Understanding Yoga Styles

There are many styles or labels in yoga. Which is the best? Which is most suitable to us? Let us explore further.

No style is the best

Styles in yoga are similar to banana skin, while yoga is the fruit that we eat. Some people prefer certain types of banana, while others like different types. Meanwhile, some people have to exclude banana from their diet due to certain illness. Some people prefer deep fried bananas hot from the pan, while some others prefer having bananas accompanied by music, and some others like having bananas while walking or perhaps jumping. Everything depends on individual taste.

Yoga seen as a spiritual practice, and styles of yoga can be likened to organized religion. Both yoga styles and religion can be suitable for one but not another. It is very wrong for a yoga teacher or a yoga style to claim that their yoga will be suitable for everyone, and therefore, is the best style.
Relationship between yoga and the styles are exactly similar to follower of religions. Some followers practice their rituals or conventions very closely, some think in a way that is much more progressive and liberal. Some people embrace their religion to the most fundamental approach, while some others approach the practice in a more secular way.

How nice it would be if we could accept and be open towards these differences. It is not necessary for any yoga centre or their yoga instructors to demand uncompromised obedience from their members to practise only one particular style at a particular place.

Truth is, yoga can teach us to be a pluralist because yoga is universal. Yoga does not heed any differences in religion, gender, race, age, social status, or any other labels. Everyone can practise yoga.

Gather information beforehand

Each yoga style can be very different in terms of how to do asanas. One style perform poses by holding breath for one minute or more accompanied by explanations on how to perform the particular pose with a lot of information. Another style move from one pose to another in fast speed, and other style requires the poses to be performed in specific temperature in order to obtain maximum benefits.

All these are valid, not one is wrong or more right than the other. Each style has philosophic background to how the asanas are being performed. In the end, everyone is doing the same yoga pose. Choices are open to individual yoga practitioner performing the poses.

However, beginners in yoga may want to gather as much information as possible before committing to a certain yoga centre and determine most suitable class according to one’s interests, expectations and characters. In the beginning, it is necessary to have guidance from instructors who are able to provide understanding in how to perform a pose in order to obtain maximum benefits as well as to avoid injuries.

Yoga is not competitive sports and it is merely for one’s own self. Therefore, one should not go beyond capacities. Take suitable practice as offered by yoga centres according to abilities.

There also needs to be close communication between student and teacher. A student should inform yoga teachers should there be any illness or physical issues. Asana is to be practiced by listening to one’s own body and being aware of any sensations or feelings that arise while performing the asana, just like in meditation.

Use every pose as a mirror to look into ourselves, yoga is a mirror to look at ourselves from within.

By Yudhi Widdyantoro

This passage is originally published in Indonesian language, freely quoted and translated from Yoga Yuk, biar Fit (Let’s Yoga for Fitness) with author’s permission.

If you like what you have just read, please check your local bookstore for the book.