Choose Your Own Adventure

Posted by on Sep 13, 2012 in Breath and Body | Comments Off on Choose Your Own Adventure

Choose Your Own Adventure

How long have you been attending the same yoga class?  When the seasons transition, when your moods shift, when you develop an injury or a particular therapeutic need, do you still stick with your habitual class?  There are so many different styles of asana practice, each one offering distinct benefits (some also carrying risks), why not use a growing awareness of the individual needs of your body and look to your physical yoga practice as a kind of therapy for whatever ails you or to seek balance when you are feeling off-kilter?

Are you feeling lethargic, slow, heavy, and stuck?  Try an energetic vinyasa class to burn off that stagnation and bring some levity, playfulness and energy.  These classes are creative which keeps you on your toes (figuratively and literally), your body will move in different ways each time creating new neuropathways and encouraging strength-building while sweeping away the fuzzy cobwebs that are holding you back.

Are you feeling frazzled, stressed and exhausted?  There are a few approaches here.  You could try a restorative class, which uses props to facilitate a state of deep relaxation and passive release of larger muscle groups, or you could opt for a yin class where you are encouraged to move into stretches and hold them for lengthy periods of time (you must wait and work past the muscle resistance before they finally relax and allow you to move into your deepest manifestation of the stretches).  Flow yoga is another option here.  Sometimes the burned out mind needs a bit of movement to clear the corners.  If it’s a burned out body, however, skip the flow and choose something more static.

Are you having difficulty sleeping, finding yourself mentally strained and distracted?  Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) is a wonderful option to facilitate profound relaxation and escape from the rat-race of the frenetic mind.  It’s probably the most relaxed state you can harness while remaining awake!  This is highly recommended before the bedtime hours.

Are you looking to lose weight, create muscle, or build strength/endurance?  Ashtanga classes are a great option for those looking for a predictable sequence of strong movements and postures and an athletic kind of vibe.  Not everyone is seeking subtle body cues or a creative sequence in their flow.  This practice allows the student to clearly see his/her progress as the same poses are explored from week to week.  You will sweat and the next day you will ache, but you’ll also feel great.  Bikram Yoga is another possibility here.  This is an athletic series practiced in a very hot room.  It would be advantageous for people needing to seek more freedom in tighter bodies.  Both the heat and the poses are extreme, however, so it’s not for everyone.  If you enjoy the heat, Moksha is another option- flow yoga in heat, not quite as intense as Bikram.  Vinyasa flow is another powerful practice that builds stamina and increases muscle tone over time.

Are you highly flexible, often feeling lightheaded and have hyper-mobile joints?  A slower Hatha offering is recommended (even at a level 2).  Avoid yin classes or long holds in passive stretches and seek instead a practice that fosters strength building.  Vinyasa or Ashtanga may be too quick moving to ensure joint stability, though if you have a lot of body awareness you can create integration and move with safety.  Hatha classes are less about the flow and more about shifting between various poses, some with longer holds.  Standing poses are particularly beneficial.  Seek to build an even strength in partner muscle groups (i.e. abs and back, hamstrings and quadriceps, abductors and adductors…).  Iyengar classes are also recommended here as they are very strong and carefully instructed to protect the joints- integrity is key!

Are you recovering from an injury and seeking a safe yet effective practice?  Try Iyengar yoga which has been developed as a prop-heavy offering meant to align joints and use muscles within a safe range of motion.  Also, Iyengar-trained instructors tend to have a lot of knowledge about anatomy and alignment in poses and will be best able to get you back on the road to your more traditional practice.  Don’t expect passive and relaxed, however.  These classes are a lot of work!

Are you a runner (or biker or athlete!) looking to balance the body with elongation and flexibility?  Try Iyengar, Hatha or Yin.  Classes like Bikram (or Moksha or Hot Yoga) may be good for elongating tight muscles.

Are you pregnant and in need of some relaxation and hip-flexibility preparation?  Prenatal classes help to chill the minds and relax places where mom-to-be tend to hold stress while also preparing the body for labor/delivery and building breath awareness.  Yoga Nidra is also an excellent option to help you relax and quiet the mind and body.

Are you feeling too serious and need to bring some playfulness to your life?  Try partner yoga, acro yoga, suspension yoga or a creative vinyasa class.  These practices involve a lot of interaction, a lot of spontaneity and playfulness.  Tracking down a class that uses upbeat music for the flow, or seeking a playful workshop are other options.

Are you just looking to shake things up?  If you are used to really athletic classes, try slowing things down or at least complimenting your flows with more meditative, relaxed offerings such as yin, restorative or nidra.  If you tend to practice long held poses and deeper stretches, try allowing for more movement by taking a hatha flow, vinyasa or an Ashtanga class.  The movements help sweep away stagnation in the micro-spaces that exist between muscles and can leave you feeling rejuvenated and energized.

Try something new.  Seek to bring balance into your life by finding a complimentary practice rather than one that has become habit or further contributes to your tendencies.  After all, as Iyengar says, it’s all yoga!  Don’t just do yoga; do the yoga you need.

Check out the new fall schedule at Spirit Loft.  We’re offering what you’re looking for!

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.