At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of inspired
and influential yoga teachers emerged in India. They adapted the ancient
asanas or postures to the Western world utilizing combinations of postures
and breathing techniques, and emphasizing different aspects of the tradition.
In the process, they transformed yoga from the domain of an elite few
in India, to a practical regimen practiced by millions around the world.
The process continues today as teachers and their students develop new
combinations of the classic elements of yoga. The following describes
some (but not all!) of the major yoga disciplines.
Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga yoga was originated in the
1940s by K. Pattabhi Jois at his school in Mysore, India. Also known
as “power yoga,” Ashtanga links challenging postures together
in a flowing set of sequences, synchronized with breathing techniques.
Each series of poses must be mastered before embarking on the next.
Ashtanga is a strength-oriented practice, with intense stretching in
most of the poses. It produces internal heat and external sweating that
detoxifies the body, improves circulation, flexibility and stamina.
Bikram Yoga: Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga,
worked for five years with Western doctors to develop his own system
of 26 classic postures. They are always practiced in the same order
in a room heated to 95 to 105 degrees. The heat promotes flexibility,
detoxification and realignment of the body. Bikram yoga is rigorous,
but each posture is designed to safely stretch and open the body in
preparation for the next posture in the sequence. When he came to the
U.S. in 1972, the common belief was that Western society wouldn’t
(and couldn’t) do yoga; however, Bikram believed that the U.S.—laden
with chronic disease and stress—was the perfect place for yoga
to flourish. In 1974, Bikram founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly
Hills, California. His vision has proved correct as there are now over
500 affiliated Bikram yoga schools (visit www.BikramYoga.com).
There are a number of Bikram yoga studios in New York. See www.bikramyoganyc.com
or call (212) 245-2525 for information and locations.
Integral Yoga: Brought to the U.S. in 1969 by Swami
Satchidananda, Integral yoga, as the name suggests, aims to integrate
the various aspects of the body and mind through a combination of postures,
breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation. Function is given
preeminence over form. Integral yoga is taught at Integral Yoga International,
headquartered in Buckingham, Virginia, and over 40 branches worldwide.
The Integral Yoga Institute of New York is located in a townhouse in
the West Village. Open yoga classes (for beginners and advanced students)
are scheduled throughout the day, with fees hovering around $13. Opportunities
for advanced instruction are offered, but not just for yoga. Choose
from a host of courses and workshops, ranging in category from mind
and body health to cooking and nutrition, peaceful practices to specialized
yoga instruction. A sampling of what’s available: a four-week
course on Restorative Yoga ($65), workshops and courses on meditation
and pranayama (yogic breathing), even a three-hour Introduction to Live
Foods workshop ($65). Join the free group meditations in the afternoon
(12:15-12:50) and late evening (8:30-9). For those on a tight budget,
there’s the free “Happy Hour,” a 45-minute-long guided
deep relaxation class every Friday, 5:30-6:15 p.m. For a schedule and
course descriptions, visit the Integral Yoga Institute at 227 W. 13th
Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), see www.integralyogaofnewyork.org,
or call (212) 929-0586.
Iyengar Yoga: Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar of Pune, India,
this is probably the most widely practiced system of yoga today. Iyengar
created his own method of yoga grounded in precision of body alignment
and coordinated breathing. The postures are slowly moved into and held
longer than in most other styles of yoga. Iyengar is also unique for
its use of cushions, straps, blankets and blocks to assist in doing
the postures correctly, enabling the less flexible, elderly and disabled
to participate. Unlike other practitioners, Iyengar believes that form
must be perfected before practicing breathing techniques and meditation
The Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York offers more than 50 classes each
week. A free introductory class is offered each month for those new
to Iyengar yoga or the institute (pre-registration required); next ones
are July 6th and August 3rd. Class fees range from $15 to $19. The Institute
is located at 27 W. 24th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Suite
800. For information, call (212) 691-9642 or visit www.iyengarnyc.org.
Jivamukti Yoga: Developed in 1984 by Sharon Gannon
and David Life in New York City, Jivamukti yoga integrates chanting,
asanas, music, meditation and practices of devotion into a vigorous
physical practice with a foundation in the ancient mystic philosophies
of the East. Jivamukti means “liberation while living,”
which is the universal goal of the practice. It is a blueprint for incorporating
the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga into our modern lives and
awakens in the practitioner ahimsa or nonviolence, a reverence for the
environment, the earth, and all the animals and plants that share it
with us. Gannon and Life promote an awareness of animal rights and environmentalism
in their students and encourage practitioners to adopt a vegetarian
The Jivamukti Yoga Center is located at 404 Lafayette Street (between
Astor Place and E. 4th Street), 3rd floor, and there’s one uptown
at 853 Lexington Avenue. Single classes are $17; pre-paid “cards”
are less. Pre-registration for classes is recommended. For beginners,
there’s a free introductory class. For information, call (212)
353-0214 or see www.JivamuktiYoga.com.
