Yoga Jackson MS
Wanted: The Perfect Yoga Match
By Catherine Guthrie
Not long ago, I wanted nothing more than to fall madly in love with ashtanga yoga. Did I have an innate spiritual connection to this brawny form of stretching and bending? No, I’m embarrassed to admit my marriage to ashtanga was one of convenience.
I had just moved to a brand-new city, and the local ashtanga studio seemed to be just what I was looking for: inexpensive and not too far from my house. True, I’d only gone to slow-paced, relaxing yoga classes in the past. But, I figured yoga’s yoga, right?
Ashtanga happens to be one of the most physically demanding yoga styles around. In a typical nine 90-minute class, students are led through a series of nonstop moves. As your body temperature rises, your muscles stretch like Silly Putty. Each pose builds on the next until, by the end, you’re a shoo-in for Cirque du Soleil.
Trouble was, I hated it. I felt like a swami on ephedra, jumping in and out of complicated poses with no time to stop and enjoy.
In the weeks and months that followed, I schlepped my knotted muscles to every type of yoga class in town. I approached each new style with the enthusiasm of a beginner, but I eventually left dragging my sticky mat in disappointment. Bikram? Too hot. Kripalu? Too relaxed. Iyengar? Too bossy. Ananda? Too out there. A year later, I felt more like a stressed-out Goldilocks than a relaxed yogini.
There didn’t used to be so many choices. Originally, the ancient Indian practice of aligning the mind and body through physical poses had just one name, hatha yoga. It began as a means to quiet the mind and strengthen the body for extended bouts of meditation. But over the years, Indian gurus gradually developed different styles, and ever since yoga came to the West nearly 100 years ago, teachers here have developed their own versions, too.
A lucky few yogis find love at first om. But the rest of us can spend months shelling out time and bucks for a series of lousy first dates. Like the search for a mate, looking for the perfect yoga style means finding a class that complements your personality and challenges you to grow.
To find a yoga style that jibes with you, first consider whether your intentions are mainly physical, emotional, or spiritual, says Hansa, president of Yoga Alliance, an organization that registers yoga teachers nationwide. (She uses only one name.) Some people practice yoga for strength and flexibility, some crave relaxation, and some seek a connection with a higher power. (Some want all four.) There is no right or wrong reason to practice yoga, but different styles fulfill different needs. Just as if you were placing a personals ad, you need to think about what you want before you get started.
Once I gave my own yoga yearnings a little more thought, I realized I needed an athletically challenging style to grab hold of my Gen-X attention span, but I also craved a strong meditative component to balance out my cerebral tendencies. Six months after bre...
Author: Catherine Guthrie
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