Practice of Asana is only a small part of the yoga journey. In fact, there are 4 main types of yoga, each of them being a different approach to attain the same spiritual goal.
- Karma yoga = yoga of action. Selfless action, helping others without expecting anything back.
- Bhakti = Yoga of devotion. Attaining the goal through spirituality and surrender to god.
- Jnana = Yoga of wisdom, of knowledge. Approaching yoga through study : right enquiry and right discrimination.
- Raja = Scientific approach to yoga, systematic methodology and analysis of releasing the mind. Develop awareness. This is the path of ashtanga and the yoga of asanas.
Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge or wisdom. This main purpose of Jnana yoga is reached by withdrawing the mind or illusion of self/ of the ego, so that you are open to see the truth. The basis of Jnana yoga is non-duality, or all is one.
Jnana yoga is practiced through :
- Shravana– listening to the teachings of the guru or study of the scriptures such as Vedas
- Manana– reflection on the teachings
- Nididhyāsana– meditation on the nature of truth
As you become yoga teacher, practicing other paths of yoga is a great way to expand your knowledge and bring more to your students.
When I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga, what I liked the most was to work through a definite sequence, even though I found it – and still find it – incredibly challenging.
It helped me gain a better understanding of yoga and get more of the benefits, for several reasons :
- Better focus : Instead of listening to the teacher and hesitating, I know which pose is coming and I don’t have to be distracted by looking around and waiting for instructions. In turn, I can be more focused on my personal practice, and forget everything else. It’s me and my mat.
- Get into the flow of your breathe : because I know what’s coming and how to do the pose, I can give a lot more attention to pacing and aligning my breathe with the sequence, which helps me get into a “flow” more, or meditation mode. I found that this focus on my breathe gives me a lot of peace and pleasure.
- Perfect the postures : doing the same postures over and over again helped me go deeper and see my progress from session to session. I got to the stage where I could focus on breathing in my ribs, or think of my dristi – where to look.
- More flexibility on the options : because I know the sequence and what’s coming next, I can directly take the options that I like the most in each pose
- Pace the effort : I know what I can give and when to slow down based on my energy level.
I got invaluable benefits from practicing the ashtanga sequence. I would recommend for everyone to try working a sequence for a few sessions, and see how it evolves. Of course, It is still good to experiment new things from time to time!
The word yoga means to yoke or bind and is it often interpreted as “union”: the union between the body, the mind, and the spirit. Therefore, this simple word englobes thousands of different practices and interpretations. Nowadays, Patanjali’s third limb of yoga, asanas, is practiced worldwide. It is the most visible and popular part of yoga, and even within this limb, there is a wide range of styles and variations.
When I first started practicing yoga, I didn’t know all the different currents and possibilities that exist out there. I just thought there was one type of yoga that was practiced in the same way everywhere.
Then, I heard of hatha yoga. Hatha is a term that refers to all physical postures of yoga that help us align, open the energetic channels, and balance the masculine and feminine elements of our body. Currently, most Hatha yoga classes are slow-paced and beginner-friendly.
Today everyone can find a yoga style that can suit their needs. For people who prefer slow-paced yoga, Hatha is the most common type but there are many more such as:
- Iyengar yoga, in which postures are held longer to really focus on alignment and detail;
- Yin yoga, in which mostly seated postures are held during long periods of time in order to target deep and rarely used tissues;
- Restorative yoga, in which simple postures are practiced along with a large number of props to achieve a deep relaxation of the body and the mind.
On the other hand, for people who enjoy fast-paced classes, there are other styles such as:
- Ashtanga yoga, a physically demanding style that follows a dynamic sequence of postures to attain flexibility and strength;
- Vinyasa yoga, a style that derived from Ashtanga in which the movement is coordinated with your breath, flowing from one pose to another;
- Bikram yoga or hot yoga is a sequence of 26 postures, each done twice in a heated room
- Kundalini yoga, a style that prioritizes core and breathing exercises to release the kundalini energy in the body.
As I researched more, I realized that when I started practicing, I was doing Anusara yoga, a modern variation of Hatha influenced by Iyengar that focuses on alignment and heart-opening postures. The yoga world is everchanging and the possibilities are endless, it is up to us to find out what we are looking for and explore in order to integrate it into our own teaching.
I feel that every school needs to teach yoga. Through the past 5 days I have learnt that yoga is so much more than just the asanas(physial practice).
