Yoga is all about the mind-body connection; the asanas or poses, yoga breathing – breathing in tune with movement and meditation serve to foster that very connection.
As yoga transcends the physical – indeed, it is the flow of energy that compels movement, would it matter in what order we do our salutations?
Let us illustrate the point in a way that is easy to visualise.
Let us suppose you want to get from Manchester to Edinburgh, maybe to attend a Yoga Alliance Professionals teacher training course. How would you get there?
Would you first go across to Leeds and then up the A1 to Newcastle and then across to Edinburgh, or would you go up through Preston, follow the M5 through Carlisle until it turns into the A74, follow it into Glasgow and then cut across to Edinburgh?
Would you fly or take a train there? Maybe, if you had your heart set on motoring, you could even hire a car to spare your own the miles.
No matter what you decide, the end result is the same: you will arrive in Edinburgh. Does it matter how you get there?
It does indeed! Environmentally conscious people might opt for the train while those in a hurry would probably fly. Those with a bit of time on their hands may consider a lengthy route through The Pennines a meditative opportunity.
In that same vein, some people delight in the endless variety of asanas to be done in their Hatha yoga class while others love the rapid pace and endless vinyasas of power yoga.
And if you need a break from all of those yang yogas, you could chill a bit with yin yoga.
Virtually everything we do has a logical sequence: we walk before we can run, we are educated before we can seek out a career and we must have A before we can attain B.
Why would yoga be any different?
Today, your Superprof looks at four very different types of yoga, their merits and who they might be best suited for, and how they should be sequenced.
Got your yoga mat rolled out and your yoga blocks handy?
Sequencing a Power Yoga Class
If you are looking for a beginner yoga class, power yoga is probably not for you, no matter how fit you are. These classes move very fast and incorporate many postures that demand a lot of core strength.
Granted, you may have an incredibly strong core but do you know the Sanskrit names for all of the asanas?
That is, in fact, a distinguishing characteristic of a power yoga class; those yoga instructors generally only use names such as adho mukha svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose), among others.
Another trademark of a power yoga session is the fast pace.
Poses are attained but not held; generally, they flow into one another in concurrence with your breath. On that note, we should mention breathing…
Certain breathing techniques are useful when practising yoga; for instance, deep breathing helps advance meditation. While doing power yoga, you will also breathe deeply.
Power yoga consists of many asanas flowing into one another, separated by vinyasas.
A vinyasa may consist of a Four-Limbed Staff pose (exhale), Upward Facing dog (inhale) and an exhale on the Downward Facing Dog.
If you know even just rudiments of yoga poses, you’ll know that the Staff pose, also called the Low Plank fairly calls for an exhale as you tighten your core to get in position. Similarly, the up-dog opens the chest, demanding a deep inhale, which is then expelled when you move your head downward.
From the moment you execute your first Sun Salutation until you fall in to savasana – the Corpse Pose at the end of your session, you will have cycled through close to 100 yoga poses.
Granted, some of them are repetitions but still, that is a lot of asanas in one hour!
To find out how they should be sequenced, enjoy our companion article.
How to Sequence a Hatha Yoga Class
Some Hatha classes start with Sun Salutations; others leave that warmup off their sequence, maybe starting with a Mountain Pose and holding it for a few breaths before going into a Warrior Pose.
Hatha is the Sanskrit word for 'force' but that doesn’t mean that Hatha yoga is a forceful discipline.
It flows at a slower pace than power yoga and permits plenty of time to go deeply into a pose.
The philosophy behind Hatha yoga is to energise the body, opening up energy channels and focusing the mind, which ultimately permits meditation.
Hatha classes generally start with standing poses, segue into hands-and-knees poses, flow into sitting poses and finally into poses in which you are laying down on your mat. It’s quite a logical flow!
And, as there are, by some estimates, more than 5,000 yoga postures to choose from, you may ‘mix it up’ a bit, one day substituting a Tree pose for the Half Moon Crescent, or the Seal pose for the Cobra pose.
Watch out, those two are very similar!
The one pose to never do away with is the Corpse pose. Lying on your back, completely relaxed after your hourlong session is how you make the leap back into daily life.
There truly is so much about Hatha yoga sessions that deserves mention, it merits its own, full-length article.
Ideal Sequencing for a Restorative Yoga Class
Power yoga devotees and gym fanatics might walk past a yoga studio conducting a restorative yoga session and wonder why everyone is just lying there, by all appearances asleep. They may also wonder why that practice is called yoga.
They may well be on the right track, wondering about restorative yoga, but not for those reasons.
Generally speaking, yoga is meant to be invigorating yet restful; it is a way to unplug and restore yourself after constant brushes with stressors. So why are all of those people lying around, covered with blankets and barely moving?
The point of restorative yoga is to cultivate stillness, a concept that is much harder than it sounds to achieve and maintain.
Have you noticed how people today tend to walk around with earbuds stuck in, listening to something? Do you always have your ears plugged in?
Granted, they (and you) might be listening to chanting, indulging in guided meditation while their bodies navigate the city streets or sit at their office cubicles… but what are the chances of that?
The art of being still – the act of being completely motionless, without thoughts zinging through your head takes some cultivation.
That lack of stillness that plagues so many of us can result in insomnia and stress-related diseases such as hypertension and even diabetes. Restorative yoga is a way to tune out the noise and get in touch with yourself once more.
One fitness fanatic confided that he had become burnt out from his usual routine: a brisk jog in the morning followed by a day in the office, after which he repaired to the gym for a vigorous workout before heading home for a healthy dinner.
He realised that his day was chock-full of movement with virtually no time to be still. And, while he lived a relatively healthy life, it nevertheless left him feeling vaguely unfulfilled.
And then, he tried restorative yoga.
All of the poses are done at floor level and your body is entirely supported for the duration of the pose, which can be up to 20 minutes. Best of all, restorative yoga incorporates what most aver is the ultimate inversion: the ‘legs up the wall’ pose!
Don’t you think it is time for you to learn more about restorative yoga?
Yin Yoga Sequences for Maximum Benefits
Our working life leaves us ripe for many types of injuries including repetitive motion injuries.
A perfect case in point: sitting at a desk all day is not healthy; being sedentary causes all sorts of negative health consequences.
If you have been stuck behind a desk for most of your working life, a yoga for beginners course might yet be too advanced for you.
What you need to start with is a gentle yoga, one that will boost your flexibility without unduly taxing the joints and muscles you’ve not catered to in a while. Yin yoga fits that bill admirably.
The entire sequence of poses is done at floor level and each asana (pose) is held for a couple of minutes.
The idea behind yin yoga is to sit comfortably at the point of awareness; you don’t want to incur pain in your joints but you want to conscious of them – that they are opening up, releasing tension and gaining fluidity.
While power yoga emphasises flowing from one asana to the next fairly rapidly, yin yoga gives you the chance to go deeper into each pose, to rediscover the carefree way of moving you enjoyed as a child.
You won’t get to use as many pillows and blankets as you would in a restorative yoga class but you may use yoga blocks for support.
Learn how, as well as the sequence of poses you might cycle through in your yin yoga class.