I’ve just started my final week of my 4-week yoga teacher training. Some of you have asked exactly what style I’m learning and what the differences are in the various styles of Yoga.
What exactly is Yoga? You have probably heard one of the following terms: Hatha, Vinyasa, Astanga, Bikram, etc. You probably associate Yoga with a series of postures that force your body to stretch. However, traditional Yoga is a spiritual practice. It is a means to allow you find your “center” a place of balance that will allow you to deepen the connection with yourself which will bring you closer to your higher self, purpose, or God (depending on your own spiritual practice).
Jungle Yoga is a traditional Tantric style yoga that is a breath-based practice. The focus is on letting the breath guide your practice, not your postures guiding you. Instead of just learning every posture and how to teach them, we incorporate an hour of chanting mantras, multiple meditations through the day, and Tantric Yoga philosophy classes.
Yoga doesn’t just mean stretching and movement. It incorporates 5 classical elements:
Jnana Yoga – Knowledge. Such as Reading and learning, being taught. Learning from teachers.
Hatha Yoga – The physical movement, Breathing, and cleansing exercise.
Nada Yoga – Sound Vibration – Reciting Mantras
Bhakti Yoga – Devotion – Committing yourself to something, like a higher purpose
Karma Yoga – Making every act that your do be an act of connecting and expression of harmony
These 5 elements combined compromise yoga. You might be thinking “this sounds more like a spiritual practice that an exercise class.” Truth is, it is. However, do not fear and think that you must be Hindu or Buddhist or that your Yoga teacher is going to convert you into believing something that you don’t want to. Whatever your spiritual faith is, will fit into each one of these categories. We all learn from someone else and read our spiritual book. We move daily and we Breathe. We each recite our own type of Mantra, whether it’s in Sanskrit or in the form of Bible Verses. We also commit ourselves to a higher purpose in our own personal acts of devotion to the One that you pray or bow to. And you cannot deny Karma Yoga: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Karma happens. No matter how you look at it. Just smile at someone. Chances are, they might smile back or their eyes will light up. That’s instant karma.
And now the word “Tantra.” NO, Tantra does not mean sex. Tantra means, “to weave.” The goal of Tantra Yoga is to find that intersecting point between two objects and then find the stillness in that moment. For example, where exactly does the ocean meet the shore? Where do your arms meet your shoulders? Tantra seeks to find that middle space and expand it. This is why Breath is so important. Jungle Yoga is seeing to find that tantric space where the Breath and the Posture meet and then expand that intersection to discover the stillness. It’s in the stillness that our muscles and joints and our mind can begin to relax. Instead of forcing the muscles to relax, we try to find the stillness and passively allow the muscles to relax with each breath.
If you are seeing a very “Power” type of Yoga, then looking into Ashtanga, Vinyasya or Bikram might be a good choice for you. If you are a beginner or someone who desires to cultivate a more breath based practice that helps your mind to relax and your lungs to expand, then maybe Jungle yoga is a better option for you. Know that all types of Hatha (movement) Yoga are good. You just need to find that one that is right for you.