Yoga or Pilates?

For many people , Yoga and Pilates look very similar – there are no power or cardio loads, exercises are performed slowly and consciously , with calm music. Pilates and yoga are wellness systems that include exercises to develop flexibility, endurance, and concentration. Regular exercises tidy up the body, allow you to find harmony with yourself. In this, both areas of fitness are similar.

But, having examined   these   practice closely, we  can find a lot of differences between them

    What is yoga?

     Yoga is the ancient Indian system of human self-development, which originated long before our era. This is a spiritual tradition, experience and wisdom of many generations that millions of people around the world have followed to this day.

Translated from Sanskrit, yoga means “union, communication, harmony.” Those. the unity of the physical and mental state of a person, the harmony of health and spiritual beauty. The purpose of classes is to achieve and maintain this unity.

It is impossible to imagine yoga without performing various asanas (static postures) that help improve the body. But physical practice is only part of the philosophy of yoga, one of the tools for working on consciousness. It also includes:

  • rules of personal and social behavior;
  • breathing exercises;
  • meditation
  • singing mantras;
  • body cleansing;
  • concentration of attention;
  • desire for complete control over the senses.

Therefore, yoga is a way of life aimed at achieving a balance of physical and psychological health, and not just a set of static exercises that develop flexibility and endurance.

What is pilates?

   Pilates is a system of healing the body, based on the dynamic performance of exercises that are performed in a specific technique and sequence. Their goal is to develop flexibility, improve the condition of joints and spine, posture and coordination of movements.

Pilates, unlike yoga, is a young trend in fitness. The German trainer Joseph Pilates developed gymnastic exercises for the rehabilitation of patients suffering from diseases of the musculature system at the beginning of the 20th century.

6 fundamental differences between Pilates and Yoga.

  • Yoga is the oldest system of self-development, philosophy, lifestyle. Pilates is a relatively young wellness system for the body, one of the types of fitness.
  • Pilates training is aimed at creating a healthy body, practicing yoga – at achieving harmony of the body, spirit and mind.
  • Many exercises and asanas are similar, but have a significant difference in technique. If in classical yoga you need to enter a pose and fix it for a long time (static load), then in Pilates the main thing is movement. All exercises are dynamic, repeated several times. Important consistent articulation of the spine and body muscles when entering and exiting the position.
  • Pilates breathing control helps to concentrate on doing the exercise and working muscles. Ancient practice provides breathing, as one of the steps to self-improvement (pranayama).
  • In Pilates, the muscles of the back and cortex are mainly worked out, in yoga – all muscle groups.
  • In classical hatha yoga additional equipment is not used. In Pilates classes  fitball, rings, rollers are actively used.

In my opinion, you should try both this practice and chose which is most suitable for you. However, if  you want to get a little more than just a beautiful and healthy body, then you may want choose yoga. After all, ancient practice is also aimed at working with the mind, includes methods of spiritual development and self-improvement. Practice will show what is right for you.

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah

In the western world, most of the people perceive yoga as another form of physical workout with relaxing benefits. Some people treat it next to veganism as another trend. Yoga studios are usually full but at the end when some of the teachers start chanting most of the practitioners leave the room- they typically say that they aren’t interested in this ‘spiritual stuff’ they just want to do yoga-for them yoga is the name of the workout, the same as kickboxing, pilates, fitness etc. It might be because lots of gym places offer yoga class next to physical workouts, so its mixed, contaminated and there is no so many real yoga teachers out there. 

When I first started, I didn’t really understand what yoga is about. I felt that it’s something more than physical practise. I started doing it to help me with some emotional problems, I needed it not for my body but for my mind. At that time, it was a form of support to help me deal with stressful situations at work etc. Now I know its not about that but without this, without me feeling this stress  I wouldn’t start it. If I was completely happy in my material life I wouldn’t be looking for something more. Actually, when I think about it I was never fully satisfied in my material life.  There was always something missing.

