Updated: Feb 1
Have you been wanting to start a new yoga practice? There are many benefits to a daily yoga practice. Yoga has many benefits for your physical, mental and spiritual health. If you want to learn the physical and mental benefits of yoga, I have summarized them here. However, there is also a deeply spiritual component to yoga as well, which is one of the things that I love about it.
Different styles of Yoga.
There are many different types of yoga out there, and choosing which type of yoga is right for you will likely depend on your reasons for wanting to start a yoga practice.
Do you want to do yoga for exercise? Are you interested in reducing anxiety symptoms? Do you want better balance?
These are just a few of the reasons that women just like us have started doing yoga. Here are all the types of yoga, and what they can help with! According to Yoga Medicine, here are the different types of yoga.
Kundalini Yoga - Is good for "Anyone in search of a physical, yet also spiritual practice, or those who like singing or chanting." This type of practice works by "challenging both mind and body with chanting, singing, meditation, and kriyas (specific series of poses paired with breath work and chanting). You might notice everyone is wearing white, as it’s believed to deflect negativity and increase your aura. Typically, a kundalini class starts with a mantra (a focus for the class), then includes breathing exercises, warmups to get the body moving, increasingly more challenging poses, and a final relaxation and meditation."
Vinyasa Yoga - This is one of the most common styles of yoga, that goes through a routine called a flow. “Vinyasa flow is a style of yoga where the poses are synchronized with the breath in a continuous rhythmic flow,” says Sherrell Moore-Tucker, RYT 200. “The flow can be meditative in nature, calming the mind and nervous system, even though you’re moving.” This style of yoga is great for anyone who prefers movement to stillness throughout their yoga practice.
Hatha Yoga - This is a style of yoga focused on creating balance. "The balance in hatha yoga might come from strength and flexibility, physical and mental energy, or breath and the body." Hatha yoga is slower moving, and focused on breath, which makes it a great style for anyone looking for a more gentle type of practice.
Ashtanga Yoga - This style of yoga is great for anyone who likes a routine, which is mostly physical and yet spiritual too. "Ashtanga yoga consists of six series of specific poses taught in order. Each pose and each series is “given” to a student when their teacher decides they have mastered the previous one. This is a very physical, flow-style yoga with spiritual components"
Yin Yoga - This style of yoga is slower, with participants holding their poses for 2 minutes or more. It can be used to stretch out after doing other exercise, or by anyone looking for a slower type of practice. Also, "While other forms of yoga focus on the major muscle groups, yin yoga targets the body’s connective tissues."
Iyengar Yoga - This type of yoga is good for anyone who wants a more static yoga practice, which is good for any type of physical limitations. "While considered optional in many practices, multiple props are used in Iyengar classes — including chairs, walls, and benches, in addition to more common ones like straps, blocks, and bolsters."
Bikram Yoga - A form of hot yoga, "These classes, like ashtanga classes, consist of a set series of poses performed in the same order, and the practice has strict rules. Each class is 90 minutes, with 26 postures and two breathing exercises, and the room must be 105° Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity." The purpose of hot yoga is to allow for greater sweat and flexibility.
Power Yoga - Power yoga is a more fast-paced yoga practice with less of a spiritual component. According to practitioners, “power yoga strengthens the muscles while also increasing flexibility. The variation of sequences keeps the brain engaged while you work all muscle groups in the body.”
Prenatal Yoga - Prenatal yoga is a great way for expectant mothers to work out in a gentle way. "Since this is a practice designed specifically for moms-to-be, it excludes poses that might be too taxing or unsafe for the changing body."
Which style of yoga you choose may vary depending on what type of benefits you are looking to get.
You may even choose different styles of yoga on different days once you get a sense of what your body needs. Personally, I tend to alternate between Vinyasa or Power Yoga for exercise, and Yin Yoga for mental clarity and to release stress. Our needs from one day to the next may not be the same, so it is great to try different styles of yoga to meet different needs.
Spiritual Benefits of Yoga
Yoga began as a part of Hinduism, and was a practice that was done by the Hindu priest caste. According to Yoga Basics, "The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests."
