It is encouraging to see yoga emerge as a preferred choice for maintaining health. A newcomer is faced with the ever-growing list of yoga styles to choose from – hatha yoga, iyengar yoga, vinyasa yoga, bikram yoga, sivananda yoga, yin yoga, hot yoga to name a few. These styles of yoga can be distinguished from each other based on objectives, types and sequences of asanas, duration of holding the posture, temperature and humidity levels at the venue etc.
There are many up-and-coming styles of yoga, which are not as popular but enjoy dedicated practitioners – acro yoga, kundalini yoga, aerial yoga, jivamukti yoga, etc. Needless to point out this is not a comprehensive list.
The best way to find out which style appeals to you is by trying it out. Many yoga teachers recommend a ‘balanced practice’ of a few styles that one finds appealing. There are no hard and fast rules and that is a good thing. After all we approach yoga with different expectations.
But there is one important pointer that might be of help. To understand what ‘yoga’ means.
‘Yoga’ is derived from its verbal root ‘Yuj’ in Sanskrit. ‘Yuj’ is that which unites or joins. Yoga is that which unites. In traditional terminology yoga unites the ‘jivatma’ (individual self) with the ‘paramatma’ (universal self). It is an expansion of the narrow, limited egoistic personality to an all pervasive, eternal and blissful state of reality.
Sage Patanjali wrote – ‘Yogah citta vrtti nirodhah’, which (simply) translated means yoga is a process of gaining mastery over the mind.
In Yoga Vasistha, the essence of yoga is captured thus – ‘Manah prasamanopayah yoga ityabhidiyate’ meaning Yoga is a skilful, subtle process to calm down the mind.
According to the Bhagavad Gita – ‘Yogah karmasu kausalam’ meaning yoga is dexterity in action. The dexterity is in maintaining relaxation and awareness in every action at all times.
It is apparent that yoga is not merely about holding challenging poses, gaining physical flexibility and inducing temporary relaxation. It is a highly efficient tool to reach and understand the functioning of our mind thorough our body and breathe. A yoga practice (on and off the mat) without engaging the mind drastically limits the benefits that can be otherwise derived.
This fundamental relationship between yoga and mind could act as a good starting point and help you in finding your style of yoga without getting caught in the less important selling points of yoga.