My approach to life was so emotional. If someone said something or did something I didn’t agree with I had this strong need to defend myself, to explain that it’s not true, I was so attached. I’m not saying that you should agree with everything that someone is saying about you, but being emotionally attached to every judgment takes you further away from understanding yourself. 

Yoga in its ancient traditional development its not primarily about the body, about making you relaxed or distracted form your hectic life style. Yoga is connected to mind.

The three Sanskrit words Chitta Vritti Nirodhah hide the answer to what yoga is really about.

Yoga sutras(basic principles, manual for yoga practitioner ) written over two thousand years ago by Patanjali are the traditional foundation of the inner journey through the spiritual practice of yoga -and its physical part -asanas-practised by most of the people in the west is only one part of 8 limbs of yoga.

The yoga sutras explain what happens to our mind, emotions when you practice yoga- In second sutra Patanjali says ‘Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah– yoga controls, quiets waves(thoughts) of mind, consciousness. You don’t compulsively( obsessively) control the mind but you allow the mind to rest, to switch off by itself. Patanjali further explains that through committed practice and detachment we ll be coming closer to not identifying ourselves with the thoughts, emotions that are the reasons of internal pain, that take us away from our true selves.

Unlimited

It was early morning; I was on my way to the yoga studio, still half asleep I was  suddenly drawn to the motto written on a building saying Patience and consistency are keys to success.  A few seconds later, my eyes were attracted to the red bike that had written unlimited on it.

These three words: patience, consistency and unlimited made me think about these things in my life. I started asking myself if I have been  patient and consistent enough. If I’m not what’s the reason? Have I been really rooted in something I do or it’ s only passion that attracts me for a while but doesn’t let me fully express myself. 

As long as I remember, I was always asking lots of existential questions, trying to understand whats the meaning of life, why we exist?

I studied philosophy and I always have been  interested in spirituality, there were even some moments or rather seconds when I felt I know, I understand but when I was back  in everyday life situations, I have been easily forgetting all the wisdom I thought I gained. 

My first encounter with yoga (or I should rather say my adventure with asanas) happened about two years ago. I started doing some simple asanas briefly for 15 minutes every morning before going to work. It wasn’t regular practice but I felt there is something in it. I attended some commercial classes but these weren’t was I was looking for, something was still missing. I kept practising on my own and then a year later when I moved to Singapore I found out that I don’t do all the poses I thought I know how to do in a correct way. I kept attending professional yoga studio two, three times per week, learning right alignments, it became my practice, it felt good but I was still missing something. And finally all started making sense when I joined Tirisula teaching training.

Our morning talks about the philosophy behind yoga, discussions about life and long and tiring practice brought lots of joy into my life; it felt so good or I should rather say that I felt that I am finally on the right path. The first week was quite slow and intense, the second one was even more intense but went so fast, on Friday my body felt knackered, but my mind was so fresh, I felt awakened. I finally understood that the main thing I was missing my whole life was having an austerity that in this case is yoga. You feel pain, but it doesn’t make you want to stop, it switches your brain off. 

WHAT IS YOGA

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.

Is Yoga a complete Workout?

By Harsh Thakkar

The more I read about it the more evidence I find to support it. Well not sure if I can call it evidence yet, because neither have I seen the “evidence” from my own eyes, nor have I paid any medical labs or scientists to conduct the research on my behalf. Yes, I have spent a few hours googling about it, I will not deny it.

My first few findings were that Yoga has a lot of benefit for toning of your muscles, achieving muscular strength, flexibility, core strength, relaxation, endurance and reduce stress levels. There was also mention of it being good for cardiovascular health and increasing lung capacity. And I did come across a few articles explaining in detail how it really is proven by experiments conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the largest exercise science association in the world, that Yoga can be at par if not better than any other aerobic exercise out there in the world like running, cycling or swimming. Now I still am going to take that with a pinch of salt.

The parameters one can use to define physical fitness is cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, lung capacity(VO2 Max), Flexibility and body composition( percentage of fat, muscles, bones, organs and other non-fat tissues). Yoga has been proven in one way or another to improve all of the above within a span of 8 weeks of practice (2-3 times per week) in all age groups irrespective of previous chronic health ailments, sex, smoking habits etc.

