August 28, 2013

My Yoga is Better than Yours.

Just kidding.

It wouldn’t be very yogic of me to assert that, now would it?

Although sometimes my ego does like to judge other yogis and yoginis as lesser than she.

She has, after all, been practicing for over 20 years. She can do a headstand, no sweat. She can drop back into a full wheel from standing. (She cannot do scorpion or handstand very well, but she chooses not to focus on that.)

She has read a lot of books about yoga.

In fact, when I do find myself in a studio full of lithe yogis and yoginis, I prefer to practice without wearing my contacts or glasses. Why not take advantage of my naturally blurry vision to focus on my own body and practice, rather than look around at others whose asses and asanas are better or worse than mine?

Is all yoga created equal?

Yes. Despite the fact that many members of our ever-evolving, diverse “yoga community” may claim superiority due to their vast knowledge of the Sutras, excellent pronunciation of multisyllabic Sanskrit terms and/or strict veganism.

In America, there are as many styles of yoga as there are practitioners. There are as many branches of Hatha yoga as teachers with the balls to create their own brand of yoga. Some empires have crumbled (i.e. Anusara, Bikram), others you might not have heard of (e.g. AcroYoga, Christian Yoga).

My personal favorite yoga fusion is Dharma Yoga—also known as hatha vinyasa yoga with a spoonful of Buddhist wisdom.

It has been said that the whole catalog of the Buddha’s teachings can be boiled down to two words: Let Go.

Letting go in its physical form looks like Yin Yoga.

You know the Yin/Yang symbol, of course. Well, most of the modern styles of yoga practiced around the globe are of the yang variety. A good, strong, sweaty yang practice is ideally complimented by a sweet, soft, slow yin practice.

The intention in yin is to let go of effort and ambition. The poses are mostly seated forward bends or reclining back bends and twists and are held for up to 3, 4, or 5 minutes or longer. Yin is the polar opposite of yang yoga (e.g. Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow).

Much unlike yang yoga, in yin, the muscles are disengaged and correct alignment is not important.

By doing this, we stretch the seldom-stretched tendons and ligaments between our bones and muscles. This is the opposite of how we normally practice yoga, with the muscles active, alignment essential.

It’s all about finding balance, and though it is important to realize there is no way to constantly sustain perfect balance, the astute yogi will include both active, physically-challenging yang asanas (yoga poses) and restorative, meditative yin postures.

Yin is calm and easy, cool and relaxed. But this is not to say that yin cannot be extremely intense.

Because the body is kept still in a passive position, the mind can run wild and you never know what deeply buried memories and emotions will arise.

Stay present by staying with the breath and body sensations; watch whatever arises without attaching to it and without pushing it away.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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