Yoga vs. hatha yoga
What is today commonly referred to as yoga is actually hatha yoga. It is a system of asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath control) which, if practiced properly and regularly over time, can become a powerful tool of self-transformation.
One actually doesn’t do yoga just on his/her mat. When you are kind to your neighbor – you are doing yoga; when you are patient with your child– that’s also yoga; when you listen to a troubled friend – you are doing yoga. Yoga is a way of living and hatha yoga (‘yoga’ further in this text) simply helps us live better.
Different styles of yoga
There are many styles of yoga today: Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kripalu, Kundalini, Viniyoga, and many others – they are all styles of hatha yoga. Postures are taught slightly differently from style to style and even the names of the postures may not be the same. Bikram yoga is taught in heated studios; Iyengar teachers pay close attention to alignment and details; Ashtanga is a rigorous vinyasa system. In order to see what style of yoga you like the best, you will have to try classes in different styles. Most of them offer a free first class.
Why you should do yoga
Yoga is one of the oldest transformational and therapeutic tools around. It is becoming increasingly common for healthcare providers to recommend practicing yoga. Yoga teachers are working with people in hospitals, physical therapy clinics, doctors’ offices and other medical settings. The great thing about yoga is that it does not work only as a natural medicine when we are sick, but also as a tool to preserve good health. Body and mind are interactive entities; the same way you can affect your body by using your mind, you can affect your mind - by using your body!
On a personal level, among other great things yoga has been doing for me, yoga helped me quit smoking.
You are never too old or too stiff for yoga.
Importance of props.
Too many times we see a yogi (male practitioner of yoga) or a yogini (female practitioner) on the cover of a magazine, all wrapped up in a pretzel. This gives us wrong picture of what yoga really is. It is definitely not about appearance. Yoga is about experience. In other words, how you feel in a posture is far more important than how your posture looks (posture vs. pose).
Today, every body can reap the benefits of yoga postures – thanks to the great master of yoga - B.K.S. Iyengar, who introduced props to yoga. A prop can be a chair, a block, a blanket, a belt, a wall, or any piece of furniture that helps modify the posture according to the practitioner’s abilities and/or level of experience. Props also enable practitioners to relax more into the posture and stay there longer, thus creating an opportunity for self-study.