Yoga is in a renaissance. In the last few decades more than one hundred and fifty registered yoga styles have emerged. Hatha yoga, once the only option in town, was taught by a handful of fringe yogis in living rooms and quirky community spaces throughout North America and Europe. Those days are long gone. Today, yoga is a multi-billion dollar industry used to market cars, condos and lifestyles. With franchised yoga studios (using the same model as Starbucks) and an overabundance of mass-produced yoga apparel, we can be grateful to be here in Bali, where such commercialization has been largely kept at bay.
For the new practitioner, navigating the multitude of “yoga styles” can be tricky. Finding the right fit, whether it be for a yoga retreat or a drop-in class, requires an astute student who is not just following friends and trends, but asking themselves some thoughtful questions that may include some of the following: Do I want strength training or increased flexibility? Do I want to challenge my physical body? Do I need to be nourished, rebalanced and restored? Do I need to learn to breathe more deeply and reduce stress? The next step is to carefully match your answers with what’s available. Take the time to notice how you feel before, during and most importantly, after, a class or retreat. Sometimes what we think we need is not what we truly need.
At its basic level, yoga poses are designed to mobilize joints, free the spine, release physical or emotional blockages, increase strength and flexibility, and ultimately, move prana up the central axis of our bodies, increasing energy and vitality. The effects not only connect our minds and bodies, but also balance and ground us, creating clarity, insight and a deep sense of well-being. No single yoga style can possibly claim to do this for everyone, all the time. Our bodies change from day to day, week to week, and year to year. Our yoga practice needs to evolve and change with us. The food we eat, the air we breathe, the amount we sleep and the love we share with others all impact, and shift, our needs and energy. Fortunately, there is no shortage of variety and it’s a buyers’ market. Yoga styles originate from a variety of people, places and schools. Some come from a family lineage, like the Bihar School of Yoga in India. Others have been created by an individual yogi, like the Iyengar system developed by the Indian yogi of the same name. Some styles, like Bikram and Ashtanga, have become household names. Others, like Yoga Booty Ballet, (marketed as an abdominal and butt makeover with the tagline: “the most fun way to work out and get centered!”), are lesser known but have their followers. Many styles you see on yoga schedules are hybrids of existing styles, such as Core Vinyasa Flow, while others target a certain market like Prenatal Yoga, Chair Yoga or Acro-Yoga. Each year, Yoga Alliance (a governing certification organization) accredits more schools and styles in this ever expanding field.
YOGA and Recovery
If recovery is on your mind, then yoga has much to offer. Generally speaking, all yoga styles can assist one in recovering and restoring one’s health and wellbeing. However, for specific health challenges (illness or injury) you might consider Therapeutic Yoga, Integrated Yoga Therapy or Viniyoga. These styles directly address the needs of individuals and are taught by skilled yoga professionals. Issues such as trauma may be healed through a more gentle style such as Kripalu Yoga. A number of books and studies have been written recently on this topic, namely Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson.
Restorative Yoga developedby B.K.S Iyengar some thirty odd years ago, is likely thebest option for yogis looking for recovery. It can be taught in a group setting and can address a cross section of issues that one may be recovering from. As yoga practitioners age, many are seeking a balance to the more dynamic practices of Ashtanga, Power and Vinyasa. Restorative Yoga (RY) is the filling up this gap as the perfect complementary practice. Built upon the premise that support creates release, Restorative Yoga uses props (bolsters, pillows, blocks, blankets, straps, chairs and eye pillows) in combination with long holds to help the body safely release stress and tension, nurturing the practitioner’s whole being. RY gives the body time to dial down the sympathetic nervous system and dial up the parasympathetic nervous system, moving us out of fight-or-fight into rest an renewal. The focus moves beyond the surface body into the subtle energetic body, affecting us on a more profound level.
Considered by many to be the queen of all restorative poses, Supta Baddha Konasana (“bound angle pose”) can be held comfortably for up to 20 minutes. This pose creates a soothing effect on the central nervous system that results in a profound settling of the mind and body, similar to the feeling after meditation. As an addition to the possible healing benefits listed below, “bounded angle pose” has great potential that many yogis have experienced to be unmatched in any other pose. The body-mind is drawn into an almost dreamlike state, creating a fertile environment of creativity to flourish, doubt or disbelief to dissolve, and pathways to open. Breathe slowly, release to gravity, pause and observe. There is much to be revealed and understood from Restorative Yoga.
Cover drawing of Janet in Savasana
Janet Nicol is the creator of Inspired Bali. A lover of yoga, art, food, culture, spirituality and nomads she created Inspired Bali to share and explore Bali from the inside, out. Janet is a 500 hour certified yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance and leads yoga retreats and teacher trainings. www.janetnicol.com