Posts Tagged With: ashtanga

Flow Yoga

There are many different styles of yoga. I have tried Hatha yoga, Bikram yoga, Kundalini yoga, Iyengar yoga, Yin yoga and Dru yoga among others. At the moment I am in love with Vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa yoga is also called Flow yoga, since the poses run together in a smooth way, like a dance. The breath is an essential part during this dance, since the series of movements are synchronized with the breath. Generally speaking, upward movement correlate with inhalations of the breath, and downward movements with exhalations. When I was living in the Netherlands I practiced African dance once a week and I went out dancing regularly. Since I have arrived in New Zealand, my dance experiences have been reduced to some rare moments on a party or a wedding. Surprisingly, I have not been missing the dancing as much as I thought I would. The practice of Vinyasa yoga seems to fulfill my dance needs.    

Vinyasa yoga has evolved from Ashtanga yoga over time. There are now many different styles of Vinyasa or Flow yoga. Vinyasa can be translated from Sanskrit into ‘connection’ referring to a connection between movement and breath. Another translation can be ‘variations within parameters’. A sun salutation sequence is a perfect example of a Vinyasa dance, because each movement in the series is done on an inhalation or an exhalation. Basically, any sequence of flowing from asana to asana can be called a Vinyasa dance. During a Vinyasa yoga practice you can expect a lot of variety; one class is focused on backbends and during another class you spend time practicing arm balances. I love this diversity; no class is the same and this makes my mind go quiet. If I would practice the same postures over and over again, I would get bored easily and my mind would wander off. Variety is helpful in preventing injuries, since it keeps you from doing repetitive movements. There is a reasonable amount of freedom within this yoga style which allows teachers to personalize their classes. The classes are relaxed and unpredictable and supportive for persons with an overactive mind like mine. Vinyasa yoga not only brings my mind at ease, it also increases my strength, endurance and flexibility. 

It is quite common for yoga teachers to have a background in (professional) dancing. This could be a reason that nowadays you can find different styles mixing yoga & dance together, such as: Yoga dance, flow dance, Nia yoga/dance or Afro flow yoga. These styles are blending together the benefits of yoga and dance and are providing you with ways to express yourself through movement and to discover your true self. Be inspired, move & dance!

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Pranayama is derived from two Sanskrit words: prana (life force) and ayama (control). So, in its broadest description, pranayama means ‘the control of the flow of life force’. Through the practice of pranayama you can achieve a healthy body and mind. Pranayama is the fourth limb within Patanjali’s Eight-fold path of Yoga. Patanjali says that you should have reasonable mastery of asana first, so you can comfortable sit while doing pranayama practice. It does not mean that you necessarily need to be able to sit in Lotus Pose for thirty minutes, but at least you have to be able to sit in an upright position where you can be relatively still.

In the Yoga Sutras, pranayama is described as means of attaining higher states of awareness. The postures are merely preliminary states of deeper levels of meditation that lead you toward enlightenment or a place where your mind is perfectly still. Pranayama serves as an essential bridge between the outward, active practice of yoga – yoga postures – and the internal, surrendering practices that leads you into deeper levels of meditation. You could say that asana is focused on developing your body and pranayama will develop your mind.

For sure, breathing is an essential part within your yoga practice. Since unconsciously you choose how much you are going to feel by how much you breathe. When you breathe more deeply, it provides you with an opportunity to release constrictions in breathing and focus on what you feel. Pranayama makes you more sensitive and focused. This increased awareness is a real possibility for personal growth and integration.

At the Yoga Centre where I regularly practice (Ashtanga) Vinyasa Flow Yoga an Ujjayi breath or victorious breath is taught and encouraged. A breath practice in which the opening of the throat is slightly constricted and the breath made softly audible by the creation of some resistance to the passage of air. By returning again and again to the subtle sound of this breath – something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out – my mind is forced to concentrate and become quiet. This Ujjayi breath is used throughout the entire practice of Ashtanga yoga.

However, most people start practicing yoga with many pre-existing blocks and holding patterns. The introduction of a controlled breathing regime straightaway could further magnify the blocks. Therefore, it is important to remove the blocks and holding patterns first to allow you to reveal your natural breath. Step by step you can explore the subtle movement of prana during your yoga practice. Above all, listen to your own experiences and feelings to decide for yourself which method directs you closest to yoga’s ultimate gift: ease, balance and inner quiet.

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Patanjali’s Eight-fold path of Yoga

After writing about the first two limbs of Patanjali’s Eight-fold path of yoga, I would like to continue with the other limbs:

–          Asanas (yoga postures)

–          Pranayama (control of the breath)

–          Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)

–          Dharana (concentration)

–          Dhyana (meditation)

–          Samadhi (absolute bliss)

These limbs are Patanjali’s suggestions or guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life through yoga. The eightfold path is called Ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta = eight & anga = limb). The eight limbs are all equally important and are related as parts of a whole. Ideally this Eight-fold path of yoga will lead you to enlightenment.

“mens sana in corpore sano”  or “a healthy body in a health mind”


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