September is National Yoga Month, an improbable concept back in the 1960s when yoga first gained a niche following in Western culture. The practice of yoga in the United States has grown steadily since that time, culminating in an estimated 37 million practicing yogis today. While yoga is considered a hot fitness trend in the US, it has existed in Eastern cultures for more than 5,000 years.
The recent surge in yoga’s popularity has created curiosity among the masses. Most people know that yoga is beneficial, but reluctance to trying it persists. Through this article, we hope to demystify the mystic practice of yoga, and answer some practical questions: What exactly is yoga? What are the benefits outside of the obvious? What’s the best way to get started?
Yoga is a deep ancient practice with many different elements. While Western yoga is primarily a physical experience, the ultimate purpose for practicing yoga is to turn inward and gain enlightenment. In yoga, there is an eightfold path that acts as a guideline to leading a purposeful life. These eight limbs of yoga are:
1. Yama (ethical standards to uphold and create integrity)
2. Niyama (self discipline and spiritual commitment)
3. Asana (physical postures)
4. Pranayama (breath control)
5. Pratyahara (self awareness)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (bliss and ecstasy)
Most modern classes focus primarily on asanas, the physical poses of yoga. Breath control, inhaling and exhaling with specific movements, is also stressed in most classes. Students are often inspired to explore other yoga limbs through additional instruction outside of general classes. While yoga is a traditional path to spiritual enlightenment, it can also be experienced as a workout, plain and simple, with little to no emphasis on anything other than stretching, active movement and relaxation. Yoga can be as deep as you take it, and there are benefits no matter how deep you go.
Joey Mucha, Group Exercise Assistant at East Bank Club, has practiced and taught yoga for almost 20 years. Extensively trained in a variety of modalities, Joey considers yoga to be an essential companion to any physical program.
Flexibility is a primary benefit of yoga, but it is not a prerequisite. “There is a myth that you need to be flexible in order to do yoga,” explains Joey. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, those with limited flexibility see the greatest benefit and progress in their practice. Most people that come to yoga aren’t flexible, but they see that change over time.”
In addition to flexibility, yoga’s physical benefits include: increased strength, improved lung capacity, weight loss, core stability and an increase in bone density. These physical benefits correlate to mental improvements that generate an overall feeling of well-being. Holding poses not only increases core strength; it quiets the mind and increases confidence and patience. Creating calm inner awareness during an extremely intense experience allows us to bring that same calm demeanor to life’s daily difficulties. Traffic rage? No problem! Boss treats you unfairly? No sweat! Yoga is a practice that keeps giving after you’ve rolled up your yoga mat.
Athletes who focus on one specific sport can gain tremendous benefit from practicing yoga. Yoga uses opposing muscle groups on multiple planes, resulting in a balanced workout that can offset the muscle imbalances that result from many sports activities. Yoga also increases awareness of holding stress in a specific body area, enabling us to let go of these tensions and experience an ultimate improvement in performance. For example, clenching your jaw while running can slow down your pace. It takes effort to clench and hold that stress in your muscles, effort that could be going towards the run itself. Yoga teaches the body to release clenching in stressful situations.
While yoga can burn over 500 calories in a vigorous hour-long class, the real weight loss benefit of the practice comes from making better choices. Yoga brings awareness to all aspects of how we feel, resulting in a more attuned approach to food. We eat when we’re hungry. We stop when we’re full. Of course overeating is possible in any situation, but yoga creates internal awareness and a desire for more healthful choices.
Anyone out there need some patience – like right now?! Patience helps us deal with overwhelming situations in our daily lives. Whether it’s stress from kids, work or other routine occurrences, yoga increases our capacity for patience through the practice of staying in an uncomfortable position until it’s time to move on. Not a surprise that patience takes time to cultivate and grows as your practice deepens.
The East Bank Club yoga program is extensive, and offers a variety of modalities and varying levels of instruction from specialized one-on-one training to large flowing group classes. The Club has one of the most comprehensive yoga programs in the country. The instructors are all trained in their respective methods of practice and have extensive experience. Additionally, the Club offers state-of-the-art equipment, including mats and props, a rope wall to aid in inversions, and a sophisticated climate control system that can heat up or cool down the room within a 15-minute time frame.
For novices, it’s best to start with the Club’s complimentary class Yoga for Beginners or to take private sessions with a yoga instructor, in order to learn general movements and poses. The newly constructed Studio 6 on the fourth floor has been established for private and small group lessons. Prior registration is necessary through the Reservation Desk.
East Bank Club offers over 55 scheduled yoga classes per week to explore which approach is right for you. Classes range from introspective and spiritual to athletic and vigorous. The following is an overview of the classes based upon their pace. All classes allow for modifications and a progression in practice.
Yoga Beginnings – Jumping off point to learn the basics of yoga before moving on to other classes
Daoist Meditation – Introduction to an internally focused practice
Mindfulness Vinyasa – Provides deliberate intention and focus through a slower paced flow
Restorative Yoga – Slow paced class that incorporates meditation and breath for deep relaxation
Somatic Slow Flow – Very deep holding of reclined poses
Vinyasa Yin – A slow flow with emphasis on holding poses
Yin Yoga – Focus is on flexibility and opening in the lower body
Yoga Solutions – Designed to provide support to yogis with injuries or chronic issues
Forrest Yoga – Moderate but challenging class that focuses on holding poses for longer time periods
Inspired Alignment – Focus on standing poses to create balance and body awareness
Kripalu Yoga – Moderately paced flow that focuses on alignment and breath
Strength & Alignment Yoga – Focus on moving simple poses into more advanced postures
Vinyasa Flow – Moderately paced, breath-focused active movement
Heated Vinyasa– Vinyasa in an 85-90-degree environment
Ashtanga/Ashtanga Blend – Energetic sequence that integrates breath and movement
Buff Yoga – Combines interval training sequences with yoga stretches in between
Dynamic Vinyasa Flow – A fast-paced athletic class that incorporates sun salutations and challenging standing and floor poses
Heated Vinyasa Flow – Dynamic Vinyasa Flow in a 90-95-degree environment
EBC Hot Yoga – Challenging, athletic class that takes place in a 95-100-degree environment
For more details about the Club’s yoga offerings, including a full schedule, click here.
East Bank Club | September 2016