“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
- What should I know before first yoga class?
- Can you clarify the difference between various yoga styles?
- What is Vinyasa?
- How to start practicing at home by myself?
- Can I get more information about the first Global Mala in Ukraine?
- Which teachers and places inspire you?
1. What should I know before first yoga class?
- Allow yourself at least 1.5- 2 hours before class without food. If you can’t change your schedule and have to eat before class, have some light food that is easily digestible. Try to do it at least 40 min before the practice.
- Dress comfortably. Let your clothes be loose. Clothes with many pockets or zippers can bother you when you practice on the floor on your stomach.
- If possible skip using deodorant or perfume, it can distract yogis around you during pranayamas.
- Bring a hair tie, to pull your hair back if it’s long.
- Bring your yoga mat with you, if the studio doesn’t provide them. Call and check about the mats ahead of time.
- Be prepared to practice barefoot.
- If you have any problems with your health or you are pregnant, let the instructor know about it before the class starts.
- Keep your mind open!
2. Can you clarify the difference between various yoga styles?
In ancient time, yoga was always taught one on one from teacher to his student. The aim of yoga is to experience Samadhi or discover your True-Self. There are several yoga approaches to achieve this purpose, which are Jnana, Karma, Bhakti, Mantra and Raja yoga. Jnana – translates from Sanskrit as “knowledge”, that’s why the Jnana yoga is usually referred as “path of wisdom”. Jnana yoga incorporates different techniques to observe the thoughts in order to identify the true awareness of the world; the awareness of body, soul and mind. Karma yoga is a path of action. One who follows this path, does not attach to the fruit of his action, rather he acts selfless and compassionate in accordance to his dharma (life purpose). Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion and love, usually towards God. The follower achieves the unity with God, by practicing selfless love. Mantra yoga uses chanting until the mind and emotions are surpassed to reveal the True-Self or Atma(soul). Raja yoga, described by Patanjali in the 16th century, is translated as “royal yoga” and sometimes it is referred as Classical Yoga. In his masterpiece, Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes 8 consecutive steps of Raja yoga for achieving Samadhi:
- Yama (ethical disciplines or universal values)
- Niyama (self-discipline)
- Asana (physical practice)
- Pranayama (breathing exercises)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (absorption in the Self)
Hatha Yoga is a combination of the third and forth steps of Raja yoga – Asana and Pranayama. Since the demand for yoga is constantly growing and the number of people practicing increases each day, it is very hard to keep yoga practice one on one from teacher to the student. Nevertheless, the point of yoga is to address each student’s needs, as a result many Hatha Yoga styles originated. Among the most popular styles are Iyengar, Ashtanga, Power, Vinyasa Yoga, Jivamukti, Anusara, Vini, Kundalini, Bikram, Restorative, and Universal Yoga.
- Iyengar yoga is probably the most popular style of yoga in the world. Founded by BKS Iyengar, this style emphasizes correct anatomical alignment and the use of props in order to prevent injuries and deepen the practice. “The Light on Yoga”, written by BKS Iyengar, is widely used for the alignment of yoga asanas.
Ashtanga Yoga – was developed by K. Pattabhi
Jois, a student of Krishnamacharya. This style consists of three
levels; each presents a certain series of asanas which flows in a
particular order. The first level is challenging enough for
practitioners, so it’s usually modified in Western countries.
Ashtanga yoga is not to be practiced on the days of new and full
moon, honoring the natural cycle of Earth.
- Power yoga – is an adjusted form of Ashtanga yoga. It concentrates on building strength and flexibility, while going through a vinyasa-flow asanas. Compared to Ashtanga yoga, Power yoga does not have a certain series of asanas, which makes it easier for practitioners.
- Vinyasa Yoga literally translates as linking of movement and breath together, like in Surya Namaskar. During Vinyasa Flow class expect to flow from one asana to another in a dance like motion. This style arose from Ashtanga Yoga, however it doesn’t have a certain set of consecutive asanas. Yoga Instructors can find their own creative linking of asanas and can combine them in different ways. Vinyasa is also called “active meditation”, because through constant concentration on breath while moving, the mind relaxes.