It’s about life-how to live, the human body, mind, spirituality, philosophy.
I’m so eager to learn more, and at the same time slightly nervous because I have to remember everything by the end of 20 days. Nevertheless I can feel my inner-knowing(or higher self) telling me I just have to trust the process, relax, and do my best. The mind absorbs more when it is relaxed.
I had been practising yoga asanas about 5 years with youtube videos prior to this YTT and felt like it was time to start.
Currently, I do not think our education system does enough to teach us about life, and the important aspects of life.
Growing up in a pressure-cooker society , I was like a sheep, following everyone else having basic ideas of “success”- being super smart, good-looking, financially stable , having a nice home/ partner etc.
Few years ago around 2012-2014 I had an awakening, I asked myself a lot deep questions and was anxious and depressed.
Yoga has allowed me to relinquish my anxieties and stresses in life. Through doing asanas, and meditation, I feel better about life, and in life, and now through these yoga teacher training lessons I understand more. I love the philosophical part of yoga.
If I were to give an analogy about how yoga helps me live , I would say ;
Life is a constantly meandering river that takes me to places I never expected nor knew existed , and yoga is my boat, keeping me afloat through the turbulences of the river of life.
So I ask myself.. is part of our yoga journey learning what physically we can and cannot do or are we supposed to believe that if we continue with our yoga practice that we will one day be able to accomplish those asanas that we think we are incapable of? There are certainly limitations to my body in its current form. After years of sitting at a desk my shoulders and upper back muscles are incredibly tight and my lower back and core are weaker than I would like. This probably started when I was young closing myself off from others by rounding my shoulders. I also think it can have something to do with growing up in cold climate where to keep warm we are constantly hugging our arms close together. In the last 3 weeks there has been a physical change in my body. Slowly my collarbone is more pronounced, my shoulders are moving backward and I am standing taller than before. I’m a long way off but I hope with regular practice and heart opening poses I will turn around this constant pain that I suffer each day. What I am learning is that though there are potentially limitations to what I will be able to achieve physically in the long run because of my physical form, this does not mean I will not be a great yoga practitioner. By understanding the limitations of my body, it helps me to understand others. I understand that it may not be so easy for everyone to sit cross legged on a mat with their back straight. This actually was something that it took me years to achieve and I still have to work hard at it now. How taking 5 long breaths in downward dog is actually not for a beginner if it is practiced properly… and guess what… touching the floor in a forward bend is not actually a measure of being good at yoga! So often when I have been to a yoga class in the past I have looked at the ‘bendy’ people and wished that was me. Hoping that one day I will be able to do a headstand or a handstand effortlessly. Teachers told me it was just fear that was stopping me but actually my physical form had something to do with it too! If we just think that those that can do all the asanas are good at yoga, where does that leave the rest of us? Where does that leave the beginner? Or the person that doesn’t have the time to practice regularly because they have a busy work schedule or a family to tend to. Does it leave them looking enviously at Instagram at the so called beautiful people in bikinis posing on cliff top in a luxury destination? All that this can bring is self doubt and lack of confidence and wishing away the wonderful lives that we have been given. This in itself is against yoga philosophy. We are told we must practice ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness) and this means to ourselves as well as others. We do not know how long we will have in this life and to practice yoga is to practice gratitude for all that we have been given in good times and in bad. It is about the journey we are on in this life and how we choose to live it. We were asked the question in our YTT – where does the sun rise? The east we answered. No, we were told, the sun does not rise in the east, where the sun rises IS the east. When I told my husband this he said to me… that is because the east is not a place, the east is a direction. I know yoga is showing me my direction and it seems I am heading on my way without a map but I am starting to trust that my internal compass will lead me where I am supposed to go.
WHAT IS YOGA? Master Trainer Sree popped this question to me!!!
I tried to give him the answer how I understand from my Guru, Bhagawan Sri Nithyananda Paramashiva: Yoga is about Union between God and man. Hard to grasp this concept, isn’t it? Well, let us go back to the Yoga Sutra.
So, what is YOGA? YOGA CITTA VRITTI NIRODHAH (Sanskrit) – YOGA is the cessation of the modification of the mind field (from gross to subtle.). My own understand – the ultimate of yoga is beyond mind and body, only pure consciousness – a natural state of being. So, Yoga is not about the Asana (Postures) or stretching exercise that most of the people think, including myself, before really explore deeper into yoga.
