If you are attempting to decide between Yoga or Pilates, the next two Blogs will give you a rundown of each and how to decide which might best suit your needs.
Part I – Yoga
It is a new year and a new decade. If you haven’t started reflecting on the last 10 years, now is the time. My decade was filled with learning and development. Not only in earning my degree or becoming a better Physical Therapist, but in developing with the changing times. The internet has changed our lives forever.
We are in the age of Facebook, Twitter, multiple E-mail accounts, and texting. How can we maximize our time between work, social media, and exercise let alone engaging personal connection with our families and friends.
It is easy to find yourself ANXIOUS when pressured to engage in so many daily commitments. In addition many do not participate in religious or spiritual activity. As stated in my last post, it is proven that those who spend time with family and friends and nurture those relationships have longer life expectancy. Those who worship, meditate, or practice relaxation in a spiritual manner also have a longer life expectancy. This is due to the stress relief one experiences when escaping their daily duties.
Well, if we are pressured for time between exercise and incorporating spirituality to our lifestyle, we should do it at the same time. Practicing Yoga will achieve both needs. What most people refer to as simply “yoga” is actually Hatha Yoga. Hatha is a system of yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a yogic sage in the 15th century in India. While Hatha is the most popular style of yoga, there are many other styles to explore. This is a list of basic yoga styles incorporated in fitness settings today.
1) Hatha Yoga – “yoga of postures” – this includes the beginner level poses (asanas) of popular styles of yoga we see in gyms and studios today.
2) Yinyasa or Flow Yoga– A general term used to describe yoga incorporating breath synchronized pattern of movements including sun salutations.
3) Ashtanga or Power Yoga – Referred to “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, it is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order. Ashtanga practice is very physically demanding because of the constant movement from one pose to the next. In beginners terms, this is typically advanced and should be avoided if you have never taken yoga before.
4) Bikram or Hot Yoga- founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India. This is a series of 26 postures performed in 105 degrees F and about 40% humidity. His studios are located primarily in urban settings world-wide. I also do not recommend this style for beginners. The room is kept at this temperature for the following:
- Keeping the body from overheating (contrary to popular misconception)
- Protecting the muscles to allow for deeper stretching
- Detoxing the body (open pores to let toxins out)
- Thinning the blood to clear the circulatory system
- Increasing heart rate for better cardiovascular workout
- Improving strength by putting muscle tissue in optimal state for reorganization
- Reorganize the lipids (fat) in the muscular structure
5) Iyengar – This style of practice is most concerned with bodily alignment and usually emphasizes holding poses over long periods versus moving quickly from one pose to the next (flow). Iyengar practice also encourages use of props such as yoga blankets, blocks and straps, to bring the body into alignment.
6) Meditation – Raja Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, and Restorative Yoga emphasize meditation. Meditation can be used for personal development, or to focus the mind on God (or an aspect of God). Many practice meditation to achieve peace, while others practice certain physical yogas to become healthier. Most forms of physical Yogas in the fitness setting will incorporate some meditation most often at the beginning or end of a class. Meditation can also be practiced during other forms of exercise including Qigong and T’ai Chi.
7) 6) A hybrid of these yogas have developed into one of my favorites styles, Yoga for Athletes®. Founder, Kimberly Fowler created Yoga for Athletes® containing elements of Iyengar, Ashtanga and Power Yoga. Her mantra is “no granola, no Sanskrit,” so not much meditation happens in her classes. But, you still get the benefits of relaxation, stretching, and stabilization so that your body can learn proper alignment to recover from sport (running, cycling, etc.). Her Yoga and Spin (YAS) studios are primarily in Los Angeles but you can do your own Yoga for Athletes® practice at home with her DVD’s.
8) Yoga for Golfers – Katherine Roberts, an avid golfer and fitness expert has put together a golf series of asanas emphasizing correction of common alignment flaws and weaknesses found in golfers. Her practice is a hybrid of Hatha, Iyengar, and Ashtanga Yoga. Katherine also has a series of DVD’s so that you can practice at home.
Where to Start?
The best place to start is by attending your gym’s Yoga class. If you do not have a gym membership, search for a Yoga studio in your city. Many community centers offer Yoga or meditation for free or you can attend a class at a Yoga studio for 10-25 dollars. In San Francisco, there are Yoga studio chains – Yoga Works (also in NY and LA), Yoga Tree, and Funky Door Yoga (Bikram). Finding a Yoga Studio will allow you to explore the various styles of Yogas described above.
If you are a beginner, start in a beginners class or gentle Hatha class until you learn the basic poses. Yoga is like training for a marathon…you have to let your body adapt to the changes being made or you will get injured. In Hot Yoga they claim the heat will allow your body to be more pliable so that the tissues can elongate more effectively. Well, if you haven’t done a lick of stretching in 10 years, this can be dangerous. More reason to start in a basic Hatha class. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO THE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE CLASS. Yoga is a lifelong path to enlightenment. Even the best Yogis in the world are still working on perfecting their form. In other words, pace your self when going into the various poses. It might take you months or years to achieve touching your toes.
When attending class it is important to let your instructor know that you are new to yoga and any injuries you might have. That old back injury or ankle sprain might be talking to you after a class if you aren’t aware of some of the modifications that can be applied for each asana.
If you have not noticed I am Yoga advocate. Most people in our society are stiff and stressed and will benefit from doing it several days a week. Where does Pilates fit in? In my opinion: For the stiff person, Yoga should be the first choice to improve your deficits. Although Yoga will strengthen your “core”, Pilates was FOUNDED on principles to strengthen your “core.” Also in my opinion: If you are one with natural flexibility, Pilates will probably be the better choice to improve your deficits. Of course, personal preference is the most dictating factor. Hopefully after reading my blogs you have enough information to start deciding. Happy New Year and Namaste!
More to come on Pilates in my next Blog.