- Jivamukti yoga is a relatively new style, founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon. It’s based on vinyasa flow, incorporating mantras, music, pranayama and meditation during the class. While flowing through a vigorous workout, the attention is drawn towards the ancient spiritual traditions. “Jiva” is translated as “individual soul, and “mukti” is “liberation”, the name itself states the ultimate goal of the founders to find “liberation while living”.
- Anusara translates as “following your heart”. This style was founded by John Friend. Its main emphasis is on the heart openness. Anusara can be adapted to any level of students, classes are filled with positive energy and spirituality.
- Vini yoga – usually associates with therapeutic aspect of yoga, because it draws attention to leading each movement with breath. T.K.V. Desikachar first introduced the name viniyoga, describing the individualistic approach during the yoga practice.
- Kundalini yoga focuses on raising a life force located at the base of the spine as an imaginary coiled serpent. Various techniques are used to awaken the prana, such as mantra, pranayama, sadhana, repetitive asana and meditation. This style is very spiritual. Practitioners usually wear white clothes and turbans for proper containment of energy. Yogi Bhajan played an important role in spreading Kundalini Yoga in the West.
- Bikram yoga is sometimes referred to as “hot” yoga, because it’s practiced in a room heated to 105° F (40,5° C). Founded by Bikram Choudhury, it quickly spread around the world. Each class consists of a series of 26 postures and 2 pranayamas. Despite its popularity, this style is still highly controversial regarding the benefits of strenuous practice in a hot room.
- Restorative yoga is also considered therapeutic because it helps to soothe parasympathetic nervous system, by allowing the body to passively stretch, supported by props. It’s very beneficial for nervous system to take at least one restorative class per week.
- Universal Yoga aims to bring balance within each maya kosha as well as between human being and the outer world. This style requires two yoga mats or one round yoga mat, because the movement goes to all directions. Andrei Lappa, the founder of this style, believes in “freedom and creativity in practice”, allowing the practitioners to explore their “own personal experience” using the tools his style.
Some styles of yoga do not require an asana practice, such as Nidra and Laughter yoga.
- Nidra Yoga is a deep yogic sleep. The practice usually lasts from 40 minutes to an hour. Guided by teacher, this relaxation helps to reduce stress, calm the mind, reduce headaches and insomnia. It’s important to stay aware during the whole practice without falling asleep, keeping the body absolutely still.
- Laughter yoga stimulates laughing during the practice. It’s believed that body doesn’t recognize the difference between real and fake laugh, so it benefits from laughing in both cases. Be prepared to laugh a lot!
There are many more yoga styles and each of them deserves to be written about. Nevertheless, the information above will give you a general idea about the most popular styles.
Remember that no theoretical information can substitute real experience! Please, get on your mat and experience yourself what style fits you best!
3. What is Vinyasa?
Here is a beautiful article by my fellow yogi teacher and a friend, LeTania Kirkland. Enjoy!
‘When I tell people I’m a yoga instructor, one of the first things they usually ask is, “What kind of yoga do you teach?” Though I hate to give it a label, the easiest answer is “vinyasa”.
“Oh, I love Vinyasa!” some people respond. Others have an aversion to a class that’s too “athletic”. I see students in class who are drawn to a vigorous pace and often push beyond their body’s limits. Others are intimidated and sometimes view their body as a barrier. But, vinyasa is much more than a sweaty workout.
In the yoga sutras, Patanjali refers to the development of a yoga practice as vinyasa krama. Krama means “step,” nyasa, “to place” and vi- means “in a special way.” Though yoga asanas can be practiced individually, vinyasa refers to the art of sequencing or linking postures together to create space in the body and provide a pathway to a chosen objective—whether that be a particular pose or sitting quietly in mediation for a prescribed amount of time. When it comes to asana, “vinyasa” is a practice of awareness in which the breath and movement are linked together to lead us where we want to go.