If Yoga is not about Asana/Postures, so why are we going through all these asana, I wonder? I refer to the Nithyananda Yoga book and my Guru describes Asanas as ‘steady and comfortable body postures to tune oneself with the Cosmos’. The body (gross) needs preparation to enter into more subtle dimension of Yoga. So Asana do play an important part of Yoga because our being resides in the physical body and we have to keep this body fit and healthy in order for the being to move to the subtle plains.
That is why it is one of the eight limbs of yoga.
My Yogic Journey started all because of Haritakki Powder.
I was so frustrated with “not feeling anything” from most of the metaphysical courses that I have attended in the past 14 years.
Then a friend suggested that perhaps I should unblock my third eye. So, I started looking for ways to activate my third eye. I came across a video of a lady talking about the “King of Herbs – Haritakki Powder”.
According to her, she says her Guru says that Haritakki Powder increases the supply of oxygen to the brain by 300%. I was curious. I searched for the name of her Guru, “Nithyananada” and came across this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezLivJ6rdv0 . I was deeply caught by the information presented in the video. I never knew Yoga from such perspectives….the Twelve Components of Yoga…..that was when i got interested and started to learn yoga last year….
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So ‘why are we here’ is something that we have been exploring in our YTT and we have all been looking inward to identify our personal qualities. This has been an experience that has been both emotional and enlightening for me. I have for many years spent time looking inward to try and understand why I experience the feelings that I have and also why my life has taken me on the path that I have walked to date. My samsaras and samskaras – the impressions from my past and from my current life – have influenced me, but the question is whether I choose to repeat past negative behaviour going forward or whether I choose to live my life free of the previous stresses and strains I have experienced. To live in the present is in some way impossible as everything is moving and changing constantly so that as soon as we are in the present this moment in time is already the past. It seems to me that the question is how we deal with the ever-changing cycle of life. ‘Living in the present’ to me means living in what I would call the ‘flow of life’. Riding the waves rather than being concerned we will drown. If we are weak swimmers, we are always worried that a big wave will come and knock us over or cover us in water so that we cannot breathe, but the stronger we get at swimming the more confident we are that we can swim through or stay above the waves. If we grow further in confidence and master the art of balancing well, we may even learn to surf and use the waves for enjoyment. Yoga teaches us that we can be contented and balanced through the ups and downs of everyday life. By focusing on ourselves and our wellbeing and by practicing self-care we can be available to give to others around us. We have a duty to nature and also to those family members and friends who are sadly no longer with us to live our lives to the full in the most positive way we can. This brings me to a quote that has so far resonated with me very deeply during my YTT: “It’s not how long we live, but how alive we are before we die – Master Sree, 11-9-19”. On that note I think I’ll get on with learning to surf!
Before I took up YTT, I did my yoga in the commercial gyms (LM Bodybalance, Hot Yoga, Yoga Flow etc). To me, yoga is just a series of stretches and fanciful movements. Friends love taking nice yoga poses outside Marina Bay Sands and post them on Instagram. SHOWOFF !
After the 10th lesson, there is so much to learn besides poses. Yoga is so different from the ones in my gym. There is so much to learn. From the mediation and philosophy part (e.g. dharma, food, chakra, pranayama etc) and I can’t believe how Asree and locals study it in ancient India.
On thing that I will want to teach my students will be pranayama breathing and mediation. This is so important in the modern world. People are so stressed out at work.
OK … back to Sanskrit
A yogacharya (pronounced “yo-ga-char-ya”) is the respectful way to address a yoga teacher. Sure, you can call them a “yogi” as well and that is completely acceptable too!
As a part of the 200 hours YTT course, we’re all learning to become yogacharyas and for us all, there is a short poem that I dedicate:
eyes closed and palms up
steady minds and mouths shut
that's how we connect
our own fuse to the common plug
we are it and it is us
there's no give and take
in trying to understand this
there are some mistakes we will make
give up attachment
to almost everything
but be conscious of the experience
while doing anything
learn to live and live to learn
for karma yoga will show
every action has a consequence
either you'll regret it or it will make you grow
soak in all those experiences
and then let it go
clutch on to sand too hard
and the faster it will flow
is definitely no mean feat
your sadhana will take some time
so please do take a seat
close your eyes and look inside
stay grounded, stay cool
say hi to your third eye
and goodbye to the inner fool.
Happy yoga, fellow yogacharyas!!