Most forms of yoga in the West can be classified as Hatha Yoga. Hatha simply refers to the practice of physical yoga postures, meaning your Ashtanga, vinyasa, Iyengar and Power Yoga classes are all Hatha Yoga. The word “hatha” can be translated two ways: as “willful” or “forceful,” or the yoga of activity, and as “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha), the yoga of balance. Hatha practices are designed to align and calm your body, mind, and spirit in preparation for meditation. The Hatha classes we offer here simply mean they are not sequenced the way “Vinyasa’ Yoga is. The poses are practiced as individual poses but are still part of a class designed with a beginning, middle and ending. They simply are not joined by the repetitive sequence we call a vinyasa, between poses.
Vinyasa yoga is literally defined as an intelligent sequence of postures, but most people equate it with the ability to sweat or “yogacize,” and that draws a lot of people to it. Vinyasa yoga is a very subtle, beautiful, introspective practice, and exercise can be a side benefit. Yoga is about getting to know yourself better and learning how to love yourself.
The Western world has become a seated society, which is why vinyasa yoga is so important: its orientation is breath and movement, and research shows that increased movement in a seated society is absolutely essential for health. Vinyasa yoga gets us moving.
With a seated society comes a toxic mind: because our bodies are still, our minds are racing. Vinyasa yoga stills the mind because it has so many focal points that train the mind: the breath, movements, bandhas, postures, and sequences. We’re really focusing on the breath at first, and then, as the mind gains the ability to concentrate, we are able to focus on many things at once. Step by step we expand the mind with the practice. Without proper training, the mind jumps all over the place, distracting us from working on the parts of our beings that will actually help us evolve. Vinyasa yoga stills the mind, giving it the ability to process what the practice brings up to the surface — the joyful stuff and sometimes the uncomfortable stuff as well.
It’s a meditation in motion.
Meditation is focusing the mind, and vinyasa yoga focuses the mind because it gives you something to focus your mind on. It’s a dynamic meditation. Whether it’s the breath, the movement, the bandhas, or the asanas, there’s a very strong mental component to vinyasa yoga practice. Vinyasa yoga can be instrumental in stabilizing and focusing your entire life.
In all yoga, but especially here in Vinyasa yoga, the breathing is through the nose. For each movement, there is a breath. We inhale on the preparation for a movement and exhale on the exertion. It’s a slow, even, smooth, inhalation and a slow, concentrated exhalation. This is very difficult in the beginning and it helps focus the mind, because you really have to think about it.
Yoga is about listening and executing a task. Each pose has many tasks, and one of them is the drishti. Gazing in a specific direction helps to create the meditation for each pose.
A passive practice, Yin Yoga involves variations of seated and supine poses typically held for 3 to 5 minutes, accessing deeper layers of fascia. Where other styles of Yoga focus on the muscles and flexibility and strength, Yin pays attention to the joints. Yin Yoga is an excellent balance to other more dynamic styles. Because the poses are held for extended periods, this is a deeply meditative practice. Yin Yoga was originally introduced by Paulie Zink.
“The antidote to stress is relaxation. To relax is to rest deeply. This rest is different from sleep. Deep states of sleep include periods of dreaming, which increase muscular tension, as well as other physiological signs of tension. Relaxation is a state in which there is no movement, no effort and the brain is quiet. Common to all stress reduction techniques is putting the body in a comfortable position, with gentle attention directed toward the breath. Restorative Yoga poses are often referred to as “active relaxation” in deliberate stillness. By supporting the body with props, we alternately stimulate and relax the body to move toward balance. The poses create specific physical and physiological responses that are beneficial to health and can reduce the effects of stress-related disease.” – Judith Lasater, PH.D, P.T.R
Restorative Yoga involves the gentle practice of deliberate stillness through longer held poses while being supported by bolsters, blankets and other props. Restorative Yoga aims to slow down the body and mind to activate and nurture the parasympathetic nervous system; releasing physical and emotional tension. The measurable benefits include anxiety and stress reduction, lower blood pressure, improved sleep, support for adrenal and general fatigue; improved immune function, digestion and fertility. This practice is not just for the seasoned yogi, but is ideal for people who are new to yoga, have minor injuries, physical limitations, restricted movement or stress – which is everyone.
How does Restorative Yoga work?
Muscular tension activates the sympathetic nervous system, Restorative Yoga uses props in each asana to minimise tension and maximise physical comfort and relaxation. The head is kept inline or below the heart to reduce blood pressure and quieten the nervous system, while the slow deep breathing lowers the heart rate and reduces the production of stress hormones. In Restorative Yoga, the nervous system moves into a parasympathetic state where deep restoration and healing can take place. The practice of Restorative Yoga further allows for the changing of the neuroplasticity of the brain through training the mind to observe itself with detachment, impartially witnessing direct experiences in the body and mind with compassion. – Bo Forbes