Half Vinyasa

Yoga is becoming ever more popular, but with an ever-increasing range of different styles,  from the “power yoga” approach of Ashtanga Yoga to the restorative and restful Yin Yoga, how do you know which class will be right for you?

Most of us actually choose which class to attend based simply on convenience – the location and time of the class may be quite simply what it boils down to. For beginners, who may not be aware that there are many different approaches to Yoga, it may also be a case of thinking that one Yoga class is pretty much like the next.

As with any form of physical exercise, if not performed correctly and appropriately, Yoga can actually do more harm than good. Traditionally, Yoga was practised one-to-one, the student and Guru (teacher) spending many years together working specifically to meet the student’s individual needs on their physical, mental and spiritual journey. Whilst our lifestyle in the 21st Century may mean that this is not a viable option for most of us, we can still be intelligent about choosing how to approach Yoga practices, which can bring very significant benefits to both your immediate and long-term health.

Each of us is in a different place in terms of our age, our current state of health, our domestic and career situations, the time and space we have available, and our aspirations about what we want to achieve from our Yoga practice. Whatever your circumstances, you are always in the right place to start practising Yoga. However, the practice needs to be modified, varied and adjusted to suit the student, rather than the student trying to fit themselves into a general yoga practice designed to suit all comers.

A good starting point for thinking about how to approach Yoga, is to think about our stage of life. The ancient texts* upon which modern practices are based, set out three basic stages:

*Nathamuni’s “Yoga Rahasya”, as interpreted by Srivatsa Ramaswami in “Yoga for the Three Stages of Life”.

YOUTH (approx. age 7-25): During this stage of life, our bodies and minds are developing and our energy levels are high both physically and mentally. At this time, it is usually appropriate to practice Yoga asanas (postures) as an art form – to seek to achieve challenging postures as an end in itself. The asanas and moving with the breath (an essential element in any authentic Yoga practice) will help the young person to grow with good physical and mental health, using that abundant energy in a beneficial manner.

MIDDLE-AGE (approx. age 26-75): This time of life is usually characterised by busy-ness and responsibility. It’s a period of stability in terms of our development with neither growth nor decay. The main aim of your Yoga practice should be to maintain health in order to fulfil your responsibilities, achieve results and progress in your life. There should also be an increase in emphasis on the “inner” practices of Yoga (primarily meditation) to maintain mental stability and calm.

OLD AGE (approx. 75-death): At this time when our energy levels are becoming depleted and the body begins a process of decay and degeneration, we can continue to use the physical practice of Yoga to maintain a good degree of mobility, but the main focus of your practice will turn to meditation and contemplation.

These are, of course, very general guidelines which must be adjusted to suit the individual, but they are a sensible place to start. If you are in your 50s or 60s, it would not be wise to choose Ashtanga Yoga for your first foray into Yoga; equally, a Yin Yoga session may leave a youngster bored and wondering what on earth it’s all about!

In recent years, I have become passionate about Vinyasa Krama Yoga. This system does not lose sight of the ancient wisdom of Yoga, but it provides the opportunity for intelligent practice. “Vinyasa” means moving with the breath through sequences which include both movement and static poses, and “Krama” means working progressively towards a goal, moving from very simple movements towards more challenging postures. The progressive sequences can be adapted almost ad infinitum to meet the needs of individuals, whatever their stage of life or state of health. Whilst a group Vinyasa Krama Yoga class is more likely to meet those needs than a “one‑size‑fits‑all” type class, the best way to approach Yoga is on a 1-2-1 basis with a qualified and experienced teacher. Only then will you be assured that what you are doing is suitable for you as an individual with your particular needs and aspirations.

Yoga has been proven to be highly effective in addressing many of our modern ailments. In particular, practised appropriately, it can:

  • Alleviate muscular, spinal and joint pain
  • Improve lung capacity and breath control
  • Condition and tone both internal and external muscles
  • Improve internal organ function
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve circulation and condition the heart
  • Counteract depression and anxiety
  • Strengthen the immune system.

If you are lucky enough to be fit and healthy with none of these issues, Yoga will help you stay that way, keeping you healthy and happy as you move through the stages of your life.

To find a Vinyasa Krama Yoga teacher near you, refer to the Vinyasa Krama Yoga UK Teacher Directory at www.vinyasakramayoga.co.uk.

To contact Moira, you can email her at: moira@fluid-yoga.co.uk, or call 0191 4885070 / 07907 481777