“Yoga is an awareness, a type of knowing. Yoga will end in awareness. Yoga is arresting the fluctuations of the mind as said in the Yoga Sutras (of Patanjali): citta vritti nirodha. When the mind is without any movement, maybe for a quarter of an hour, or even quarter of a minute, you will realize that yoga is of the nature of infinite awareness, infinite knowing. There is no other object there.”At Washington Yoga Center, we do not teach only one kind of yoga in the knowledge that yoga encompasses a wide range of practices for the mind and body developed in different parts of the India over thousands of years. Different types of yoga serve the needs of different people, and of the same person at different times. We want you to learn and experience a range of yoga practices to get the maximum benefit of this ancient art. Some of the yoga we teach are:
Hatha Yoga is a broad term, which means literally the yoga of the Sun (Ha) and the Moon (Tha). It consists of Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath) and Meditation to prepare the body and mind for higher Yogic practices. This form of yoga had its origins in the Indo Gangetic River Valley thousands of years ago, predating Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Its goal ultimately is to balance the mind to awaken higher energy centers of wisdom and empowerment.
In class, you can expect a slower pace of postures, simple and powerful breathing practices, and restful positions, which support a state of inner peace. It provides a good introduction to the basic yoga postures and can be suitable for beginners.
Vinyasa is a method of Hatha Yoga, most popular in our country, and is about a century old. In the U.S., it is largely taught as a physically oriented discipline, though its founder, Krishnamacharya, did not conceive of it as a mere physical practice. Basically, Vinyasa involves, movement or flow from one pose to the next, coordinated with the inhalation and exhalation of the breath, which acts as an anchor to the movement from one pose to the next.
Vinyasa yoga classes vary a great deal from teacher to teacher. Some are power (strength) based, others aerobic (building heat and relative speed of synchronized movement) or, some mindfully slow, holding postures for a period of time consciously aligned with a specific breath practice called Ujjayi Pranayama. That is to say that each movement lasts for the duration of a smooth, controlled and lengthened inhale or exhale. When postures are held, while there is a focus on correct, safe and optimal alignment, there is equal focus on how the breath is flowing, bringing sensitivity, energy, release of stress and mental/emotional balance.
This method, a form of Yoga, was developed by BKS Iyengar, a student of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. It is based on giving emphasis to the physical alignment of the body in the poses, or asanas. In this method, it is taught that there is a correct way to do each pose, and that every student will one day be able to attain perfect poses through consistent practice.
Once this balance is created in the body, it will be reflected in the mind. One of Iyengar's major innovations was in the use of props. Today it is quite common to see blankets, blocks, straps, pillows, chairs, and bolsters being used in yoga studios.
The purpose of the props is to assist the student in attaining ideal alignment, even if the body is not yet open enough.
Ashtanga yoga is traditionally the Yoga of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which describes 8 limbs, or approaches that achieve the goal of yoga, which is Self Realization. These 8 limbs are incorporated in all authentic lineages of Yoga. They are moral guidelines, personal ethics, postures, freedom of breath, internalization of senses, focus, absorption and union.
Ashtanga Yoga, as we understand it today, is a system of asanas linked with ujjayi breath (nostril breathing through a valving action in the throat), created and taught by a great Swami, Pattabhi Jois, a student of Sri Krishnamacharya, father of most of the Yoga as we know it in the West. It is a practice of self-mastery through body/mind awareness.
This system is physically challenging. Most diligent students achieve only the first, second, and sometimes, third series of this system, though there are 5 levels.
Sivananda yoga is a traditional Hatha-style practice named after the great spiritual master, Swami Sivananda and developed and spread around the world by his student, Swami Vishnudevananda.
This is a meditative, slow-paced class aimed at centering and balancing the mind and body. There are 12 basic poses, which include inversions, backbends, forward bends, twists, balances, and hamstring stretches. The poses are done slowly and with control to stretch and strengthen the body as well as open the chakras. As students become proficient in the 12 basic poses, variations may be introduced.
The Sivananda class is a holistic practice incorporating some chanting in Sanskrit, pranayama (breath control exercises), asana (physical postures), and deep relaxation. All of these pieces provide a means of balancing the physiological and energetic centers of the body, as well as increases flexibility, aids in detoxification, and stimulates the circulatory, immune, neural, and endocrine systems.
Yoga nidra is an ancient practice that was forgotten until the 1970's when Swami Satyananda, founder of the Bihar School of Yoga revived it upon reading the Vedas. A practice of yoga nidra is conducted by a qualified yogi. The students lie in Shavasana and the instructor leads them through a body scan to relax them, followed by breath awareness and visualizations. During this process the body falls asleep, but the mind drifts between subconsciousness and consciousness. In this deep relaxed state, participants are encouraged to think of, or make, their resolutions that make life different and better. The resolution, or Sankalpa as it is called in Sanskrit, gets embedded in the depths of the subconscious and drives actions that lead to its attainment. No knowledge of yoga is required to practice yoga nidra. Several health related benefits of yoga nidra have been observed such as alleviation of pain, sleeplessness, anxiety, stress. Several people have emulated the practice and developed their own iterations/versions, often with questionable results that go with deviating from the authentic.
Prāṇāyāma is a yogic discipline with origins in ancient India; it is the practice of breath control. Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning "extension of the prāṇa or breath" or "extension of the life force". The word is composed from two Sanskrit words: prana meaning life force (noted particularly as the breath), and ayāma, to extend or draw out.
The premise behind Pranayamas is that the breath is the force of life, and by controlling it we can influence our minds and bodies. For instance, the ancient yogis noticed that animals who live longer breathe slowly, while those who have short lives breathe quickly and shallowly. They, therefore, built practices by which we can slow down and deepen our breathing, and found that it centered the mind and energized the body.
Research has shown that some Pranayama practices slow down our heart rates, open up the bronchi and lungs, and therefore reduce need for asthma and COPD medicines. Other Pranayamas have proven to reduce the need for stress and depression management medicines, and their concomitant undesirable side-effects. And, specific Pranayamas can speed up the heart rate, which is particularly helpful for managing bradycardia for which there is no treatment, and thus giving more energy and drive to those suffering from this disorder.
There are dozens of Pranayama practices developed over thousands of years, each with a different purpose.