With so many styles of yoga in the West it can get a little confusing where to start if you are new to yoga. The classical forms of yoga such as Ashtanga and Hatha have branched out into many mixed new styles based on the ancient philosophies of * Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
So what is Yin and what is Yang all about? Well simply put Yang is an active more masculine form of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Power that requires strength and endurance and Yin is a more passive feminine form of slow stretching and holding postures from 3-5 min to achieve deep myofascial muscle release. Examples would be Yin itself, Restorative and gentle Hatha. Most of us practice Yang forms of yoga and exercise in our busy lives overlooking the importance of slowing down, giving ourselves and our poor bodies a break and taking a few deep stretch classes per week. We are taught to push ourselves, to achieve, to compete in whatever capacity, career, school, athletics but we are not taught to devote time to meditation, contemplation, relaxation and simply Being.
Developing a balanced approach to yoga with at least 3 Yin or Restorative classes per week will greatly enhance your Yang practice. Getting deep into the tight areas of the hips and hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, and low back will open you up to a much more flexible body that will assist in more advanced postures such as backbends and handstand variations; for example, without flexibility in the front body- hips, hip flexors, quads- and hamstrings it is very difficult to get into a wheel or Hanumanasana without hurting yourself.
Yoga takes time and lots of practice, daily practice. It’s a commitment we make to ourselves in honour of our bodies and in alignment with our soul. The Yoga Sutras are the guidelines to living a spiritual life and the physical practice of yoga makes us acutely aware of ourselves and our Ego. Every time we get on the mat we are not only releasing tension in the body but we are gradually chipping away at the personality -the Ego. Daily practice is like dismantling the barriers, the blocks the Ego has set up to keep us stuck and inflexible…our bodies mirror our thoughts- a stiff, inflexible body reflects the stubborn Ego Mind.
Yoga keeps us in check and in proper alignment in life…mentally, spiritually and physically. As we twist and squeeze the body and its systems wringing out the old and outworn energies, the stored emotions, the toxins from our flesh we feel lighter and more free, we begin to move with conscious purpose and grace through life with all of its challenges. In our discomfort lies the seed to happiness- when we move into and through the “pain” breathing life into our bodies we surrender; it is in surrender that we receive the light of the soul.
Developing a daily practice will change your life in more ways than you might think; it will not only change your body, it will change your diet, your mind, and your awareness of Self: Yoga is a path of self-discovery. Honouring your body, knowing when to push and when to pull back will do wonders for your practice, eventually deepening it beyond your imagination AND you will avoid injuring yourself when you listen to the rhythms of your body.
Yoga is the ancient art of moving into stillness.
Copyright Anicca Brandt 2014
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* The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
The tradition of Patañjali in the oral and textual tradition of the Yoga Sūtras is accepted by traditional Vedic schools as the authoritative source on Yoga, and it retains this status in Hindu circles into the present day. In contrast to its modern Western transplanted forms, Yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or discursive thought, and of eventually attaining a state where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself, that is, is only aware of its own nature as consciousness unmixed with any other object. This state is not only desirable in its own right, but its attainment guarantees the practitioner freedom from every kind of material pain or suffering, and, indeed, is the primary classical means of attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the Indic soteriological traditions, that is, in the theological study of salvation in India. The Yoga Sūtras were thus seen by all schools, not only as the orthodox manual for guidance in the techniques and practices of meditation, but also for the classical Indian position on the nature and function of mind and consciousness, for the mechanisms of action in the world and consequent rebirth, and for the metaphysical underpinnings and description of the attainment of mystical powers.