Clarifying yoga terminology
The wide variety of yoga styles today can be confusing for people who simply want to practice “yoga”. What is the difference and where do you start?
What is yoga?
Yoga is a discipline (originating in India some 5000 years ago) which is widely practiced today to promote overall health and well-being through the regular practice of a range of techniques including physical postures and movement, breath awareness, relaxation and meditation/mind stillness.
The word yoga is Sanskrit for “yoke” or “union” and refers to unity of body, mind and spirit on a personal and universal level.
The benefits of a regular yoga practice are numerous. Traditionally, the main objective of yoga was “to still the fluctuations of the mind” (Yoga Sutras, 1st Pada) and the physical benefits were regarded more as a side-benefit. The primary purpose of yoga is still widely regarded as a means to achieve stillness and clarity to the mind so that we can live happier, calmer, more productive lives with less reactivity and greater resiliency, authenticity and mental balance. The many physical benefits (including increased strength, flexibility, balance, muscle tone and weight loss) are also widely recognized and sought after and it is commonly the physical practice which is the starting point for most people.
Yoga is therefore much more than a system of physical fitness. In the words of Deepak Chopra MD, it is a science of balanced living, a consciousness-based approach to life and a path for realizing full human potential.
To keep it simple, “hatha” yoga can be viewed as a generic description covering ALL styles of physical yoga. Consequently the physical aspect of any of our modern day yoga styles can be labelled as a form of “hatha yoga”.
Ashtanga yoga is both a philosophy and a traditional hatha yoga practice. The philosophy of Ashtanga yoga is based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras where yoga is described as an eight-limbed path towards enlightenment (comprising universal & personal ethical principles; physical yoga practice; breath techniques, 3 stages of meditation; and the state of liberation/enlightenment). The 8 limbs are meant to be practiced together rather than in stages and can be said to serve as different entry points into an expanded sense of self.
The physical practice of Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic, vigorous practice that uses breath control techniques (ujjayi), muscular energy locks (bhandas), gazing points (drishti) and poses linked together by a flow of breath-synchronised body movement (vinyasa). The ancient traditional physical practice of Ashtanga consists of a set sequence of 6 series, increasing in difficulty levels (the Primary Series being the first). Only when the first series has been achieved is the next one introduced. This style of yoga was popularized by Indian Master Teacher Patthabi Jhois. Our Yoga Flow, Power Hour and Unlock & Lengthen classes are all based on Ashtanga yoga principles and we currently have one Ashtanga Yoga Led Class on schedule covering over half of the primary series.
Iyengar yoga is a slower paced practice with longer holds with a strong focus on alignment and uses a wide variety of props to assist with and deepen physical poses. It is named after the Indian Master Teacher BKS Iyengar. Our YogaBasics and Relax & Restore classes are based on Iyengar Yoga principles.
Both the philosophy and the physical practice of Ashtanga yoga and Iyengar yoga form the foundation for our yoga classes at Tidy Temple Yoga.
Where do you start?
What classes you attend and how you combine them is a purely personal decision. Some people prefer a slow, gentle pace and others prefer a stronger practice or more of a meditative flow. For your convenience our classes are classified according to intensity level (low, medium and high) to give you an idea of the pace. All levels are welcome so which pace you choose is more a question of personal fitness and preference.
Low Intensity: The pace of the class is gentle. Expect your heart beat to speed up a little and your body to heat up but not to the point of sweating. Rest & modify as needed.
Medium Intensity: The pace of the class is moderate, i.e. somewhere in between a fast-moving, sweaty practice and a gentle, slow flow. Rest & modify as needed.
High Intensity: The pace is fast and flowing – be prepared to sweat! Rest & modify as needed.
Our classes are open to all levels (from complete beginners through to more experienced yogis) as they are taught in the intuitive Baptiste tradition enabling you to modify up for a more powerful practice or down for a gentler practice as needed. Make sure to communicate any injuries or health concerns to your teacher!
When you start yoga, you begin where you are at and there are no requirements. The practice is adapted to you and your needs, not vice versa. Flexibility, strength and balance are not a requirement but a result that can be achieved over time, however some of our styles require a greater degree of mobility than others. If you are unsure, please contact us first for an informal chat.
*Baron Baptiste (international Master Yoga Teacher, presenter and best selling author) is a passionate visionary who is best known for developing his widely known yoga practice/methodology Baptiste Yoga, which has become a model for personal revolution. For 30 years he has been a dynamic and influential teacher, trainer, leader and catalyst in the area of personal development and life transformation. Baron was born into a “yoga household” (his parents were pioneers of yoga in 1950’s) and has trained with the best known yoga Master Teachers including Patthabi Jois, BKS Iyengar and Choudhury Bikram. His approach makes the physical, psychological and spiritual side of yoga accessible to everyone.