Now I don’t know how true this is and whether ASCM was paid by the Federation of Yoga Loonies to prove that Yoga is awesome. I don’t even think such a federation exists, because I just made that up!

What I can put on the table for you to consider are facts:

  1. I lost about 9 kilos in 4 months, since I started practicing Yoga
  2. I do feel positively less stressed
  3. My chronic Rhino sinusitis has been less active
  4. My stamina of exercising and endurance have both increased many fold. And I have eye witnesses in the form of my yoga batch-mates to vouch for that. Still long way to go though…
  5. Don’t even get me started on my flexibility
  6. I still have not achieved the zen state. I must mention this as I do fight with my wife every now and then and she will read this article at some point in time I would like to believe

So whether it’s a complete workout or not – I don’t know. As a wise man said once upon a time, Yoga is not about fitness but about wellness. I will add a bit of running, swimming and a game of tennis to my exercise regime, just because I love it and I don’t like to put all my eggs in the same basket. But will I continue to do Yoga? Heck yeah!

Yoga for beginners

by Harsh Thakkar

When we grow up, as humans we start taking things for granted. Small miracles which power our everyday life are still happening with the same frequency and un-mindfulness at which they used to happen when one is born. For instance, you still are involuntarily breathing – without really thinking about it or giving it a second thought. You still eat food, and in a few hours, it provides you with ample energy to engage in activities you love and strengthens your overall body, or simply put “it becomes your body”. Yes, there is a scientific explanation to all this, but nobody thinks about it while doing it. Nobody has the time.

Actions and milestones which used to be groundbreaking when you were 1 year old – the first eye contact, the first step, the first solid meal, the first word that comes out of your mouth, all these happen daily now in your adult life, but they have stopped being miraculous. When I convinced myself to sign up for a yoga teaching course, I didn’t know why I did it. The teacher asked everyone in one of the first few classes – do you want to become a teacher? My answer was maybe, at certain point in my life if I get good at it (still far from it).

I am now in that phase of my yoga journey when I’ve become physically capable of doing most asanas (I must add not perfect yet) but still wondering “What is Yoga really? ”

Recently I started teaching basic yoga to some of my friends and family – they were the only ones who were brave enough to take the risk. And during these sessions I found myself explaining to them – “Yoga is not an exercise regime, it’s about wellness. A way of life.” Essentially the word means “Union”, the union of mind, body and soul – some would say. Or the “Union of oneself with the nature”. Easier said than done, one of my friends chimed. I couldn’t find myself to deny that and just smiled in response.

I read somewhere on the Internet of all things that Yoga is “a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.” Well that sounds amazing, apart from the fact that the religion of Hinduism has nothing to do with it! Yes, it was written about and established by saints at the time when Hindu religion was going strong in India. But that would be the equivalent of saying that Pilates is a “Nazi system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness.” Although Pilates was developed during the first world war, Nazism was not even coined at the time even though Hitler was serving in the German army, he had not yet taken control of Germany. Pilates has nothing to do with Nazism, just like Yoga has no religious link – plain and simple.

Living in the moment has become hip these days, but how many people are doing it? If you actively start doing it, that would mean just enjoying the present and not thinking about the future. You earn 3000$ a month, you spend it all, have a great time and live from month to month. Not sure if that’s a good idea. But does it have to be financial all the time?

Living in the moment could also mean, enjoying small mercies in life, that great cup of coffee; the sweet taste of fresh fruit in your mouth; spending time with your loved ones. And then the more basic stuff – you’re still alive and kicking; still able to breath and enjoy the sunrise and sunset, able to walk and get around.

If I were to quote Sadhguru, founder of Isha foundation his definition of Yoga is “that which brings you to reality. Literally, it means “union.” Union means it brings you to the ultimate reality, where individual manifestations of life are surface bubbles in the process of creation. Right now, a coconut tree and a mango tree have popped up from the same earth. From the same earth, the human body and so many creatures have popped up. It is all the same earth.”

