Yoga is an exercise and spiritual system that stretches and strengthens the body through a series of poese known as asanas. Yoga has enjoyed quite an increase in popularity over the past few years. There has also been a big increase in yoga centers and places that offer yoga classes. There was a time, a few years ago, when the only place that you could find yoga instruction was real early on Sunday morning on PBS.
The first thing that you want to do when choosing a yoga center is decide which of the many forms of yoga is right for you. Yoga is an ancient practice that has developed from the styles of many masters over the centuries. There are forms that are purely for physical exercise and others that try to form a link from the physical body to the spiritual. Ashtanga is based on a series of poses that are performed at a vigorous pace that emphasize continuity to purify the body.
Iyengar Yoga is one of the most popular forms practiced in the United States today. It focuses on precision alignment through the use of props.
Kripalu is geared to that mind-body awareness and uses very gentle poses. There is a high emphasis on meditation in this practice.
Purna Yoga attempts to take the wisdom of the past and update it for the problems and stresses of today. This yoga utilizes the Iyengar movements.
Viniyoga classes also take a slow, meditative approach. Some flow is involved but the classes are slower than the other forms.
Hatha is a very popular form of yoga, (the one that was featured on PBS when you were a child) which focuses on perfecting the mind through perfecting the body. There is a lot of focus on breathing techniques.
Then there are two rather specialized yoga techniques that you probably shouldn’t practice until you get some experience:
Kundalini yoga seeks to awaken and focus the kundalini energy that lies like a coiled up snake in our spines. There are some stories that kundalini energy, focused incorrectly, can shoot out of the top of your head and burn holes in the soles of your feet. Why risk it?
Tantra increases sexual spirituality through the use of kundalini energy. Enough said.
After you have done your research and have chosen which style is right for you, here are a few other things to consider before choosing a studio: How long has the studio been around? Though not always true, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb to choose a studio that was in business before the big yoga craze began and everybody started teaching it. The next thing to consider is what style of yoga do they teach? Do they offer several or just one? What about equipment? Do they supply any of it, or is it your responsibility? What time are the classes offered? The best ones won’t do you any good if they don’t fit your schedule. And finally, do they offer workshops and advanced levels if you decide you want to anvance. Here are a few of the top yoga centers in the St. Louis, Missouri area:
The Art of Living Foundation. 7409 Flora Avenue (314) 367-5805. The Foundation, founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is the largest non-governmental volunteer organization in the world. Besides all of the poverty and hunger relief work that they do around the globe, they also offer classes in yoga, meditation, and stress elimination.
Big Bend Yoga Center 88 N. Gore (314) 918-9642 This yoga center is one that has been around for some ten years now, well before the yoga craze began. It has also set the standard in St. Louis for about that period of time.
Solar Yoga Center 6002 Pershing (314) 726-5133 This is a multi-specialty center that also features other types of meditation and martial arts like Falun Gong, the Tai Chi like meditation in motion that was banned in China. They also offer yamis, prenatal yoga, and Innergi, which is a blend of yoga, martial arts, and dance.