to encourage toxin cleansing via excessive sweating.

All classes are carbon copies of one another: a series of 26 traditional hatha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system. Bikram is one of those styles that people either LOVE or never return to after one class.

Hatha is traditionally a slower-paced yoga and may or may not include chanting, meditation, and sacred script reading. Hatha is like a wide-open territory where each and every teacher brings his or her own twist to the sequences. Hatha is a yoga style sometimes offered to pregnant women. It can be a cocktail of slowish Ashtanga sequences held for long periods of time. Some teachers offer a meditative bent and others offer more restorative/healing classes. Hatha is a smart option for beginners.

Jivamukti combines Ashtanga with a variety of ancient and modern spiritual teachings. Imagine, if you can, Ashtanga postures plus chanting, meditation, readings from sacred yoga texts in English and Sanskrit, music, and affirmations.

Kundalini yoga marries postures, chanting, meditation and dynamic breathing techniques. The work is intended to awaken the energy at the base of the spine and draw it up through each of the seven chakras:

  • the base of the spine (‘root’)
  • lower abdomen (‘sacral’)
  • upper abdomen (‘solar plexus’)
  • ‘heart’
  • ‘throat’
  • mid forehead (‘third eye’)
  • top of the head (‘crown’)

This is not a fast-paced yoga, but it demands strength as it gets rigorous a few times per class. This kind of yoga is certainly an option for those seeking out-of-body, travel-like experiences.

And here are some other styles to research at your leisure:

  • Anusura (similar to Hatha, but more ceremonial, classes begin with meditation/chant and intention setting)
  • Iyengar
  • Hot Yoga (similar to Bikram, but the sequence of postures is different with each teacher)
  • Kripalu 
  • Power Yoga (similar to Ashtanga, just branded differently)
  • Sattva
  • Sivananda
  • Tibetan 

If all this information is nothing but overwhelming, consider finding a buddy to attend a class with you; hire a teacher for a couple of private classes; or check out http://www.myyogaonline.com/, an incredible online resource with videos, articles, teacher and studio profiles, inspiring testimonials and online forums. Wishing you peace-loving fun! Namaste.

“Make an attitude to be in gratitude, you will find the whole universe will come to you.”
~ Yogi Bhajan



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