Kripalu Yoga: Developed by Kripalvananda and his disciple
Yogi Amrit Desai, Kripalu is a gentle, introspective practice that urges
practitioners to hold poses in order to explore and release emotional
and spiritual conflicts. Kripalu yoga has three stages. In the first
stage, postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement are
emphasized, and the postures are held for a short duration only. In
the second, meditation is introduced into the practice, and postures
are held for prolonged periods. In the final stage, the practice of
postures becomes a spontaneous “meditation in motion.” The
Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, hosts almost 12,000 students
and attendees each year (see p. 12).
Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini yoga was brought to the U.S.
by Sikh master Yogi Bhajan in 1969. Before that, it was a secret, sacred
teaching passed down only to a chosen elite in India. The word “kundalini”
means awareness, and its purpose is to awaken the life force which resides
at the base of the spine and allow the energy to flow through the body.
Kundalini yoga combines classic postures with breathing, chanting and
meditation, and is characterized by movement rather than form. Kundalini
is known for its use of “Breath of Fire,” a rapid inhalation
and exhalation, without pausing, through the nose, pumping the abdomen
as a bellows. Yogi Bhajan believes that the body has a natural euphoric
state that can be reached through yoga and meditation—without
the use of any drugs.
“3HO” is a nonprofit organization that promotes the teaching
of Kundalini yoga. Yogi Bhajan himself offers instruction and meditations
at events held at Ram Das Puri, a 170-acre yoga campsite in the Jemez
Mountains of New Mexico. The annual “Summer Solstice” brings
together teachers and students from around the world for a week of yoga
and celebration in late June. For information, see www.3ho.org,
call (888) 346-2420 or (505) 753-4988, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. In
New York, you can learn more and attend open classes ($15) at Kundalini
Yoga East at 873 Broadway (between 18th and 19th Streets), Suite 614;
or call (212) 982-5959.
Sivananda Yoga: Sivananda yoga is the creation of the
late Swami Vishnudevananda, who established his first Western center
in Montreal in 1959. In the Sivananda centers, Hatha yoga is taught
in its traditional form as it has been practiced for centuries in the
Himalayas. This includes a series of 12 postures, breathing, diet, chanting,
scriptural study and meditation. Sivananda has trained over 6,000 teachers,
and there are numerous Sivananda centers around the world (see www.sivananda.org).
The New York Sivananda Yoga Center welcomes beginners with a free monthly
open house with an introductory lecture, two beginner classes and a
vegetarian lunch (next: July 5th and August 2nd). They also offer drop-in
“open” classes (first class is free) for a donation ranging
from $8 to $12 (student and senior discounts also available). For information
and a schedule, visit 243 W. 24th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues),
call (212) 255-4560, or email NewYork@sivananda.org. Sivananda also
has an ashram in the Catskills of upstate New York, offering two yoga
classes and two veggie meals per day. Overnight rates range from $55
(weekday) to $60 (weekend). Cheaper rates for those who bring tents;
and daily rates also available.
Viniyoga: Viniyoga describes the yoga taught by T.
Krishnamacharya, which adapts yoga practices to individual characteristics
and needs. As the teacher of yoga masters B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi
Jois, and Indra Devi, Krishnamacharya can be viewed as the father of
the yoga renaissance in modern times. A descendant of the 9th century
Yogi Nathamuni, viniyoga is firmly rooted in Krishnamacharya’s
lifetime scholarship of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Viniyoga works
with what is called sequential process and teaches that the breath should
actually lead the body into and out of each posture. The emphasis is
not on achieving an external ideal form, but on practicing a posture
according to one’s individual needs and capacity. Krishnamacharya’s
development of yoga therapy came from his knowledge of India’s
ancient school of medicine, Ayurveda, which he integrated with yoga
practice. The American Viniyoga Institute is located in Hawaii: visit
www.viniyoga.com or call (808) 572-1414.
Compiled by Catherine Clyne. Primary source material courtesy of
the Yoga Expo’s website: www.yogaexpo.com.
Joining the Animals: A Yoga Zoo for Kids
Does just-for-kids yoga sound like a futile concept? Shakta
Kaur Khalsa is the pioneer of a movement that is sharing yoga with children
on their own terms. Khalsa decided to translate the positions and movements
of yoga into language kids can more easily, and eagerly, understand—animals.
The Radiant Child Yoga Program simplifies yoga without undermining it,
so that kids can reap its benefits without thinking they’re being
forced into something “boring,” and it’s likely they’ll
have an easier time incorporating it into their lives later on. Plus,
recess takes on a new meaning!