When one is practicing Yoga, your mind is focusing on getting that asana right, getting the breathing right, that pain in your thighs during Utkatasana, the rhythm of movement during Suryanamaskara. You’re at that time living in the moment 🙂 So one could say that Yoga teaches you and trains your mind to live in the moment.

Elevator Pitch for Yoga

In the consulting world there’s a term called the “Elevator Pitch”.
Imagine you’re standing in an elevator. When the doors open, someone walks in. You glance at his face. Suddenly, you realise this is someone really important. For the next 30 to 60 seconds, it’s just you and him in that tight space. You now have the chance of a lifetime to sell him an idea, a product or a service. How would you summarize your thoughts? What’s the most interesting pitch you can make in that short ride?
When the doors open, is he keen to find out more? Have you won him over or lost him forever?
The Elevator Pitch came to mind a couple of weeks ago when we started lesson planning for beginners.
At that time Master Satya had a suggestion: “Tell the students your name, and give a quick introduction about Yoga.”  That “quick introduction” turned out to be surprisingly challenging.
A number of us stuttered and stumbled, as we got increasingly tangled in our thoughts and words.
How do you explain to students that what they normally equate with Yoga is actually just the Asanas, and Asanas are just one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga (some of them might even ask “what do you mean by ‘limb’)? Do you tell them about all the other limbs? Or is that too esoteric for a layman, especially if he’s just looking for some exercise? If Yoga is not a form of exercise, what is Yoga?
How do you compress the meaning of Yoga into a 60-second soundbyte that is:
–          Reasonably accurate
–          Accessible to the layman
–          And better yet, intriguing (so that students will be motivated to find out more)
I realised then how important it was to sort out my personal understanding of Yoga. Aside from students, there will surely be other instances in conversations with friends and even strangers, where I’ll find myself facing a casual question of “so, what’s this Yoga you’re doing?”. And they won’t be expecting a long answer, that’s for sure.
After some thought, here’s my attempt (tailored for a class intro):
“What you normally see in studios and exercise classes are actually known as ‘Asanas’, which means postures or poses held in a comfortable and steady manner. This is just one aspect of the practice of Yoga. But Yoga is not just about physical activity.
In Ashtanga Yoga, there are eight aspects in total. Aside from Asanas, there are breathing techniques to help regulate our prana or life energy. We call this Pranayama. There’s also mediation or Dhyana, philosophy and guidelines on ethical conduct. Practising Yoga will improve our self awareness and help us to confront our inner selves with honesty. It addresses our physical, mental and spiritual health as a whole [I won’t go into detail here, but for those interested in finding out more, we can discuss after class] Our focus today is on Asanas – the physical postures. Asanas improve our physical health and ability to concentrate.  As we go into each pose, we become more aware of our body, we recognise our individual abilities and limitations. With regular practice, we gain more strength, stamina and flexibility.  Asanas can also benefit blood circulation, internal organs, hormonal glands and the nervous system. When we have a healthy body, it forms a good foundation for mental and spiritual health.”
There’s no right or wrong answer. I’m sure every individual would have his or her own interpretation.
So what’s your Elevator Pitch for Yoga?
– Laurel

What is Yoga from the perspective of the 3 Gunas?

