Yoga appears everywhere these days as social media platforms celebrate the aesthetic; Instagram feeds are full of the bendy elite seemingly blissed out in pretzel positions on far-flung tropical beaches. But whilst yoga may be advertised as this ideal, making beautiful and often unachievable shapes is not the reality or the core of the practice.
Originating from India, Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning to join together; a complete union of the mind; body and soul, and returning to one’s inherent peace.
Whilst the Western world first adopted the physical postures for aesthetic gains, yoga today has developed with a greater understanding of the Eastern traditions; and wisdom teachings, with many seeking a deeper meaning from their practice.
Traditionally the desired effect was to sit longer during meditation, stilling the mind and letting go of the ego.
The aims of the physical side of yoga are in the embodiment, the feeling of being grounded and the cultivation of awareness; intelligent alignment and mobility in the body, all from a place of strength, balance and non-judgement.
Yoga is the balance within the mind and the body, created with the breath as the guide.
Below, Vogue speaks to several internationally renowned yoga teachers about the different types of yoga.
The Sanskrit word Hatha translates as “force”.
The word can be broken down into two words: “Ha” meaning sun and “Tha” meaning moon.
Originally the practice of Hatha yoga focused on mastery of the physical body as a preparation for a spiritual practice: the control over the physical body to develop a hold over the chattering mind and as a way to connect to spirit.
The practice is focused on yoga poses (asana), breathing practices (pranayama), meditation and also moving the subtle energy or kundalini (kriyas).
Many styles today originate from these Hatha practices, such as Vinyasa, Iyengar and Ashtanga.
In the past 50 years, the focus of yoga has been very much about the physical postures and has also been used as an exercise technique.
The beauty of it is that it doesn’t work solely on the alignment of bones as well as muscles, it helps with circulation; the lymphatic system, releasing the fascia and connective tissue to increase our lung capacity.
It quietens thoughts and calms the mind, and can be practiced to both energise; or calm due to the balancing effect upon the body depending on the technique you use.
Yoga is about being more in tune with oneself; taking a moment to sit with and listen to what the body needs.
Start by doing the poses you love, that feel good for you and learn to do them well; so that you build a love of yoga and then along the way likewise add the poses that you loathe.
Try to do a little every day; even 15-20 minutes, some days it may just be one restorative pose to rebalance your nervous system.
To begin with, don’t get too caught up in getting the perfect form; begin with 5-10 mins of simple movements, connecting with your breath.
If you are exhausted you may just need to rest in the restorative asana Viparita Karani: Lying with your hips rested on top of a bolster; or some cushions, with your legs resting up on the wall.
After 5 minutes of this, you maybe more energised to try 15 -20 minute practice. But remember to slow down and lengthen the breath.