Everyone can take something from the program, if nothing other than an
opportunity to absorb the power of the imagination as you see traditional
yoga poses honored with rather untraditional instructions but with the
same outcome. To give you a feel for the regimen: after “Jogging
Through the Jungle”—which involves deep breathing and knee
lifting—the teacher instructs, “Stop! What is that animal
high up in the tree? It’s a cobra snake! Come into Cobra pose. Lie
on your stomach. Put your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Stretch
your upper body up high, with your arms straight and your stomach resting
on the ground. Stretch your head as far back as you can and hiss! You
are a very fierce cobra snake! Keep stretching and hissing on the exhale
for a minute. Then breathe in and lift your tail up. Try to bring your
head and tail close together. Can they touch each other?” Then comes
the elephant: “Stand up. Bend forward with your arms hanging down.
Clasp your hands together, with fingers interlocked. Now walk around the
room, bent over, and swinging your trunk. After a minute, stretch your
trunk high up in to the air, lean back and let out a big elephant sound
like a horn!”
I witnessed Khalsa’s ideas in action one Tuesday afternoon at Manhattan’s
Universal Force Yoga Center. Here, a healthy and growing following of
five to seven year-olds attends a weekly class—possibly more religiously
than do their busier, adult counterparts. (Other age groups are available;
this class is currently their most popular.) Some particular favorites
among the little ones were the doggie pose (hands and toes on the ground
with the body in a triangular position)—and the doggie ‘peeing’
(one leg outstretched)—and the leap-frog movement. To read up on
the program or see a more thorough sampler of the animal yoga positions,
see www.childrensyoga.com or look for Shakta Kaur Khalsa’s book
Fly Like a Butterfly: Yoga for Children. To find out about the Universal
Force Yoga Center’s offerings—kids’ yoga classes and
beyond—visit them at 7 W. 24th Street (just west of 5th Avenue),
or call (917) 606-1730. —R.C.
Free Classes in NYC Parks!
Free yoga classes for all levels at Manhattan’s
Bryant Park (enter at 6th Avenue and 41st Street), Thursdays at 5:30-7
p.m., through July 31st. (Yoga mats are provided.) This is a step toward
the realization of teacher Kristina Marchitto’s “Yoga Project
NYC,” which aims to bring yoga to New Yorkers outdoors (other locations
are planned). Contact Kristina at (917) 407-8897 for information. Yoga
is taught in the early morning at the Community Garden at 6th Street and
Avenue B, Mondays 7-8 a.m. through June 27th. Call (212) 982-5673 for
information. June is “Lighten up Brooklyn Month,” courtesy
of Borough President Marty Markowitz. Dozens of free exercise classes
are offered during weekends in parks throughout Brooklyn, including yoga,
pilates, tai-chi, “boot camp” fitness, and running. For locations
and information, see www.brooklyn-usa.org or call (718) 802-3700. Although
indoors, the East Village vegetarian restaurant Caravan of Dreams offers
free yoga classes, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at noon. Visit 405
E. 6th Street (between 1st Avenue and Avenue B) or call (212) 254-1613
All in One!
Where can you find yoga classes, massage therapy, dance parties, nutrition
counseling, aura readings, meditation instruction, and raw foods preparation
workshops all in one space? Atmananda Yoga and Ayurvedic Beauty Holistic
Center provides a sacred space for the balancing of the body, mind and
spirit. The center offers services ranging from lymphatic drainage massage
to yoga-teacher training, from holistic health counseling to facials.
Various discounts are available. Call for details. For yoga class schedules,
special workshops, and to learn more, visit the Atmananda Yoga and Ayurvedic
Center at 552 Broadway, 3rd Floor (between Prince and Spring Streets in
SoHo), call (212) 625-1511, email email@example.com, or visit http://atmananda.com.
To book Ayurveda and massage appointments, call (212) 625-8559. —C.C.
Stress Relief in the City: Opal Center
The deepest, soundest night’s sleep I ever
had was after I indulged in my first full-body Swedish massage. At the
Opal Center for Massage and Allied Therapies in Brooklyn, NY, the skilled
therapist’s smooth strokes and the ambient background music transported
me to an oblivion that stayed with me well into the following day. In
addition to enjoying the sheer luxury of surrendering myself into someone
else’s hands, I was impressed with the expert attention paid to
the little knots in my tight shoulders…Yes, a weight was truly lifted!
I was also treated to some warm stone therapy: Large smooth pebbles are
heated and placed at key points on the body, bringing comfort to congested
muscles that surrender under their gentle weight and soft warmth. Other
(free) additions may include flower essences, custom blended essential
oils, or cold compresses. As well as classic Swedish Massage, you can
also choose from Deep Tissue, Sports, Medical, Lymphatic Drainage, General
Relaxation, Reiki, and Pre- or Post-natal using special ‘tummy down’
Opal is a really cute space, lovingly and elegantly decorated by owner-operators
Sarah and Sherry with Feng Shui and Indian influences, and a complement
of both inspiring and soothing colors. The stresses of the outside world
won’t get a foothold in this candle-lit haven. Opal is located at
158 5th Avenue, Park Slope. Their rates are $70 for a 70-minute massage
and $90 for 90-minutes; discounts are offered for a series of two or more
visits. For appointments call (718) 857-6138, or visit www.OpalCenter.com
for more details. —A.S.