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Which Style of Yoga is for You: Most of the yoga practiced in the West falls under the broad classification of Hatha yoga. When people say they are taking a yoga class, they usually mean they are learning the poses (or asanas) and breathing techniques of Hatha yoga. Each of the following yoga practices shares roots in Hatha yoga and a common focus on awareness, relaxation and conscious breathing, yet each follows its own unique yoga path.
The Path: Yogi B.K.S. Lyengar developed a style of yoga emphasizing body placement and alignment. The style incorporates "props" to support postures and accommodates students of varying degrees of fitness and flexibility. Items such as yoga blocks or bricks (which "raise" the floor) or cotton yoga straps (which aid in stretching) are helpful to students with injuries, weakness or inflexibility. Lyengar instructors pay close attention to the details of body alignment which leads to precise, dynamic asanas. Classes are slower due to the concentration given to each pose and the focus necessary to perform them correctly.
Who It's Best For: Lyengar yoga is ideal for newcomers who may enjoy assistance with more challenging poses.
The Path: The most dynamic and vigorous form of yoga, Ashtanga approaches yoga with a continuous flow of movement. Top athletes who seek a more intense workout enjoy this form of yoga, sometimes called vinyasa or power yoga. Ashtanga creates heat in the body to purge it of toxins. Students perform a variety of asanas (poses) interspersed with Sun Salutations (set sequence of poses executed rapidly). The emphasis in Ashtanga yoga is flexibility, strength and endurance.
Who It's Best For: Ashtanga classes are best for those seeking physical and spiritual gains from yoga and for those fit and flexible enough to link poses in rapid succession.
The Path: Kundalini is derived from the Indian word kundal, which means, "lock of hair from the beloved." The uncoiling of this "hair" (often referred to as a serpent) is the awakening of the kundalini, the creative energy stored in the base of the spine in all humans. Kundalini yoga practice aims to activate this energy through breath, poses, chanting and meditation. Several forms of breathing techniques are used to clear the system and allow energy to flow into the chakras, or energy centers located in the body.
Who It's Best For: Practitioners embrace Kundalini as a holistic form of yoga that applies to all aspects of life and does not focus exclusively on fitness.
The Path: Sivananda yoga integrates many forms of yoga, including a traditional Hatha approach. More than just a set of poses, Sivananda weaves a five-point philosophy into every class, including principles of relaxation, exercise, breathing, diet and positive thinking. Classes follow a sequence of breathing exercises, a routine of postures and deep relaxation and meditation.
Who It's Best For: Newcomers seeking a familiar series of poses and a spiritual boost through meditation and chanting will enjoy the supportive atmosphere of Sivananda classes.
The Path: Rising in popularity, Bikram yoga, developed by Bikram Choudhury, uses rooms heated above 105 degrees with about 40% humidity and repeated postures in the workouts. Classes are demanding, even in beginning practice, employing the same 26 postures and two pranayama breathing techniques. Bikram shuns the use of props and avoids demonstration of the asanas (poses) in class: students are expected to learn poses by watching and listening to the instructor. Students swear by the results of the disciplined, highly-focused classes.
Who It's Best For: Enthusiasts of action-oriented, high-endurance fitness routines are most likely to gain satisfaction from this challenging form of yoga.
At Gaiam they know that positive change comes from within. Their focus on personal development, health & wellness and global consciousness shows them the path to transformation. Since 1988, Gaiam's mission has been to reach those who share their values of commitment to the well-being of people and the planet.
At Gaiam, they believe in encouraging personal wellness, respect for the planet and following a path toward conscious living. Their products, services and even packaging have been created to ensure quality as well as environmental and social consciousness. Gaiam sustains their vision through relationships with partners and programs all over the world that share their mission of respect, responsibility and honoring the land we live on.
Zero Waste at Gaiam:
Carbon Offsetting at Gaiam: Gaiam uses a carbon offsetting program to help offset some of the unavoidable processes that expose our world to more carbon.
Fair Trade at Gaiam: Across the globe, Gaiam's fair trade partners are empowering craftspeople to preserve their rich cultural traditions and create better lives for their families and communities.
Gaiam Gives Back: From inner-city schools to homeless shelters to hospitals, Gaiam has donated yoga mats, fitness tools, Balance Ball chairs, bedding, water bottles, cleaning supplies, solar-powered gadgets and more to those in need in Colorado (where Gaiam's headquarters are located) and other states throughout the U.S.
"Gaiam gives several donations every week," says staffer Kate Weaver. "It's heart-warming to see how many different organizations we are able to reach."
Some of the groups and organizations Gaiam has donated to include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, military personnel, private and public schools, athletic events, Girl Scout troops, daycare centers, nurses, occupational therapists, summer camps, health and wellness conferences, animal rescue groups, cancer research programs, yoga centers, special needs organizations and nonprofits.
Examples of ways Gaiam gives back are:
Annual Tree Giving: During the holiday season, Gaiam employees purchase gifts for local children and seniors in need through the City and County of Broomfield's Holiday Giving Tree. So far, Gaiam employees have given hundreds of gifts to those in need.
Yoga Mats to the Navy: Gaiam sent yoga mats to a military and civilian team helping with reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The yoga equipment was added to the team's small gym to help promote health and wellness for the military personnel.
Supplies to Haiti: Gaiam donated 200 yoga mats as well as solar-powered radios and flashlights to those left homeless by the earthquake in Haiti. In addition, the company worked with Ohio-based Matthew 25 Ministries to donate more than 50 pallets of goods worth almost $175,000 from the Gaiam Distribution Center to the ministries' Haiti relief efforts.
Supplies to Tornado Victims: Gaiam employees donated bedding, personal care products, toys, clothing and other items as well as money and gift cards to tornado victims in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and paid to ship the boxes to aid workers in the southern state.
Thanksgiving for the Poor: Donating hundreds of turkeys to the Denver Rescue Mission, Gaiam helps provide Thanksgiving meals to the poor and homeless in the Denver area.
School Supply Drive: Every September, Gaiam staffers contribute fully-stocked backpacks to the Crayons to Calculators school supply drive, which provides backpacks to children in need to start their school year off right. Not only do Gaiam's employees donate cash, backpacks and school supplies, but they also have the opportunity to take paid time off to volunteer for the event stuffing and delivering the backpacks to local schools.
Printed yoga mats release a very strong but harmless odor when first unwrapped. Please unroll and air out your mat for 2-3 days before use. Spot clean with a damp cloth with cold water and mild detergent. Dry flat. Store in a mat bag when not in use.