In every yoga studio, each passing day sees scores of new students, but the path to a daily yoga practice can be complicated by the ideas we have about yoga itself. Truth be told, there’s no one tradition that’s more “yoga” than the other.
Modalities can be vigorous or more meditative or contemplative, but they are all yoga and vary as widely as the yogis rolling out their mats day in and out. Different classes are different paths up the same mountain. Here’s a closer look at popular yoga modalities to lend a hand in uncovering the practice that’s right for you.
Hatha Yoga, the most widely practiced form of yoga in America today, concentrates on physical and mental well being, and is the foundation for most modalities marketed in the West. Hatha uses bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana) with the goal of cultivating a sound, healthy body and a clear, still mind. Breathing Time Yoga, 541 Pawtucket Avenue, Pawtucket. 401-722-9876, breathingtimeyoga.com
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced modality with asanas held for longer periods of time - five minutes or more is the norm. Yin targets the connective tissues, like the ligaments, bones and joints of the body that normally don’t get a lot of love in more active styles of asana practice. Suitable for all levels, Yin is an ideal complement to the dynamic and muscular Yan styles of yoga that emphasize internal heat and the contracting of muscles. It’s particularly good for athletes because the long poses deeply stretch and recharge muscle groups and fascia. All That Matters, locations in Providence, Wakefield and South Kingstown. 401-782-2126, allthatmatters.com
Ashtanga Yoga is a practice popularized in the West by teacher Shri Patthabi Jois that incorporates vinyasa - a marriage of breath and movement - and utilizes asanas grouped into six series, each with an increased level of advancement in flexibility, grace and even humility. The sequential order is followed meticulously and each level is to be fully developed before moving to the next, as each posture is preparation and develops the strength and balance required to progress forward. Ashtanga Yoga Rhode Island, 26 High Street, Westerly. 401-932-5650, ashtangayogari.com
Iyengar Yoga, named after and developed by BKS Iyengar, is a form of Hatha that emphasizes detail, precision and alignment in both asana and pranayama with a system of over 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of breathing exercises. With asanas ranging from basic to advanced, the practice ensures that progress is gradual and organic, developing mind, body and spirit step-by-step along the way. Iyengar makes frequent use of props like belts, blocks and blankets to assist in performing asana correctly, minimizing the risk of strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old. Iyengar Yoga Source, 1155 Westminster Street, Providence. 401-400-3413, yogacenterprovidenceri.com
Jivamukti is a physical, ethical and spiritual practice that combines a vigorous Hatha physical style and the vinyasa marriage of breath and rapid movement with adherence to five central tenets: shastra (scripture), bhakti (devotion), ahimsa (non-violence, non-harming), nada (music) and dhyana (meditation). As creative and expressive as it is physically challenging, animal rights, environmentalism and social activism are deliberately emphasized in this practice developed by teachers Sharon Gannon and David Life in the mid-’80s. Jala Yoga and Art, 285 South Main Street, Providence. 508-566-2524, jala-studio.com
Amrit Yoga, described as “meditation in motion,” is a deeply meditative style founded by Yogi Amrit Desai that combines the physical practice of Hatha - asanas and meditation - with the mental and physical practices of Raja yoga - the path of self-discipline in the yogic tradition. With Amrit, asanas are practiced gently with two essential components - the active “Pose” and the restful “Repose” - and the proper use of breath anchoring both. Santosha Yoga, 14 Bartlett Avenue, Cranston. 401-780-9809, yogaatsantosha.com
The Hot Yoga Question
It’s all the buzz these days. Hot Yoga itself is not an actual practice, but moreover a descriptor. In fact, the modalities that are practiced in a hot room vary wildly, from the Type A quality of structure and measured precision in Bikram, to the interpretive and adaptive nature of Power Vinyasa Flow. Points of difference notwithstanding, both styles incorporate strength, flexibility, balance, cardio and mental and physical stamina into the practice.
Bikram Yoga is a system of synthesized traditional Hatha techniques that was popularized by teacher Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. The Bikram series is a beginner class that consists of the same sequence of 26 asanas, including two breathing exercises, and runs for 90 minutes in a room ideally heated to 104 degrees with 40 percent humidity. East Bay Bikram Yoga, 36 Gooding Avenue, Bristol. 401-217-9010, eastbaybikramyoga.com
Power Vinyasa Flow Yoga, founded by western teacher Baron Baptiste, is a powerful, energetic practice that has yogis moving fluidly from one pose to the next while coordinating breath with movement, and has foundational elements of both Hatha and Ashtanga. This modality is taught in a studio heated between 80 and 90 degrees. Synergy Power Yoga, 32 Bay Spring Avenue, Barrington. 401-289-0966, synergypoweryoga.com
Let the Sunshine In
If you’re pressed for time and are looking for a simple mode to stay fit and set yourself up for success in your day, Surya Namaskar is ideal for yogis of all experience levels. Literally translated to Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar is a set of 12 powerful asanas that are best done early in the morning on an empty stomach. Besides maintaining fitness of body, mind and spirit, Surya Namaskar will also enable you to greet your day with a feeling of grace and provide an opportunity to express gratitude to the sun for sustaining life on this planet. Natural Fitness, 76 Narragansett Avenue, Narragansett. 401-783-9229, naturalfitnessyoga.com
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