Since Yoga was originally practiced by priests, it does have a spiritual element to the practice. I have experienced this in my own life as I learn to bring my mind and body into alignment through practiced breathing. By focusing on the body and the breath, it allows my mind to relax. Instead of thinking about what I need to do all day, or the past and the future, it allows me to focus on my body and to be present.
Being present in my body, and feeling my muscles relax into long-held poses in Yin Yoga, I also feel my mind begin to relax. At the end of one yoga practice recently, I was in my Savasana, and visualizing light entering my body. I felt this overwhelming feeling of peace, light and love.
It is hard to put into words, but it felt like a coming home. It was a feeling of remembrance of our true nature, that of boundless love. We are all a part of one world, one humanity, and we all can have love and compassion for one another. I felt united with that boundless love, and it brought me a true peace that I have been seeking.
The Himilayan Yoga Institute describes it like this, "A good yoga practice is one that allows its practitioners to achieve peace – with themselves and the external world they inhabit. The spiritual aspect of yoga emphasizes the attainment of peace and clarity of mind, while perfecting the posture is of secondary importance.
When we practice yoga with a spiritual outlook, we acknowledge that the end purpose is transformation and awakening of our true Inner Self. Awakening of Self means realizing our highest potential. Realizing our hidden potential allows us to express the fullness of our divine essence and to thereby make the greatest possible contribution to the world.
Practicing yoga with this ultimate objective will eventually lead to spiritual fulfillment, a state of great bliss. The practice of yoga aimed at total integration includes a certain lifestyle, the practice of compassion and kindness, a vegetarian or vegan diet, and all of this plays an important role in the fulfillment of the above objective."
With Yoga, you can make a whole new lifestyle, as they say above. I originally started doing yoga to decrease my anxiety. I believe that it does so, on a daily basis. As I have delved more deeply into my yoga practice, I have also returned to a more spiritual and mindful lifestyle.
Yoga doesn't have to be spiritual if you don't choose that for yourself. Although Yoga started with religious people, it is not formally linked to any organized religion today. Yoga itself is not a religion either. You get out of your practice what you choose.
According to Best In Yoga, "Yoga is a way to cultivate wholeness. It can help you remember wholeness and recognize it everywhere. For some yogis, wholeness is the spiritual practice of yoga.
Spirituality helps you trust in life and yourself even when managing difficult situations. When you’re connected in the self, inner peace grows. You’ll find you’re more capable of caring and loving for yourself and others and you’ll experience the joy of being who you are by deepening your yoga practice."
The description of wholeness, is what I described as my experience of oneness. First, you come into oneness with yourself. You can align your body, mind and spirit through the breath. Then, you may experience a greater oneness as well.
"I am that, you are that, all this is that."
This is an ancient saying, about honoring the divine in everyone. It sort of explains the experience of oneness. Here Deepak Chopra addresses it, "To get at the answer [what is that], there's another ancient teaching related to "I Am That," which declares, "This isn't knowledge you learn, it is knowledge you become." In other words, "That" transforms the person having the experience. Being centered is an everyday experience accessible to anyone. The trick is to let the value of the experience sink in deeply, and then a shift begins. You start shedding the burden of effort and struggle. You begin to see that at its source, silent awareness contains infinite resourcefulness, intelligence, creativity, and love."
Oneness, love and peace are a beautiful experience. I always thought I would have to go to a mountain top somewhere to find it. But to my surprise, it was always waiting here for me to find inside my own house.
Whether you want to improve your physical, mental or spiritual well-being, yoga is a great way to do that!
Since I have started doing yoga, I have gained strength and flexibility. I can get up from sitting on the ground with my toddler. I can lift things that are heavier, because of the bodyweight exercises. I have toned my arms, legs and abs.
Yoga also helps me to cope with my anxiety better than anything else has. I remember when I feel anxious that I can return to my breath. I deep, slow breath at any time can be calming. As yoga calms my mind, I can remember that calm throughout the day by connecting with my breath.
Finally, yoga has helped me feel a return to spirituality. I can connect to a deep peacefulness that I find during yoga at any time that I need it. Once you find peace, you realize that peace is always there.
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You can experience these benefits, and many others by starting a yoga practice. Let me know what you think in the comments! I love to talk about yoga any time. If this resonates with you, I would also love if you give it a share on your socials.
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