Why would people go and do yoga these days, besides that it becomes the It thing? Mostly because yoga is perceived as calming and relaxing, an exercise without effort, and also it is believed to reduce stress level. It is not 100% wrong, but it is not right either. Yoga can bring you calm and relax effect, but only afterwards… after the practice; especially, later in your daily life experience.
In these 2 parts of Inward Journey writing about Yoga, I will start with the historical background and philosophy of yoga itself. Then in the second part, we will talk a little bit about my personal inward journey in yoga. Most of the content in the first part of this writing, I took from various sources of Yoga books.
The truth is yoga can and does serve many, if not all, of the reasons, but the real purpose of this practice is far from physical. Physical strength may be developed but the ultimate purpose of yoga is the inner/inward journey, unique to each practitioner. Yoga, in Sanskrit means to unite the mind, body, spirit (mental, emotional and intellectual), leading its practitioners to live an integrated, purposeful, useful and noble life. It was first developed in India over 5,000 years ago, as found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The sutras had 8 aspects or astanga (limbs), yamas, niyamas (codes of moral and social conduct), asanas, pranayama (external practices), pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi (internal practices, which cannot be taught and must be experienced individually. All asanas are actually part of a system called Hatha Yoga (‘Ha’ means Sun and ‘Tha’ means moon), which refer to a vast areas of doctrines and practices concerned with harnessing the prana (life force energy), that circulates throughout the human body. The meaning of the word itself brings an opposition together. It is a physical practice toward a spiritual goal.
Today, there are several schools of asana, all of which stem from the Hatha Yoga tradition. So many of these schools are spin off of the others. Most popular schools of yoga are Astanga Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Kundalini Yoga. I am most familiar and have gone through the practice of the first 3 schools and less with the last one.
Astanga Yoga is originally taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who lives and practices up to today in his eighties in Mysore, India. Astanga emphasizes on breath-synchronized movement using a special breathing technique called ujayyi pranayama (‘victorious breath’). The basic premise for Astanga Vinyasa Yoga is to incorporate a posture sequence (there are 6 sequences) with the specific vinyata breath flow, designed to cleanse and purity the internal organs of the body. Astanga emphasized on strength, flexibility and stamina and is the most challenging school.
Iyengar Method is taught and named after B.K.S. Iyengar. It emphasizes not only on attainment of physical poise, but also mental peace, intelligence, clarity and emotional equanimity. Precision and alignment are emphasized in all postures, and students are encourage to stay or hold poses for longer duration to fully experience it. Props such as belts, ropes, blocks are used in this practice to allow you to strive for further perfection. Iyengar Yoga is preferably good start for beginners because of the emphasis on proper alignments and the use of props.
In Jakarta, most yoga classes would teach Astanga and Iyengar Yoga. The teachers themselves are varied in level of experience and way of teaching each method.
Bikram Yoga is named after and taught by Bikram Choudhury which resides in Los Angeles, California. Bikram Yoga is unique in that the studios in which the asanas are practiced in a heated to 42-45 degrees Celcius with 70% humidity. The heat is said to be necessary for his 26 posture series, scientifically designed to enhance the mind and body by warming and stretching muscles, ligaments and tendons. Out of the 26 poses, two are pranayama at the beginning and end of the class.
In Jakarta, you can find Bikram Yoga in Yoga@42 in Sabero House, Kemang, which is designed for its specific heated environment.
Kundalini Yoga is taught by Yogi Bhajan. The word kundalini actually means ‘the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved’. It is a metaphor used to describe the flow of energy and consciousness that already exists within each one of us.
My view is that each yoga method or school has different benefits for the individual practitioners. Don’t be surprised that Yoga does not give an immediate impact or pump up feeling as you have experienced going to the gym. As beginners, it is advisable to try different method and at the end, you choose which one is suitable and most connected to you, what you want to achieve and your lifestyle.