Look at nearly any Yoga studio schedule and you will likely be bombarded + perplexed by the variety of classes they offer: Vinyasa, Power, Gentle, Res...moreLook at nearly any Yoga studio schedule and you will likely be bombarded + perplexed by the variety of classes they offer: Vinyasa, Power, Gentle, Restorative, Kripalu, Forrest, Svaroopa, Iyengar, Ashtanga … and oh yes, there are still more! If you thought Yoga was just stretching with a chance to lie down at the end, you’ll probably be even less likely to try it after trying to decipher such a schedule.
I’m often asked by my students to describe the difference between class types + specific Yoga styles, giving them guidance on which would be right for them. Frankly, sometimes, I get tongue-tied + I even get different styles mixed up.
Now, when my students ask, I can simply recommend Meagan McCrary‘s new book, "Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga"!
Trying to navigate the complex + centuries-old traditions of Yoga can be mind boggling. Most of us come to Yoga for the physical practice, but if you attend classes regularly, you know that this is only a small part of the overarching concept of Yoga. That being said, what type of Yoga class you take may determine how soon + how deeply your are introduced to these other concepts. Also, the physical practice of asana can vary greatly between Yoga styles + different class levels.
I have to give 2 big thumbs up to Meagan for writing such a wonderfully detailed, yet not overwhelming, and very well-researched book about the continuously expanding sea of Yoga styles. Even though I’ve been practicing Yoga for 14 years + teaching for 2 years, she definitely taught me some new things about each Yoga style listed. In particular, she also made me very interested in going to style-specific studios + really experiencing what each style offers + how it feels in my own body + mind. (Another awesome thing about Yoga: nowhere is it stated/written/instructed that you should believe blindly – everything taught is meant to be tested!)
Also intriguing: while reading through "Pick Your Yoga Practice", I couldn’t help but notice that my personal teaching style is influenced by at least 4-6 different specific Yoga types – some of which I’ve never studied directly! Yet another expression of just how inter-related each of the Yoga styles really are.
While reading through Meagan’s book, I also noticed an overarching theme between nearly all of the Yoga styles. As previously mentioned, Yoga is much much more than just physical poses done on a mat, though that is how most of us are introduced to Yoga because our bodies are tangible + that is the easiest way for us to begin to experience the transformation that Yoga offers. The movements + physical practices of Yoga (such as pranayama, kirtan, mudras, bandhas … etc.) are a means of beginning the journey inward, deeper into our body, mind, + ultimately teaching our true Self. That’s what Yoga is really about, and depending on which Yoga style you delve into, you will experience that journey differently, but always with the same singular goal.
I happily recommend "Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga" to anyone curious about Yoga + anyone who already practices Yoga – heck, even anyone who already teaches Yoga. If I can find things in this book that are new to me, I’m sure you can to. :)(less)
For many of us, music is a source of comfort, understanding, and inspiration. Music can also be direct link to joyous memories and intense emotions. W...moreFor many of us, music is a source of comfort, understanding, and inspiration. Music can also be direct link to joyous memories and intense emotions. While my young dreams of becoming a famous singer didn’t pan out, I still find that music makes my life feel more vibrant, interesting, and simply worth living.
That’s one of the many reasons that I play music when I teach Yoga. Even if you prefer to practice Yoga with no music in the background, there’s still a rhythmic sound to your breath, your movements, + your thoughts. Our bodies, our minds, and the natural world around us create their own kind of unique “music” that provide a sense of connection to the rest of the world.
In the Yoga tradition, there are two methods of harnessing the power of sound: mantra + kirtan. In Alanna Kaivalya‘s new book, Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth & Meaning of Mantra & Kirtan, she dives deep into the transformational vibrations that we can all tap into any day, anytime, anywhere.
With her friendly and perpetually curious writing style, reading Alanna’s book feels like talking to your big sister. She’s smart, she’s informative, but she also presents the vast + complex history of Nada Yoga (sound yoga) into straightforward, useful, + downright fun methods to make the most of this ancient tradition.
Along with providing insight into the history behind each mantra or kirtan chant, Alanna also dives into the mythology behind the words, revealing the greater layers of meaning that are often ignored or misunderstood:
“One of the exceptional aspects of the yoga tradition is its all-inclusive nature. It accepts all practitioners, no matter what their original spiritual or religious background, and helps them experience the numinous in their lives. But, because the numinous cannot be named or described, the number one way in which this kind of psychological and spiritual information is conveyed is through mythology … It gives shape, meaning, and context to the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and that allows us, in turn, to give shape, meaning, and context to the stories that play out within our lives.”
Much like in the time of ancient Greece and Rome, their many gods + stories of their exploits were not meant to be taken literally, but instead to be a source of understanding + inspiration when things got tough or complicated within our own lives (which, by the very nature of life, is bound to happen!).
In addition to diving into the mythical depths, Alanna also provides a wonderful digital library featuring audible pronunciation for each of the mantras + kirtan chants covered in her book (and others). While she graciously emphasizes that saying or chanting the words “correctly” isn’t a requirement, I personally know how difficult it can be to try to translate written Sanskrit, so her digital mantra library is a super-awesome tool to have.
I’m in awe of Alanna’s ability to merge modern life + ancient Yoga mythology into a book full of practices that truly can be embraced by anyone on the planet. Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth & Meaning of Mantra & Kirtan is a spectacular book that I would recommend to anyone to who enjoys music + adding a little more meaning to their day (so … everyone!).(less)