There is something to be said for a long, sustained posture and the sense of grounding and alignment it creates. But, there is nothing like the sense of freedom and agility created when flowing through a series of postures in a dance of meditation (as long as it is preceded with a strong foundation of basics and alignment). It can be as simple as a series of seated postures or as challenging as standing postures moving one breath at a time.
And, as most things in yoga, this has a direct correlation to life off the mat. As far as I can tell, life never stops moving and we do our best to stay on track while navigating the continual push and pull that life serves up. We’re all juggling, moving through a vinyasa of sorts every day. The key to making it through is keeping our objective in mind. This can start with simplifying our lives one day at a time. Maybe it’s prepping dinner the night before, creating a schedule to meet a deadline at work, taking the steps necessary to get that job we want or simply repeating an internal mantra to bring about change we seek in our lives.
But no matter how well we plan, life can (and will) take us off course. No matter how many hip openers we do, we may not float into flying crow. Similarly, we may not get that job. The objective we have in mind is not always what we really need. But, it is the act of connecting with breath and awareness where the beauty really lies. Jivamukti yoga founders, Sharon Gannon and David Life state in their book, Jivamukti Yoga that, ‘The real vinyasa, or link, however, is the intention with which you practice asanas. It is the intention that links the postures with consciousness instead of unconsciousness.’
Vinyasa: moving with consciousness and freedom, finding the pace of your own breath and practicing with respect for your own body—its strengths and limitations. It’s that process that brings us to the other side with more space in the body and renewed awareness in all of our capabilities. Find your flow—however it reveals itself.
4. How to start practicing at home by myself?
I’ve been asked this question many times, so I would love to share main tips that work for the majority of yoga practitioners.
First, be loyal! There is no need to push yourself hard at the beginning, so start slow! Choose the time that fits you best. Keep in mind that it’s harder to practice in the morning because the body is stiffer. However, for me it’s more difficult to find time in the evening, because all the family is home. Choose what works for you. Start with short practice. Instead of trying to practice 1.5 hours at home, begin with 20 minutes. For example, set a goal to ground yourself, complete 5 Surya Namaskar A and 3 Surya Namaskar B, finish with twist and Savasana. Maybe it’s all you need to begin with. Over time, add pranayama and meditation to your practice.
Second, let people who you live with know that you will practice everyday at certain time, so they won’t disturb you. Be prepared that they might forget and will still distract you at the beginning however, they will get used to your practice shortly.
Third, keep in mind that as soon as you start practice one hundred and one obstacle will rise: your friends will call, it will be too hot in the room, your clothes will be uncomfortable, etc. Remember, it will always happen to you at the beginning. Ignore the calls and urge to fix everything what is not perfect for your practice. Life isn’t perfect, so keep practicing regardless of all distractions around you!
Lastly, observe your thoughts. Your mind will start testing you. It will come up with tons of things that are more important than your practice. Smile at those thoughts, acknowledge them and keep doing your Suryas!
5. Can I get more information about the first Global Mala in Ukraine?
Global Mala Yoga for Peace is an international project, which is held each year on September 20, 2009 in different countries around the globe. This date wasn’t set by chance, it is on the International Peace Day and Fall Equinox that yogi all over the world unite to perform 108 Sun Salutations. The project first started in 2007 and in 2009 Ukraine joined it for the first time.
The main purpose of Project Global Mala Yoga for Peace is to unite the global yoga community from every continent, school or approach to form a “mala around the earth” to fundraise money for donation.
In Ukraine, Global Mala provided a unique opportunity to practise yoga taught by the leading yoga teachers, to enjoy the energy of movement, to buy hand-made goods from local artists and the most important – to help children of Regional Orthopedic Boarding School “Lesnoe” in Kharkiv. The essential units of kitchen utensils were bought for the 80 children who were under treatment on the money raised during the project.
6. Which teachers and places inspire you?
Teachers and places that inspire me:
Useful information links: