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Schools of Balance

Alignment Yoga

by Sandra Helpsmeet

The name Alignment Yoga refers to aligning with the natural forces of grounding, healing, growth, and evolution. Scott Anderson developed Alignment Yoga after many years of studying other styles of yoga, including Iyengar and Ashtanga, and realizing that asana and pranayama practice are based on what Indian bodies need and are capable of, and are not as accessible to a Western body. In order to help westerners bridge this gap, Anderson has developed ‘pre-yoga’ exercises that ‘wake-up’ the core body we are not used to using.

Alignment Yoga also teaches that it is important to strengthen supporting muscles of the body before stretching. It recognizes that the body, in its wisdom, will create tension and tightness where support is needed if it is not there in the way it is meant to be. Pre-Yoga and the Beginner’s syllabus of poses work on developing core supporting strength, and the body responds by dropping compensating tension and naturally becoming more flexible. In the process, health often improves and pain disappears.

Breath is an important part of Alignment Yoga. Beginners are taught right away to practice exhaling fully. As the core body becomes stronger, breathing muscles that have been standing in to support us are freed and deeper breathing can develop. Natural core support, full and free breathing, are, Alignment Yoga teaches, deeply satisfying to the body, the nervous system, and the mind. The doorway to meditation is opened naturally.

Alignment Yoga is taught in the Chippewa Valley at The Yoga Center of Eau Claire.

Iyengar Yoga

by Sandra Helpsmeet

Iyengar Yoga is well known in the western world because Mr. Iyengar is one of the first asana teachers to visit and teach in Europe and the North America. Iyengar’s style of yoga is distinguished by the use of many props and by exacting alignment. Poses are generally done individually (instead of flowing one into the other) and care is taken to create the pose and hold it. Breath is not much emphasized for the first few years one practices Iyengar yoga.

In Iyengar yoga, mastery of the body is considered the doorway through which one masters the mind. The technique of alignment becomes more and more refined over time. One gradually learns to be aware of the whole body, even in minute ways, in practicing asana; and through that greater awareness and becoming more refined, the mind becomes more focused and calm. Other important aspects of Iyengar yoga are the sequence of poses and the length of time spent in a posture, with long holds being common.

Iyengar certified teachers go through a rigorous training program and must teach only Iyengar method yoga. Props are used to support the student’s body in ways that allow them to do poses they would not otherwise be able to do. Mr. Iyengar is also known for his extensive work with therapeutic yoga. He has developed sequences of poses for a vast variety of ailments.

Power Yoga

by Donna Sauter, Unified Wellness Certified Fitness & Yoga

When the word ‘Yoga’ comes to mind many people think of gentle, slow movements with emphasis on relaxation and mediation. That’s great; however, there are many ‘styles’ of Yoga and with today’s emphasis on fitness and well-being, Power Yoga may be perfect for those looking for a ‘fitness’ style of Yoga that focuses on strength, flexibility, and endurance, as well as relaxation. Power yoga brought yoga into the gyms of America!

Power Yoga classes can vary widely from teacher to teacher as there are no set series of poses. The classes will most likely appeal to people who are already somewhat fit, enjoy exercising, and want minimal or no chanting and meditation with their yoga. The poses and movement can be vigorous and challenging; however, a well educated instructor will provide options for all levels of fitness. But despite its vigorous approach in Yoga, Power Yoga still focuses on the general aim of Classical Yoga, which is to unite our ‘outer self’ with our ‘inner self’.

Benefits of Power Yoga

  1. Increases metabolic rate, reduces fat, and improves calorie burning and lean muscle tissue.

  2. Exercises your back and stomach muscles constantly, thereby improving core strength.

  3. Increases and harmonizes the heartbeat.

  4. Like normal yoga, it also reduces stress and relaxes the body.

  5. Students can benefit more as it improves concentration.

  6. Bodily toxins are removed from the physical or body system through the sweat the body excretes during sessions.

  7. Serves as a great warm up or training activity for all sorts and types of athletes.

  8. When done regularly, would help improve an athlete’s overall performance especially in demanding sports like golf, football, cycling, and of course, swimming.

If you have not yet incorporated Yoga into your exercise routine, now is a great time to jump in. A variety of classes are offered throughout our area and there’s one waiting just for you!

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