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Down with downward dog

Don’t understand the difference between hatha and vinyasa? Here’s your yoga primer.

Malena Lott September 28th, 2011

According to the American Yoga Association, the classical yoga most often practiced today, ashtanga yoga, was developed sometime between the first or second century B.C. to as late as the fifth century A.D. Yoga centers on breathing and movements meant to bring peace of mind and flow.

The AYA says it wasn’t until the 1960s that yoga became widespread in America. The practice, which had been primarily thought of as spiritual in nature, benefited from studies showing the medical and psychological benefits.

Dr. David Rothwell, an Oklahoma City primary care physician, said he has recommended yoga for patients.

“Yoga helps patients in several ways. It’s been proven to be relaxing and capable of lowering stress. Effective stress management lowers the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and depression,” he said. “Yoga is an excellent way to address low back pain and other musculoskeletal issues. Finally, yoga can be a very effective way to help prevent some of the effects of aging related to joint stiffness and arthritis.”

right Ted Cox at Spirit House

Most yoga in America focuses on hatha yoga, which the AYA describes as “the physical movements and postures, plus breathing techniques.”

Ashtanga, also called power yoga, is an intense workout and is good for athletes. Ashtanga “X-treme” yoga is another intense workout with fast bursts of movement and is not recommended for beginners.

If you like it hot, bikram is a rigorous style with 26 poses that are run through twice in one session in a studio with temps around 110 degrees. Ivengar focuses on precision and discipline, while kundalini works to raise energy at the base of the spine through breathing, sound and hand positions. For something a bit more gentle, kripalu focuses on flexibility and strength by using spontaneous transitional flow between postural alignment, breathing and meditation.

Vinyasa, another word heard a lot in yoga practices, means matching breath with movements.

Mat time!
Oklahoma City has more than a dozen yoga studios and even more yoga classes in traditional fitness centers. Spirit House Yoga, 5107 N.

Shartel, has classes seven days a week and claims it’s the only metro yoga studio that offers both Baptiste Power Vinyasa and anusara-inspired yoga.

M+ Yoga, 7632 N. Western, offers ashtanga classes as well as vinyasa flow.

Anusara, a free-flowing yoga, can be found at Noell Manes’ studio inside The Weight Room, at 3901 N. Tulsa.

“I love teaching anusara-inspired vinyasa flow. The focus is on stability and structure, going within and finding the inner strength to blossom outward,” Manes said.

Yoga is an excellent way to address low back pain.
—Dr. David Rothwell

She explained that anusara is a physical practice that delves deep, reaching to each person’s highest potential physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Kara Jenkins Kempton teaches YogaFit at Gold’s Gym, formerly Aspen Athletic Club, 3625 Northwest Expressway. She said YogaFit, developed in the 1990s, combines ashtanga, vinyasa and iyengar yoga.

“I like it because it focuses on safety while transforming the body and the mind,” she said, recommending YogaFit for new yogis because “it provides modifications for many poses, so each pose can be challenging without straining.”

Her personal favorite is anusara, which she said is “based on iyengar, with focus on the anatomical correctness of each pose while holding poses up to a minute or two. Anusara focuses the mind on a personal goal or positive thought in each class, and incorporates many backbends to improve back health and alleviate negativity.”

While the AYA does not recommend yoga for pregnant women or children under 16, many instructors have modified yoga styles to cater to precisely those groups.

According to Kate Stevenson, the director of operations at Stages Health and Fitness, 4910 N. May, many benefits exist of yoga for mom and baby during the pre- and postnatal stages.

“For pregnancy, yoga helps increase flexibility to help prepare for childbirth, relieve back pain that is common during pregnancy by enhancing strength and flexibility, and to increase circulation for mom and baby. Women who do yoga throughout pregnancy are happier, more relaxed and less stressed,” Stevenson said. “For postnatal women, yoga provides a way to relieve back pain from lifting, holding and nursing your baby, helps you strengthen the pelvic core after childbirth, and provides a way to get the pre-pregnancy body back faster.”

Photo by Shannon Cornman

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