Friday, May 26, 2017

How has Vinyasa Yoga Become Popular Globally?

vinyasa yoga
By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500

In the modern world, the term "yoga" has become something of a catch-all term, which encompasses a dizzying array of styles, practices, techniques and even environments. Just a few of the many types of yoga practiced today are Vinyasa, Hatha, Prenatal, Hot, Therapeutic, Restorative and Yin Yoga.

Each style of yoga has a very different aim or goal, from meditation and centering to muscle development to aerobic activity. One of the most popular yogic techniques in the modern world is vinyasa yoga. Some might argue, however, that what makes it so popular is contrary to the original intent and purpose of yoga. Yoga was developed as a means of helping practitioners balance, focus and center on what is within, rather than the exterior world around us. Yoga is intended to be a physical, mental and spiritual practice. 

This concept is a somewhat foreign one in chaotic modern cultures where people frequently pride themselves on how busy and/ or exhausted they are. Thus, it should come as no surprise that it was predominantly in the cities that vinyasa yoga rose to such popularity. Although, ironically, the city dwellers that probably need what yoga in its most ancient form provides, are the ones that reject it for its more modern flowing form.

Vinyasa yoga is also known as vinyasa flow because of the way in which one pose flows quickly into another. Other forms of yoga focus on deepening into a pose, stretching further, opening hips, aligning the spine and even centering spiritually. It should be noted that while vinyasa yoga is intended to move smoothly from one pose to another, it is meant to focus heavily on aligning breath with movement.

An argument could be made, however, that vinyasa yoga today has shifted the focus entirely away from being a centering practice to being solely for the purposes of increasing heart rate and working up a sweat. As a result, vinyasa yoga, which is generally the most aerobically challenging of all types of yoga, is also the most popular among fitness buffs and rising in popularity across the globe. Possibly as a result of the growing influence on an obsession with physical fitness.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with the popularity of the vinyasa discipline per se, it could potentially have a negative impact on the broader goals of yogic practice. Here are three potentially negative outcomes to the rise of classes that focus so strongly on extreme physical fitness rather than the overarching goals yoga is meant to achieve.

1. Takes focus away from people that need what yoga has to offer the most

Yoga is a phenomenal, low impact way for people who are severely overweight or out-of-shape to start the long journey back to health and fitness. The version of vinyasa yoga practiced by fitness crazed practitioners, however, is essentially designed for people who are already in excellent shape. This can make it difficult for overweight and out-of-shape people to find classes that focus more on the slower, gentler poses and rhythms that would be most beneficial to them.

2. Can further injure people looking to yoga for injury recovery

One of the most popular reasons for practicing yoga is to recover from back injuries, keep the spine aligned and promote overall skeletal health. The fast pace at which vinyasa techniques move from one pose to another can actually cause further injury to spines and skeletal structures already out of alignment.

3. Takes focus away from possibly the most needed aspects of yoga

On the whole, modern practitioners outside of India seem to be uncomfortable with the spiritual aspects of yogic practice, which modern vinyasa probably focuses on the least. In reality, however, in the fast-paced, high-stress world, the spiritual aspects, centering asanas may be the most needed.

To answer the question of how vinyasa took off so well: The modern practitioner is usually a young female who uses technology, has a full schedule, and needs to reduce stress as soon as possible. Yoga in motion is the perfect solution. Vinyasa is here to stay and as practitioners mature the deeper aspects of Yoga will be realized.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Opening Up Yoga Class in New Ways - 2 to Try

proceeding into warm-ups
By Kathryn Boland 

Have you noticed yourself, or other teachers, opening up class in the same Child’s Pose or Easy Pose? Are you searching for ways to open up class that will be grounding and comforting for your students, but also pique their interests while potentially teaching them something new? We teachers learn and grow through reaching out of our comfort zones, and experimenting (with proper judgement and caution) with new methods and content. 
At the same time, students can learn and grow through those offerings. All involved can walk steadily on the path of the yogic lifestyle, ever closer to our highest selves. What better place to start all of that than the beginnings of our classes? Read on for two ways to open up classes with a balance of grounding and energy, those which you might not yet have thought of or tried. Shanti! 

1) Crocodile Pose

Starting classes prone, on the belly, can be a grounding and relaxing way for opening up classes. On the other hand, it can feel vulnerable to some students - particularly those who have histories of trauma. If you are working with a specific population of students who might very well have trauma history (such as mental health patients, the incarcerated, those in certain social services agencies), perhaps this might not be the wisest of options. 
All people potentially have trauma history, however, so offer students alternatives (such as Child’s Pose, Easy Pose, or any of the following options). Otherwise, have students lie on their bellies, with one hand on top of the other to make pillows for their heads. 

As an optional energetic cue, guide them to soften their frontsides and let that release seep into their backsides. Breathing while prone can be more restricted than in other positions, so inform them that they can breathe into their backsides (a strange idea, but anatomically logical, as the lungs can expand into one’s posterior side). 

Options for proceeding into warm-ups in movement include gentle, low Cobra pose, Sphinx Pose with rolling the head side to side, and bending the knees to windshield-wiper the feet or roll the ankles. From Prone, one can smoothly transition into Tabletop, Plank, or Down Dog (though be mindful that it’s still early in class, and to proceed slowly and cautiously). 

2) Supported Hero’s Pose 

This option can allow students to connect with fuller breath, greater spinal length, and connection to “core center”/midline - right at the beginning. If they can maintain any/all of those connections throughout class, they can enjoy a more fruitful and rich practice. That carried through to subsequent classes can mean greater benefit of students’ yoga practices in their lives. 

Many students need to sit on one or more blocks (at the lowest and widest position, in between their ankles) in order to maintain safe, natural spinal alignment in this pose. Warm-up options here include head (side to side swings), shoulder, and wrists. Gentle movement to transition into fluidly could be a seated Cat/Cow flow (mild backbend and forward curve), Urdhva Hastana (Upward Reach), sidebend variations (with numerous mudras possible), and twist (bound or unbound, arms raised shoulder height or touching thighs or floor/block). 

Within reason, good judgement, and regard for students’ desires and needs, enjoy experimenting with variations of any of the above. Your students might very well treasure experiencing the grounded energy, the upward lift and downwards stability, that starting in Hero’s Pose can offer. As always, inform students that they are free to enter alternatives that might better suit them. 
In addition, be prepared to work individually with a student who calls you over for assistance, or whom you notice looks uncomfortable. The beginning of class is not quite the place for healthy challenge. It’s a time to settle into the experience, away from the frenzy of everyday modern life, and prepare for the healthy challenges ahead. 

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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