Meditation derives from the latin word meditatum, which means ‘to ponder.’ Although Eastern religions used meditation as a religion/spirituality activity, it can simply help clear your mind. Mediation has become more popular for its spirituality, physical, and psychological benefits. In general, meditation can be as simple as walking your dog or listening to music. However, the true meaning of meditation is to clear and focus the mind and be in the moment from head to toe. There are two major techniques of meditation: Mindfulness meditation and concentrative meditation. With mindfulness meditation, the focus is becoming aware of sensations and feelings, without consciously thinking about it. In this type of meditation you are aware of whatever goes through your mind, but don’t get involved in the thoughts or worries. With concentrative meditation, the focus is on the breath and a specific image or sound to “narrow the focus” of the mind.
“Yoga is also commonly understood as a therapy or exercise system for health and fitness. While physical and mental health are natural consequences of yoga, the goal of yoga is more far-reaching. ‘Yoga is about harmonizing oneself with the universe. It is the technology of aligning individual geometry with the cosmic, to achieve the highest level of perception and harmony.’” – Dr. Ishwar V. Basavaraddi is the Director of Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga. Listed below are some of the top practices of yoga and their benefits.
- Anusara: Founded by John Friend in 1997. Meaning of “To flow with grace.” Flowing and uplifting style of yoga, friendly and joyful classes. Benefit of balance, coordination, core and muscular strength. Teachers tend to talk more during this practice of yoga compared to others.
- Ashtanga: Developed and popularize by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in late 1940s. Benefits include core strength and flexibility. Classes are fast-paced since a series of poses are performed in a certain strict guideline and routine linking with breathing. A vigorous and demanding practice of yoga often taught in Sanskrit.
- Bikram/Hot Yoga: Introduced by Bikram Choudhury in 1973, this class takes place in a 105 degree room with 40% humidity. It’s benefits include improving circulation and releasing toxins, most classes can last 90 minutes and can burn more than 700 calories.
- Iyengar/Anusara: Developed by B.K.S lyengar in 1975, this practice’s benefits include aid with back or neck problems and alleviates anxiety and fatigue. This practice is good for beginners, poses are held for long periods so one can relax, balance, and breathe in the posture. Expect lots of standing and balancing poses with props (blocks, chairs and straps).
- Kundalini: Bhajan brought Kundalin yoga to the West in 1968. This is for those who seek deeper spiritual experience with yoga. Benefits include enhancing mind and body awareness and helping one connect with inner self. This practice features invigorating poses with constant movement.
- Power Yoga: This practice is fitness-bases with fast-paced change of poses providing a challenging cardio workout. This type of yoga increases cardiovascular circulation and lowers blood pressure. It is physically demanding and fast-moving. It’s based on Ashtanga yoga but with the flexibility of the teachers following poses in any order. Power yoga term was developed in the 1980s by Bryan Kest and Beryl Bender Birch.
- Prenatal: It is important to consult with you doctor before starting prenatal yoga. Prenatal yoga is great for expecting mothers. This yoga improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety, decreases lower back pain, and increases the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth. Typical class of prenatal yoga includes focused and deep breathing techniques, gentle stretching, positions aimed to develop strength, flexibility and balance, and relaxation. another upside of prenatal yoga is meeting other expecting mothers with the same concerns you may have.
- Restorative: Popularized by Physical Therapist, Judith Hanson Lasater, who has taught yoga since 1971. This practice is slow-paced and classes involve only a handful if poses and props (bolsters, bloc and blankets) in order to eliminate unnecessary straining. This type of practice calms the body and can lower heart rate and blood pressure, it is also ideal for injury and stress rehabilitation.
- Vinyasa: Classes of this practice tend to be fast-pace, but with smooth and almost dance-like movements, also known as flow yoga. Vinayasa is considered an umbrella term for different yoga styles, but tends to focus on classes wthat match movement with breath. The “Father of modern yoga,” Master Krishnamacharya, is considered the architect of Vinyasa as known today.
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