Take a deep breath. Ommmmmmmmm. Salutation to the sun.
Are you confused yet? Welcome to a typical day in yoga class – the class where stress is supposed to be stretched out of your body as you breathe in and listen to the soft voice of your instructor putting you at ease. A good number of my friends have been going to yoga classes since middle school. I always heard them rave about the relaxing workout and incredible instructors. After buying a mat and getting conned into attending a Kundalini Yoga class, which emphasizes breathing with the postures, I was ready to experience this form of exercise. Upon entering the class, I discovered that my friend had enrolled us for an intermediate level. Soon I would find out that my balance is about as good as a drunk walking home from a late night out at the local bar.
After laying out my mat next to a friend, I attempted to sit cross-legged like everyone else but only managed to form some jumbled collection of limbs. Our instructor promptly entered the room. I still remember it like it was yesterday; he was wearing a light cream-colored shirt and pants and exuded a monk-like aura. He was very thin and looked like he had been malnourished for weeks. He began spiritual chanting that immediately made me uncomfortable. The chanting was supposed to be calming, but instead it just made me want to laugh. After two minutes of sounding like I was speaking in tongues, it was time for stretching.
By the 20-minute mark, I had a feeling the instructor had completely given up on me, seeing as how I kept falling over and trying to envision sad events so I wouldn’t laugh out loud.
Needless to say, it was my last yoga experience until recently. Although Kundalini Yoga and I didn’t get along very well, I learned that just because a certain type of yoga didn’t work for me doesn’t mean I should rule out everything associated with it. Soon, I stumbled upon Power Yoga, which seemed much more up my alley. The classes were quicker and sans all the chanting.
My experience got me thinking that maybe there is a certain type of yoga for everyone. Jennifer Hayes, a yoga instructor at the Michigan Athletic Club, says yoga is not always based on religion and everyone has his or her personal preference when it comes to the type of exercise. “Yoga really benefits people of all ages. As long as you are open-minded, you will find a yoga that is for you.”
Although yoga is not derived from any particular religion, some yoga instructors can choose to make the exercise as spiritual for the class as they want to. Yoga originated in India and was implemented to act as a form of enlightenment for all that joined in its practice.
Presumably, there’s yoga to fit every type of person, whether you’re a hard-core athlete or a laid back intellectual.
The Jock Stars
Who: Former varsity all-stars and cardio-insane gym-goers.
Drink of choice: A low-carb protein shake with at least three adjectives in the name such as Ultra, Super or Champion.
Dream vacation: Final Four weekend in Indianapolis.
Your yoga: Ashtanga
 Okay, you can toss the sporting equipment aside and try an athletic, energetic type of yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, or Power Yoga, which will work you out in ways no sport can. Ashtanga Yoga is very fast and more cardio-workout oriented. It is focused on constant movement and demands a lot from your body; you’ll work up a sweat. Ashtanga means eight limbs, which refers to the eight limbs of yoga. The eight limbs are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Now, before your head starts spinning from all these names, I will break it down for you.
Each limb represents actions we can incorporate into our lives to better ourselves. Yama is about abstinence from actions such as theft or lying. Niyama is about being observant in your surroundings. Asana focuses on the body postures. Pranayama primarily focuses on the breath. Pratyahara encourages us to follow the nature of our mind. Dharana concentrates on concentration. Dhyana is about meditation, and Samadhi focuses on being in a trance.
This style of yoga incorporates many poses that will give you your cardio workout. One of the common practices is called the sun salutation. This practice incorporates 12 positions that flow one after the other. The series includes a pose called the downward facing dog, which is basically forming a downward “V” with your body.
Hayes said she sees many athletes come for a yoga class to help previous injuries or strengthen muscles. “A boxer will come in wanting to improve his flexibility in his upper body and a golfer will join a class in order to stretch out their back,” said Hayes.
This faster paced, less meditative form of yoga might be just the thing for urban regional planning sophomore Erin Whitney. “A good word to describe myself would be ambitious,” said Whitney. “I would want a yoga that would have me try new things and be strenuous.”
Chilled-Out Flower Children
Who: Granola-munching environmentalists or laid-back hippie types.
Drink of choice: Water of course, in a Nalgene bottle with the label covered in a cool sticker. Labels are so corporate.
Dream vacation: Backpacking through the Pampas, just like Che.
Your yoga: Hatha
For the more relaxed personality, its calm atmosphere would be more your forte and Hatha Yoga would most likely appeal to you. Hatha Yoga is less intense than most other yoga classes with easy-going types of movements. Hatha yoga originated from Buddhism practices and comes from the words Hinayana (narrow path), Sahajayana (spontaneous path), Vajrayana (sexuality) and Mahayana (great path).
Many poses are incorporated into this style of yoga including the corpse pose, which requires you to lie on your back with your arms and legs a comfortable distance from your body; the snake pose, which requires that you put your forehead on the floor while lying on your stomach with your hands on both sides of your chest facing downward and the self-massage, which allows you to be your own masseuse!
