Posts Tagged With: hatha yoga

Yoga of the Heart

My mum's beach yoga class

My mum’s beach yoga class

If I tell other yogis that my Mum is a yoga teacher, most of them are keen to know what kind of yoga she is teaching. “A mixture of different types of yoga; Hatha, Raja and Dru Yoga among others, as well as her own ideas and creativity in regards to Yoga”, is what I often reply. My mum recently told me that her kind of approach to yoga can be called: Satyananda Yoga. Soon after that, I jumped behind my computer to do some research about Satyananda Yoga; honestly I had never heard of it before.

Satyananda yoga, widely regarded as ‘integral’ yoga, is developed by Sri Swami Satyananda Sarawati with the aim of spreading yoga from door to door. Satyananda yoga encompasses all the major branches of yoga, including Hatha, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana and Raja Yoga. The aim of this integral or holistic approach is to develop and balance all aspects of one’s being – body, mind, emotions and psyche – leading the practitioner towards a more harmonious state of being. Satyananda yoga is often referred to as the Yoga of the head, heart and hands. The head represents intellect, the heart represents compassion and the hands represent action. Yoga is achieved when these three aspects of self are balanced. Satyananda yoga is suitable for everyone; from beginners to advanced yogis and does not conflict with one’s social background or religious beliefs. It is an evolving yoga that is grounded in tradition, yet adaptable to the needs of today. In this way the teachings are universal, progressive and inspiring.

At the moment, I’m moving away from going to a lot of yoga classes as a student. Instead, I try to deepen my home practice and my ‘own’ yoga more. A fellow yogini told me the other day: “True yoga, is the yoga done in your own home. In this way you can be aware and focused on your own body, mind and spirit and their needs.” I still love my yoga classes, especially because of the social aspect to it. At the same time, I feel I can develop myself further by listening to my specific needs to still my mind. My wise mum advised me as well to practice yoga at home mainly and maybe go to a few classes a week. The difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga student is that the first one doesn’t need a teacher or yoga class to practice yoga. Slowly I start to embrace a more holistic approach to yoga. As an exercise lover, I am naturally drawn to the physical aspect of yoga. However, at times my body screams for some rest and soothing poses. Also, I can definitely incorporate some more yoga of the heart in my daily life, as my partner would say; Real Life Yoga. If you’re living in Australasia and keen to practice Satyananda Yoga, have a look at: Satyananda Yoga Australasia


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The pros and cons of growing up as a yogini’s daughter

Growing up with a yogini Mum has both pros and cons – guest author Jacinta Aalsma takes us on a journey through her life as a yogi’s daughter.

via The pros and cons of growing up as a yogini’s daughter.

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Sauna Yoga

I remember my first Bikram yoga experience clearly; it was a cold day and my mom and I were keen to be in a nice warm room while it was pouring rain outside. Several people around me had warned me about Bikram yoga; ‘you can get very dizzy or feel nauseous’ or ‘it stinks and it is not enjoyable’. So we were a bit nervous after all those warnings. After we had minimized our clothes to a sport bra and a short trouser, we were ready to go. It was hot and sweaty for sure, but I did not felt nauseous, dizzy or unbearable uncomfortable. As a sauna lover I quite enjoyed the heat actually. Curious to know more about Bikram yoga?

Bikram yoga is developed from traditional Hatha yoga techniques by Bikram Choudhury. He began his yoga journey at age four and practised yoga 4-6 hours every day. The advertised health effects of Bikram yoga are endless; proper weight loss or gain, increased muscle tone, prevention of illness and injury, increased flexibility and it limits the effect of aging. The yoga is practised in a room heated to 38 – 40°C and with 40% humidity. The heat warms your muscles which allows for deeper and safer stretching, reduces stress and tension and detoxifies your body quickly and thoroughly. The classes run 90 minutes and consist of a unique series of 26 Hatha yoga postures and two breathing exercises.