According to Vedic perspective, all of material nature (Prakriti) is thought to be made up of three primary qualities or “gunas.” These three gunas make up the essential aspects of all nature—energy, matter and consciousness.
These qualities of nature, or gunas, are:
Sattva – the power of harmony, balance, light and intelligence; higher spiritual potential.
Rajas – the power of energy, action, change and movement.
Tamas – the power of darkness, inertia, form and materiality
It can take a bit of contemplating to understand what these “qualities of nature” are and how they are relevant to our lives and our sadhana (yogic practice). Perhaps the simplest way for us to understand the gunas is that matter is tamas, energy is rajas and light is sattva. These qualities are described as the main components or elements of our physical universe.
The Earth Element is the realm of tamas or darkness, of physical matter.
The Fire Element is the realm rajas, of action and change, symbolized by storms with their process of lightning, thunder and rain. It indicates energy or subtle matter on all levels.
The Air Element is the realm of sattva, of harmony and light. It indicates light as a universal principle that is the origin of all matter and energy. The entire universe is thought to consist of light that moves in the form of energy and condenses into physical matter.
The universe and all of nature is inextricably linked to the gunas and are formed from them. We as people are influenced by these same qualities and processes which are at work within each of us. Both our bodies and our minds are subject to the ebb and flow of the gunas within us. Each of us is thought to have an intrinsic mix of these qualities (called doshas). It is the aim of yoga practice, in all its various forms, to bring into balance our individual mix or the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. Yoga of course favors the cultivation of sattva, the guna of higher consciousness, yet all three gunas must be considered and brought into balance in both the mind and body. However, the ultimate goal of yoga is union with the absolute. This would imply that sattva is not the end goal but it is the ultimate union with the divine that we are seeking.
Hence, a Yogi could be seen as a clear, running stream. When we practice asana, meditation and pranayama (breath techniques) regularly, all the systems and functions of the body line up in an optimal flow of energy. In other words, the gunas are in balance and everything begins to work well and we start to feel the radiant, vibrant health that is our birthright. Our usual aches and pains disappear, we begin to feel naturally more flexible and strong, our sleep and digestion improve and we may sense a serene calmness or peacefulness of heart and mind. The over all “tone” of our being feels more exuberant and at the same time grounded and steady. The aging process becomes one of continual growth and discovery rather than a falling apart. A feeling of being more connected to ourselves and to others may develop, and we may begin to see the world and how we live in it in a kinder, gentler way. Yoga, in all of it’s forms, is about bringing the various aspects of our self into balanced harmony. The result is that we tap into a higher, clearer energy positively affecting all aspects of our health and well-being.

Yoga business

To my surprise, Master Paalu talks about Yoga not only as a philosophy but also as a business, without any taboo regarding fees and money, market, business strategy and market trend. As many people, I thought about Yoga as a philosophy detached from all these materialistic concerns, that it should be free or on donation, generous and not profit-oriented. But it starts to make sense in my mind.
 
The warning came from a small incident at the beginning of the TTC course when a payment was not made on due time by the studio owner where the TTC was taking place. It was a real case illustrating what Master Paalu would try to tell us in the next few days: in the Yoga business, teachers should not be the poor ones while studio owners may exploit them in an unethical way. Yoga is not about being weak. It is not about living in poor and difficult conditions. Because one cannot live and practice without money, money should be earned in an ethical way and by the codes of Yama and Niyama. Once this question is handled in a proper way, we can fully dedicate ourselves to Yoga, without any frustration, hypocrisy or taboo. Or thinking about the money we should be making or this student or studio manager who owes money.
 
That was also illustrated by the way the incident was solved: it was discussed in front of all students and not in their backs, with transparency, calm and honesty. It made it crystal clear that money should be handled properly so that we can dedicate ourselves 100% to Yoga. Yoga has been alive for at least 2500 years already and it will not die in today’s world because yogis are living in dire conditions. On the contrary, it will strive and flourish even more, also because it is financially sound among other reasons. Yoga have come out of India , arriving in the West and other countries only recently. The business model applied in India (donation, ashram, university) may not apply here because the culture is different. Recently, I was told about a Vipassana meditation teacher who was charging 20 usd/ hour. It shocked me at first as I know it is on donation in India. But I realised that after all, yoga teachers may have faced the same cliché at the beginning 50 years ago when they started teaching in the West. It does not shock me to pay for yoga class, so why am I shocked if someone charges for meditation class? In 5 or 50 years, meditation could become as popular as yoga and people will have accepted it? The business model has to be invented and accepted by the general public. I guess there is no taboo about it as long as it is handled within the ethics of honesty – Satya -and non greed – Asteya.
Huy