“I actually think it is very applicable to fit your personality with a yoga type,” said journalism junior Mairin Macdonald. “Yoga is a physical activity that is supposed to tell you more about yourself in a way. With Hatha Yoga, I felt like I was still getting a workout without feeling the strain that typically can come of running or weight lifting.”
Boys and Girls Next Door
Who: Good-natured, regular Joe/Jane types that like to have a good time and a good workout, nothing more.
Drink of choice: Diet Coke. Ahh, there’s nothing like a classic.
Dream vacation: London, U.K. for all the sights and culture. It’s a foreign country but it’s not too precarious; it’s like a smellier, older U.S where the people sound funny.
Your yoga: Vinyasa
For the laid back person who still likes to have fun once in a while, Vinyasa Yoga would be a perfect fit. Vinyasa Yoga focuses the most on breathing, but still demands stretching from your body. In Vinyasa Yoga, the warm-up is conducted with movements coupled with breathing exercises. The workout starts out slow and progresses in its intensity towards the end.
The Vinyasa Yoga also incorporates the sun salutations into its practice. Vinyasa Yoga means the putting together of things and allows you to put together the different poses to allow circulation through the body. And don\’t forget the relaxation – probably the best part.
“I enjoy yoga because it clears my mind and puts me at ease while I do it,” said kinesiology sophomore Steve Beasley. “During yoga I have no worries in the world, and I’m the only person in the world in my mind. It connects my body to my mind in a way nothing else can or has before. I believe it activates a part of the brain that most people don’t use.”
Who: Young, future urbanites with Blackberry’s and a pulse on what’s hip.
Drink of Choice: A non-fat, sugar-free Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks, where else?
Dream vacation: Tokyo for sushi and clubbing in Harajaku. It’s the new New York.
Your yoga: Iyengar
More of an appeal to perfectionists, Iyengar Yoga is cool and precise. This yoga practice mainly focuses on body alignment and the exact way the poses should be held. Iyengar Yoga holds long and slow poses and usually incorporates objects for aids in alignment. Another type of yoga that may suit the perfectionist is Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini Yoga stresses breathing and postures. The poses are usually repetitive and move fairly quickly. There is also normally chanting involved.
Iyengar Yoga includes poses such as the extended side angle pose that tests your balance as you position yourself with one leg bent forward and one hand on the ground with the other reaching to the sky. Iyengar Yoga is also based off of the eight limbs of yoga.
“I like Iyengar because it gives the practitioner mindfulness. When you practice yoga you focus on body and its precise movements,” said Josh Hayes, a senior in interdisciplinary humanities. “Everything else fades away as you strive for perfection of the form. It is very meditative but also very physical. This fits very closely with my worldview. I think it helps people realize how to better live their lives. It helps people get a reference point. You learn more about yourself, and when you do that you better understand how you fit into the world around you.”
Playas and Playettes,.
Who: On the prowl, hook-up kings and queens.
Drink of choice: Redbull and vodka to keep you the bar star you are.
Dream vacation: French Polynesia with a special someone for a taping of Wild On.
Your yoga: Bikram
Unleash your sexy, wild personality with Bikram Yoga. Bikram, or Hot Yoga, is experienced in a toasty 90-100 degree room. Sweat out your toxins while stretching your muscles to the limit!
Of the 26 poses that are incorporated into this practice, the Utkatasana pose is like taking a seat on a patch of air with your arms extended completely forward.
The Happy Couple
Who: The annoying, inseparable two-some with a fused personality.
Drink of choice: Strawberry milkshake, two straws.
Dream vacation: A secluded bed and breakfast outside Paris.
Your yoga: Couples, of course! (I mean, if you want to I will. No, it’s totally up to you, I’ll do it if you want to. No really, baby, I want what you want.)
Enough already…if you’re in a relationship and want yoga you can do with your partner, try couples yoga. Couples yoga will allow you and your love to stretch together in a physical environment. With incorporated massages and supportive stretches, couples yoga can allow you and your partner to be intimate while exercising.
Most of the classes listed above contain various and similar yoga poses and can be found at the Michigan Athletic Club or even right here on campus at both the IM East and West. No matter what you think your yoga preference might be, it is always best to start at the beginner\’s level.
“I recommend people to start in a beginning instructional class instead of jumping right into a fitness yoga class because you get a smaller group setting, more personalized cues, and adjustments in the beginning instructional classes,” said Shiloh Wint, the fitness director at the Michigan Athletic Club. “You can also ask questions to the instructor which seems taboo in the regular studio classes (fitness yoga). The other cool part about the instructional classes is that you can learn both the Sanscrit and regular names for the postures.”
Wint says the beginner classes allow more time to focus on poses and posture to make sure that they are being done correctly. “Personally, yoga does wonders for managing stress,” said Wint. “Afterward, I am much more energized and my day seems so much more positive.”
Yoga can fit just about anyone’s personality, you just have to be open minded enough to give it a shot. Don’t be intimidated just because you aren’t flexible or think that people will make fun of you if you fall over in the middle of a pose. I mean, let’s face it…gravity is a jerk. But then again, you may find that zen you\’ve been looking for. Ommmmmmmmm.
Take a deep breath. Ommmmmmmmm. Salutation to the sun.