“I want to try yoga. Can you suggest what style is best for me?”
It’s pretty tough when you need to face such a question because there is not just one style of yoga nor any one “best” style. Way back in 2006 when I first discovered yoga, there were only very few styles available in Manila – ashtanga, bikram and vinyasa. Maybe one or two more. Nothing else. So we did not really have that many choicesNow there are so many different yoga styles and offerings available and studios are all over the place!
So when I am asked what yoga someone should do, I tend to suggest that they try different yoga styles first before settling into one because really, what I may love is not what another yogi would love. And what my body needs is not what your body would need. The yoga style really depends on the individual and many times, age and medical conditions, as well as psycho-emotional and spiritual needs are factors in which type to go with. So there is my usual dilemma.
But now THIS can help those who are struggling with which style to try and where. Yoga teacher and author Meagan McCrary has written the first encyclopedia of different yoga styles out there for both beginner and experienced yogis — Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Types of Yoga (New World Library, December 15, 2013). It can be a helpful tool as well for yoga teachers in case similar questions are posed to them by their students.
In a part of her book, Meagan writes: “A myriad of styles, variations, and combinations of yoga practices exist out there. Some systems are steeped in tradition with direct ties to Indian gurus, others were started by American yoga teachers who parted from the lineages of their gurus, and still more approaches are being developed with each passing year. Some yoga styles offer greater depth than others, some involve an entire lifestyle, and others tone and sculpt your body as well as, if not better than, any other workout on the market. While they all offer a way to feel better, a greater sense of well-being — whatever that means to you — they are all valid. The bottom line is: Does the system of yoga work for you?”
Pick Your Yoga Practice starts out with a whole chapter explaining what yoga is as well as another chapter on America’s yoga history. A third chapter tackles yoga’s philosophical foundations. These chapters will be very useful for the newbies and probably just a refresher for teachers and advanced practitioners.
The next 8 chapters were dedicated to eight of the most prominent approaches while the second half of the book is dedicated to the “Best of the Rest” featuring 10 yoga styles that emerged from the foundational yoga styles.
Here are screenshots of the Table of Contents:
In an interview, Meagan McCrary answers some basic questions that you and I probably would ask her.
Asked what would be basic differences between yoga styles, Meagan says: “…the alignment of the poses differs from one system to the next, how the poses themselves are taught varies widely, and the emphasis of the practices varies as well as the reasons for practicing. Some methods are slow and methodical, paying acute attention to the alignment and details of each pose, others are dynamic and fast-paced, synchronizing the breath with every movement to produce an intense internal heat, while there are those that foster a more exploratory approach when it comes to the position of the asanas. Certain styles offer individualized attention, have set sequences, heat the room, incorporate chanting, emphasize relaxation, focus on therapeutics, or encourage partner work. There are systems of yoga designed to awaken energy in the subtle body, release stored emotional pain, or purify the body’s many systems. Some of the differences among styles are very obvious, while others are subtle —but I can guarantee they all effect your experience of yoga and the way you feel during and after practice.”
When trying to decide the best yoga style for a person, Meagan asks us to consider several questions before making the choice:
– Do you have any limitations, old or new injuries, or special circumstances?
– Do you need to lose weight, manage stress, develop strength, or improve the functionality of your body?
– What are your reasons for practicing, what would you like to gain from your time on the mat?
– What class experience resonates best with you?
– Are you interested in meditation, chanting and breathing practices, or are you more into a straightforwarkd mind/body workout?
– Would you benefit from a less competitive, more compassionate approach? Or would it serve you best to be pushed by a sterner teacher?
– Mentally, do you want to check out or do you enjoy learning and using your intellect to align the yoga poses as you practice?
She discusses these considerations in her book and says that it would help beginner yogis who are still trying to decide which style would suit them best. But beyond just the style, the “best” (if there is such a thing), according to Meagan, is what RESONATES with you. I totally agree with this one because I have practiced with different teachers and different classes, different times and different studios. And I keep going back to the place and teacher who I connect with best. How will you know? Believe me, after taking several different classes, you will know.
I am still in the midst of reading this book but right after going through the Table of Contents, I had one question that I just had to ask Meagan and fortunately, her publisher sent my question over to her, which she responded to immediately.
My question to Meagan was: Why was Yin Yoga (the style I now love to practice) not included in her book. Meagan sent me this response:
“When trying to decide whether or not to include yin as a system of yoga in the book I ultimately landed on the fact that yin and restorative yoga (along with yoga Nidra) are practices that can be and are apart of many different systems of yoga, such as integral yoga. So I began to view yin yoga as a practice (or tool) used within systems of yoga. It also seemed as though the teacher teaching yin yoga had developed their own systems combining different elements, such as Buddhist meditations and what not. I could have definitely included yin in the best of the rest chapter but in the end decided to go with systems that have been established a bit longer and have a larger organization or governing body of their own.”
I’m not the subject expert on yin yoga and I’d love to have some of my teachers and other yin yoga practitioners react to Meagan’s email response to me. But if I were to take the yin-yang symbol and study it more deeply, I would like to think that the dynamic yoga that fills the book is just one-half of what the symbol represents. The asanas are primarily active with restive poses interspersed for balance and recharging. But the more complete picture takes the other dimensional half of that symbol where stillness and passivity dominate with a few active sequences, again for balance. Both make the whole.
Pick Your Yoga Practice, I found out, is already available in the Philippines. A yogini friend has it already. I checked Fully Booked and it retails for PhP 699. If you get to read the book, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a comment or review of the book here for other readers’ sake.
It’s also available from Amazon: