November 22, 2013

Yoga is Like Beer. ~ Yoli Ramazzina

Yoga, just like beer, comes in many flavours.

‘Hatha’ yoga is a term for yoga that is based on physical postures. There are many different yoga practices which fall under the Hatha umbrella. Just as there are many kinds of delicious brews that fall under the umbrella of ‘beer.’

When someone says “beer,” many people will picture a frosty mug filled with pale yellow to golden liquid with a bit of foam on top. Most people would picture a lager. According to Wikipedia, “Pale Lager” is the most widely consumed and commercially available style of beer in the world.

But there is a whole huge world of beer out there beyond just lagers. Because yoga and beer are two of my favourite things, I’d like to discuss just a few of the different types today.

Iyengar yoga is all about alignment, alignment, alignment! And for IPA (India Pale Ale) lovers, it’s all about the hops, hops, and more hops! Hop-heads are very hardcore about the strong, distinct flavour of their brews (the hoppier, the better)! Iyengar yogis focus a great deal of attention on proper alignment of the body as well as pranayama (breath control.)

In the same way that IPAs can be a strongly-flavoured beer that too intense for some, Iyengar yoga is a rigorous practice that may send some impatient yogis (me) running to the nearest flow class.

All the more reason I could probably benefit from some Iyengar yoga classes. It’s on my to-do list, I promise.

Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow  yoga is a type of yoga that links breath with your movements. As we move through various yoga asanas (postures), we link each movement with an inhalation or exhalation, resulting in a flowing physical practice. Alignment remains important—you don’t want to be all willy-nilly about it or you just might injure yourself! However, much less time is spent on finding the “perfect” alignment for each posture.

The flowing movement linked with the breath work is what builds heat in the body and causes us to sweat and detoxify our bodies. It’s a robust stout that is dark in colour and full of flavour. It’s less about the hops and more about roasted barleys and malts. Yumm! This brew is not for the faint of heart and neither is an Ashtanga practice.

Flow yoga requires some strength and stamina, just as appreciating a good stout requires some maturity of one’s beer palate.

What about restorative yoga? I’d like to compare it to a fine barrel-aged vanilla porter. A porter is a dark beer, similar to a stout, but a bit gentler in taste. Think more rich than robust. Restorative yoga nurtures our bodies and leaves us feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Asanas are supported by the use of props, so our bodies don’t have to work to maintain the posture. Vanilla porter utilizes props as well. Oak barrels or sometimes casks are often used, allowing the chocolate malt and vanilla bean flavours brew together over time. The end result? Just like that feeling when you float out of a restorative yoga class… pure deliciousness.

Ah, but what about the evocative Kundalini yoga? In my experience, Kundalini yoga is like sour beer, and I mean this is a good way! The first time I tried sour ale, my face puckered and I was a bit taken aback by the extremely tart flavor. I pushed the glass away and let my tastebuds mellow out for several moments. When the pucker-inducing feeling passed, I found myself anxiously reaching for the glass, eager to take another sip of this unique and new (to me) breed of beer. My experience with Kundalini has been similar.

Kundalini is a very different type of yoga. Instead of moving through various postures one at a time, Kundalini postures are done in repetitive sets called Kriyas. There are more chanting and spiritual elements in Kundalini yoga.

After my first class I didn’t go back for about seven years—not because chanting or spirituality is bad, the class was just so different than what I expected. I was a yoga newbie at the time, just beginning to explore the Hatha classes offered at my local gym. Holding postures, breaking a good sweat, and feeling wonderful after is what yoga was to me. I didn’t understand how flapping my arms for three minutes at a time was yoga. Now I feel like I just wasn’t ready at the time to benefit from what Kundalini had to offer.

Seven years is a long time to let my ‘tastebuds’ mellow out. But, much like beers, sometimes one just needs to find just the right brew (or possibly the right teacher) to entice them. When I finally tried another Kundalini class, with a teacher that resonated with me, I found myself wanting to go back more and more, the same way I crave sour beers now!

I can’t always purchase sour beers to enjoy, since because of the ageing process, sour ales can be a bit on the pricey side. However, when I do, it is such a delicious indulgence that I savor. Similarly, I am not able to incorporate Kundalini quite as much as I’d like into my regular practice. The classes offered locally for me don’t always take place at a convenient time. I’ll take my lunch break early sometimes to experience the benefits Yogi Bhajan introduced to the West, but this isn’t always a feasible option for me.

When I do make it to a Kundalini class, I leave feeling genuinely uplifted. It’s very similar to the little pangs of joy I feel as I relish and savor each sip of a great sour brew.

Yoga is like beer. Who knew?


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Editor: Renée Picard

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons}

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