People from all walks of life, ages and physical conditions can practice Bikram yoga, including beginners students. The best way to discover if Bikram yoga is suitable for you is to try it out a couple of times. The first class is probably overwhelming and intense, the main goal is to stay in the heated room for 90 minutes. During a second and third class you have another chance to feel and experience this yoga style more deeply. Since the class includes a fixed set of postures, there is not much diversity compared with a Vinyasa yoga class for example. Bikram yoga is a very personal practice, no music is used and you watch yourself in the mirrors while practicing the postures. Most people either love it or hate it. Bikram yoga provides you with the tools to refine your skills of concentration and determination, to build your patience, self-control and faith. In addition, your physical body will feel and look better. And remember:

“You are never too late, never too old, never too sick to do yoga and start from scratch again.” 

– Bikram Choudhury –


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Yoga of the Props

Iyengar yoga is created by B.K.S. Iyengar and characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. He has developed an innovative and inspired approach to classical Hatha yoga. Iyengar yoga teachers have completed at least two years of rigorous training through a world-wide standardized system of instruction. The Iyengar yoga style is known for its use of props such as; straps, blocks, blankets, cushions or chairs to help one adjust or support oneself in the different postures. The props, invented by Iyengar during his lifetime of study, make the postures accessible to both the less flexible and the fit and advanced students. Props maximise the opening and awareness of the body and enable students to perform the asanas correctly and minimising the risk of injury or strain. They can also be helpful for sick or disabled people who highly benefit from the asanas.

In terms of asana and pranayama practice, the Iyengar method focuses particularly on three aspects: body alignment or technique, sequencing and timing. Correct body alignment allows the body to develop harmoniously in an anatomically correct way to prevent injury or pain. The precise and careful attention promotes the development of strength, endurance and suppleness – physically, mentally and emotionally. Hence an Iyengar yoga teacher will correct misalignment actively.

Correct sequencing refers to a powerful cumulative effect achieved by practicing asanas and pranayama in particular sequences. There are few more or less strict rules within the topic of sequencing asanas. For example, standing poses are a good preparation for forward bends and after a deep forward bend a few twists are recommended to balance and release your spinal muscles.

Timing refers to the length of time spent in asanas or pranayama. If the postures are held for considerable length of time the effects of the poses pierce deeper within you while the alignment is perfected. Therefore you will find very little flow in Iyengar style yoga and you will rest in child’s pose in between poses. It is not so much a cardiovascular experience as for example a Vinyasa yoga class. Though, holding poses requires strength and is excellent for increasing flexibility. Iyengar yoga is a great style for ill people or elderly, because of the absence of flow or cardiovascular exercise. In addition, Iyengar yoga can also be very appealing to more advanced yoga practitioners who would like to work on their alignment. From my own experience, I can say an Iyengar yoga class is definitely not easy. It requires perseverance to hold a pose for a reasonable amount of time. In addition, Iyengar yoga is very precise, technical and focused on anatomy and subtle movements. The use of props creates a whole range of creative and innovative poses and allows me to practice intense poses safely and without pain.

Nowadays, Iyengar yoga is one of the most practised styles of yoga worldwide. The influence of Iyengar yoga is prevalent in almost every yoga style by the way poses are taught and props are used. Iyengar’s book: ‘Light on Yoga’ has become a yoga classic and the gold standard for its illustration and explanation of hundreds of yoga poses. So Iyengar yoga is definitely worth a try.

“When I practice, I am a philosopher,

When I teach, I am a scientist,

When I demonstrate, I am an artist.”

