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Ashtanga yoga, sometimes referred to as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, is a style of yoga that was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and T. Krishnamacharya in the 20th century. They claimed it originated from a system of Hatha yoga described in the ancient text, the "Yoga Korunta." Used in this context, the term, Ashtanga yoga, refers to this particular style of yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic, flowing style that connects the movement of the body with the breath. The method stresses the importance of daily practice of a set series of movements. There are six series of Ashtanga yoga sequences, which the student progresses through at their own pace. Ashtanga yoga is named after the term given in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for the eight-fold path of yoga, or ashtanga, meaning “eight-limbed” in Sanskrit. It was Sri K. Pattabhi’s belief that the asana "limb" of yoga must be practiced before the others could be mastered. The practice was developed in Mysore, India where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught and set up the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. There are several key principles that underlie the practice of Ashtanga yoga: Breath: It is recommended that postures are held for five to eight breaths or more, if possible. Drishti: For every posture in the series, there is a set of drishtis, or gaze points. Vinyasa: This is the breathing system that connects every movement in the series with the breath. Bandhas: The practice should be carried out with the bandhas, or "body locks," engaged in order to ensure that the breath is also correct. Daily practice: A six-days-per-week practice is encouraged, with Saturday as the rest day. The days of the full and new moon should also be taken as rest days, and women may also refrain from practicing during menstruation. Ashtanga yoga classes are often taught in the “Mysore style.” In this style, practitioners are encouraged to memorize the sequence they are working on, then individually work through the sequence during the class. The teacher then comes around to adjust and support, rather than guiding the individual's practice. Thus, the students set their own pace consistent with their ability, but practice in the company of other students and with the encouragement of their teacher. They should master each pose in the sequence before they move on to the next. Ashtanga yoga is considered a vigorous, orderly practice and, as such, is more suited to students who want a dynamic and rigorous yoga practice.
Hatha yoga is the yoga tradition most familiar to Western culture. The term is derived from the Sanskrit ha, meaning "sun," and tha, meaning "moon." The practice aims to unite the active and receptive qualities represented by each celestial being. Practitioners of Hatha yoga use physical alignment and breathing control to achieve an equilibrium between the active body and its universe. The resulting harmony manifests itself as physical strength, physiological health and emotional well-being. Hatha yoga is a popular tradition that reinforces equilibrium, flexibility and strength. The primary elements of the Western practice are yoga poses (asanas) and breath control; however, there are six other elements, or "limbs," involved in the full enjoyment of the discipline. The "eight limbs" of Hatha yoga are: Yama - Ethical behavior Niyama - Spiritual practice Asana - Physical poses Pranayama - Breath control Pratyahara - Turning our senses away from outside influence Dharana - Concentration Dhyana - Meditation Samadhi - The ultimate state of consciousness and the goal of Hatha yoga
Kirtan is a Sanskrit word meaning “praise” or “eulogy.” It's also known as sankirtana and is used to describe a form of call-and-response chanting involving mantras or hymns. Kirtan is a tradition that originates in Indian religions, notably Sikhism, Buddhism and Vaishnavism. The chanting is carried out alongside instruments, such as cymbals, harmonium or drums. Kirtan is often practiced in conjunction with acting performances and storytelling. The subject matter is usually of religious context, but may also cover mythology or current social matters. Knowledge of kirtan in the West was initially linked to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Hare Krishna movement) in the 1960s. As time progressed, the appearance of kirtan singers, such as Snatam Kaur, Deva Premal and Krishna Das, has made the tradition more popular.
Meditation is the process of quieting the mind in order to spend time in thought for relaxation or religious/spiritual purposes. The goal is to attain an inner state of awareness and intensify personal and spiritual growth. In practice, meditation involves concentrated focus on something such as a sound, image or feeling. Meditation is also referred to as dhyana in Sanskrit. Meditation involves concentration and relaxation – both of which are enhanced by yoga. Just as there are many styles of yoga, so too are there a variety of ways to meditate. The first stage of meditation is to find a focal point or method of focusing in order to free oneself from distractions. Some methods of focusing include: Sound: Repeating a mantra, phrase or other sound. Visualizing: Picturing an object with eyes closed, such as a lotus flower or the energy points in the body (chakras). Gazing: Looking at an actual object with eyes open. Candles, flowers or pictures are common objects used in gazing. Breathing: Observing the breath and what it feels like – the sensations – as it travels in and out of the body. Research has confirmed that physiological and psychological changes take place in the body during meditation. For example, studies show that people who are meditating perspire less, have a slower rate of respiration and demonstrate lower blood pressure than normal.
Mindfulness is the practice of being deliberately aware from moment to moment of one’s conscious experience. It is the state of tuning in to the stream of consciousness as it flows and staying in the present moment with this awareness. Mindfulness is an important part of yoga and meditation. Greater mindfulness can be cultivated through yoga and especially through meditation practices. This has been linked both historically and in modern scientific studies to improved well-being and mental health. Mindfulness can be considered a process of waking up to the present moment. The practitioner’s focus shifts from memories of the past and plans about the future to what is happening right now. However, the practice of mindfulness is not only about being aware of the present moment, but also about the quality of that awareness. When developing mindfulness, the practitioner tries to purposefully bring their attention to the present moment and cultivate an attitude of acceptance and non-judgement towards it. Most of the time, without practice, mindfulness is a fleeting state of initial awareness. Usually, once the mind is aware of something, it begins thinking about it, weaving a narrative around it, labeling it and judging it. When mindfulness is practiced, the practitioner begins to extend that fleeting moment into a prolonged state of awareness. Because mindfulness is an objective and non-judgmental process, it is closely linked to other yogic concepts of acceptance and surrender. A person can still experience thoughts, feelings and difficult states of mind; but, through mindfulness, these experiences can become less threatening. They simply become something else to be aware of and accept without resistance or grasping.
