The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to yoke,” or “to unite”. The practice aims to create union between body, mind and spirit, as well as between the individual self and universal consciousness. Such a union tends to neutralize ego-driven thoughts and behaviors, creating a sense of spiritual awakening.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and whilst many different interpretations and styles have been developed, most tend to agree that the ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve liberation from suffering. Although each school or tradition of yoga has its own emphasis and practices, most focus on bringing together body, mind and breath as a means of altering energy or shifting consciousness.
For Restorative yoga, the intention is to relax as far as possible into the postures, using as little physical effort as possible. The mind focuses on the breath in order to cultivate mindfulness and release tension from the body.
Restorative yoga classes tend to be relaxing and slow paced, with a whole sequence using as few as five or six postures which are held for long periods of time. Props are also used often in order to allow the body to be in the most comfortable, supported position possible. This may include bolsters, blankets, blocks and belts. Gentle music may be played, and the practice may be combined with guided meditation.
Restorative yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, regulates the blood pressure and relaxes the body. As such, Restorative yoga is considered particularly beneficial for those suffering from anxiety, insomnia or headaches, as well as other stress-related conditions.
Restorative yoga is believed to boost the immune system and accelerate the body's natural healing process.
Hot yoga is a term that describes a number of different styles of yoga with one common element – they are all practiced in heated rooms with the temperature usually between 36 and 40 degrees Celsius. Classes are also often held in a room with an elevated humidity level.
The purpose of hot yoga is to encourage sweating, which is believed to detoxify the body, as well as improve flexibility, boost stamina, improve overall fitness, burn calories, relieve stress and increase circulation.
Flow yoga is the general term given to any style of yoga asana in which the practitioner moves dynamically from one posture immediately into another, following the breath. This continuous flow of movement and breath generates a meditative state, encouraging practitioners to let go of thought and focus on experience of the present moment. In flow yoga, each movement into or out of a posture is timed with an inhalation or an exhalation in a choreographed sequence.
Although the most commonly known as Vinyasa Flow, there are many different styles of flow yoga. Most comprise an energizing sequence with focus on stamina, strength and breath, often with a theme incorporated. The flowing movements may sometimes be combined with some longer holds of certain postures. The student generally experiences a sense of fluid motion, from which flow yoga gets its name.
More About Yoga
Modern yoga is most commonly associated with the physical practice of asana, a series of postures often weaved together in styles such as Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga. Asana practice is generally intended to build strength and stamina, to improve flexibility, coordination and balance, and to relax the body. However, this provides only one small aspect of the tradition of yoga as a whole.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras provide the traditional foundation of yoga, in which he outlines an eightfold path of the practice. Known as the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga,’ this path offers a guide to individuals who are dedicated to creating a union between body, mind and spirit.
Each of the Eight Limbs offers a means of living with more integrity, self-discipline, respect for nature and connection with the spiritual aspects of life. These eight practices are intended to be carried out in a holistic and integrative manner:
Yamas - Five universal, ethical and moral observances to live by (nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence and non-covetousness)
Niyamas - Five spiritual and self-discipline observances (cleanliness, contentment, spiritual austerities, study of scriptures and surrender to God)
Asana - physical posture, originally intended only for seated meditation, but more recently adapted to encompass all physical yoga practices
Pranayama - breathing exercises to control the flow of prana (vital life force)
Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
Dharana - Single pointed concentration
Dhyana - Meditation
Samadhi - Liberation or blissful union with the Divine