 – B.K.S. Iyengar –


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Yoga of Awareness

Kundalini yoga is an ancient and unique form of yoga and is also called the yoga of awareness. It is the most spiritual type of yoga I have practised. It is brought to the West in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan. The focus is primarily on expansion of self-awareness and realizing your true potential. Kundalini literally means ‘the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved’. This metaphor refers to the flow of energy and consciousness that exists within each of us and enables us to become one with the infinite consciousness. In other words, Kundalini is the untapped energy or prana at the base of the spine that can be pulled up through the body and awake each of the seven chakras. When this prana reaches the crown chakra at the top of your head, enlightenment occurs. However, for most of us, this potent energy lies dormant at the base of your spine. Through the practice of Kundalini yoga, you can release this energy by breaking through emotional blocks, energy imbalances and addictive behaviour. For this reason Kundalini yoga can be highly transformative, since it releases held issues whether body or mind.

Each Kundalini class typically includes six major components: mantras, pranayama and/or warm-up, kriya, relaxation, meditation and closing with a song. The class starts with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility. The main part of the class is called a kriya. This is a complete set of exercises including pranayama that focuses on a precise area of the body. The kriyas are precise and bring the body and mind to a state where deep meditation is easily achieved. The goal of a kriya could be clearing the heart chakra or increasing spinal flexibility for example. There are hundreds of kriyas and therefore no class will be the same. The class ends with a meditation and song. Most Kundalini teachers and devotees wear white clothes and wrap their heads with a white turban or other head covering. The white clothing is worn to support both the body’s energetic field or aura and the nervous system functions. The white headband is believed to protect the crown chakra and improve the experience of meditation.

Since the emphasis is on breathing, meditation, mudras (hand gestures) and chanting, a Kundalini class could be intense and odd for newcomers. The breath and movement are often very dynamic and will be unfamiliar to more conventional Hatha yoga practitioners. Though, the use of mantras could support you if you are new to meditation and find silence challenging. Mantra meditation can result in clarity, balance and equanimity. This type of yoga appeals to you if you are up for both mental and physical challenges. I have tried different Kundalini yoga classes and I always love the use of mantras and sounds, because it supports me with the transition from a busy work day to a quiet yoga practice. I am quite used to physical challenges, but Kundalini yoga provides me with a whole new kind of challenge. The combination of specific pranayama techniques and asanas requires me to be focused and attentive. After practising some more physically focused forms of yoga, I felt at ease to spend time and energy to develop myself spiritually as well. My first steps in the world of Kundalini yoga were quite magical experiences; it brought me to stillness and peace, my true self.

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Western World Yoga

In the western world, Hatha yoga is one of the most commonly practiced form of yoga. It is also called the Yoga of Postures, since it is mainly focused on asana and pranayama, the third and the fourth limb of yoga. Hatha yoga is described by Yogi Swatmarama, a Hindu sage of 15th century India. ‘Ha’ means sun and ‘tha’ means moon. Therefore Hatha yoga is commonly translated as uniting opposites and creating balance. It refers to creating balance between opposites such as female and male (energies) or hot and cold. Another common translation of Hatha is forceful or willful, since it requires a lot of physical efforts. A reasonable amount of time is spent in the poses to discover correct alignment and develop strength and flexibility. Patanjali defines asana as ‘a posture which can be hold for a certain amount of time’. Since you spend some time in each pose, the challenge is to focus on the posture, stay attentive and surrender to the moment. In this way body and mind are connected and becoming more balanced.

Hatha yoga is perfectly suitable for beginners, since it generally is a slow-paced stretching class with gentle basic poses with no flow in between the asanas. It is a perfect way to increase your feelings of health and wellbeing and get used to asana, meditation, breathing and relaxing techniques. My introduction to yoga started off with Hatha yoga as well. For me it was a perfect way to get used to different postures, learn to sit still and observe my mind and especially learn to relax. During my first experiences in savasana or corpse pose I felt restless. While other yoga practitioners around me were almost sound asleep, I became aware of my overactive mind; thoughts and feelings where all over the place. I realized how much I was used to comparing myself with others all the time. How easily I judge myself and others. For sure my initial steps in the world of yoga, were not always smooth, joyful and peaceful. Yoga has taught me to be real and to start accepting myself just the way I am. Yoga not only connects my body, mind and spirit, it also provides me with feelings of connectedness with other people.

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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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