A mudra is a sacred and symbolic gesture found in yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The most well-known mudras are used during yoga and meditation practice as a means of channeling the flow of vital life force energy known as prana. The term translates from Sanskrit as "gesture,"’ "mark" or "seal". Across various religious and spiritual traditions, there are believed to be around 400 known mudras. In addition to their use as sacred and ritual gestures, they are employed in the iconography of Indian religions and are often used in Indian dance. Each individual mudra has unique symbolism and is thought to have a specific effect on the body and mind by clearing energetic pathways. Although hand (hasta) mudras are the most common in yoga, there are also body (kaya) and consciousness (citta) mudras.
Yoga nidra, a Sanskrit term meaning "yogic sleep" is a deep relaxation technique and a form of meditation. Also called "psychic sleep," yoga nidra is a state between sleeping and waking. The body is completely relaxed and the practitioner turns the awareness inward by listening to a set of instructions; much like a guided meditation. Performing yoga nidra involves practicing pratyahara ("withdrawal of the senses"), which is the fifth limb of Ashtanga yoga. Yoga nidra practice results in deep relaxation and expands the individual's self-awareness. Yoga nidra was practiced by ancient sages so they could consciously watch their samskaras, or the "impressions of the mind." They could also purify their samskaras in order to come closer to liberation, or moksha. The practice of yoga nidra not only involves pratyhara, but also requires pranayama (breathing techniques) and dharana ("concentration"), which are the fourth and sixth limbs of Ashtanga yoga. In yoga nidra, the practitioner enters their alpha state and their focus shifts to the third eye chakra(sahasrara). It also stimulates the hormones in the pineal gland, which releases melatonin -- a horomone that reduces stress, boosts the immune system and helps prevent illness. Regular practice helps harmonize the brain hemispheres, promoting better mental performance. Yoga nidra offers other amazing health benefits, as well, including: Calms the mind Relaxes and rejuvenates the body Soothes the nervous system Reduces fatigue Lowers high cholesterol and blood pressure levels Strengthens immunity Improves quality of sleep Treats depression Reduces pain Boosts concentration level Supports brain function and boosts creativity
Restorative yoga is a type of yoga known for its relaxing, calming and healing effect. It has its roots in the yoga of B.K.S. Iyengar, who developed a yoga that allows students to practice without any strain or pain. This was developed into a whole style of yoga which was considered ideal for those recovering from injuries or illnesses. Restorative yoga became popular in the United States in the 1970s, mainly thanks to a yoga teacher, Judith Lasater, who was herself a student of Iyengar. As well as being popular with students who are recovering from illness or injury, Restorative yoga is considered an ideal balance to hectic and stressful modern lifestyles. For Restorative yoga, the intention is to relax as far as possible into the postures, using as little physical effort as possible. The mind focuses on the breath in order to cultivate mindfulness and release tension from the body. Restorative yoga classes tend to be relaxing and slow paced, with a whole sequence using as few as five or six postures which are held for long periods of time. Props are also used often in order to allow the body to be in the most comfortable, supported position possible. This may include bolsters, blankets, blocks and belts. Gentle music may be played, and the practice may be combined with guided meditation. Restorative yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, regulates the blood pressure and relaxes the body. As such, Restorative yoga is considered particularly beneficial for those suffering from anxiety, insomnia or headaches, as well as other stress-related conditions. Restorative yoga is believed to boost the immune system and accelerate the body's natural healing process.
Vinyasa is a type of yoga that links movement and breath to attain balance in the mind and body. From the Sanskrit “to place in a special way,” vinyasa aligns a deliberate sequence of poses with the breath to achieve a continuous flow. Inhalation is usually connected to upward, open movements, while exhalation is often tied to downward movements or twists.Vinyasa is often thought of as just one of many yoga types. Some people, however, see it as more essential to one's practice. Without it, they feel the practitioner is merely doing stretches without great health benefits. Regardless of your perspective, the term, vinyasa, has come to encompass a range of general and specific definitions. As a category of yoga, vinyasa includes, but is not limited to, Power yoga, Baptiste yoga, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, and Prana Flow. Because vinyasa practice puts a strong focus on sun salutations, most vinyasa classes will focus heavily on this sequence. In fact, “Take a vinyasa” or “Go through your vinyasa” has become shorthand for completing a sequence of poses leading from the Sun Salutation, and including plank, chaturanga dandasana, upward-facing dog, and downward-facing dog. The continuous movement of vinyasa reflects the impermanence of all forms and the necessity of accepting change to achieve balance and completeness.
Yin Yoga is a slower-paced, more meditative version of the popular physical and spiritual discipline of yoga. In Yin yoga, the poses are held for a long period of time (typically three to five minutes or longer) to target the connective tissues (such as the ligaments) rather than focusing on the muscles. As a result, the asanas are more passive holds, with little muscular engagement. Yin Yoga has its roots in China, unlike the more popular and active yoga disciplines, which originated in India. It was founded on the Taoist theory of yin and yang – opposite concepts that, together, represent balance. Yin is stable and passive, while yang is changing and active. The yin poses, therefore, are passive and performed while seated or in a reclining position. The poses are held with the muscles fully relaxed, allowing time and gravity to deepen the stretch and target the fascia. The time spent holding these asanas is similar to meditation.Yin yoga poses tend to resemble poses used in other disciplines, but use different names. Despite the similarity of the poses, the yin versions are performed differently from their active, or yang, relatives. For example, the yin caterpillar pose resembles paschimottanasana, or seated forward bend. In caterpillar, however, the spine rounds so that the head comes to the knees, whereas in paschimottanasana, the spine remains straight and lengthens as the head reaches toward the feet.