Yoga covers a gamut of variations and schools of thought. Even as you read this, there’s another type of yoga emerging somewhere else on this green planet. Some of the contemporary ones doing the rounds include trampoline yoga, broga and paddleboard yoga. So why do we need so many variations? Well, each one caters to a different demographic, need and temperament, and over time, the traditional practice of yoga has evolved into many offshoots that have been personalized on a micro level.
Go Traditional Or Get Contemporary With The Practice
Western civilization has been cited as a major influence which has remolded yoga and made it what it is in modern day society. Contemporary yoga has a heavy focus on the physical training of the body through asanas, and neglects the spiritual and mental aspects for the most part. In fact, not every yoga class may even have pranayamas or breathing exercises, which were imperative to the practice earlier. Yoga classes in the current scheme of things are dictated by busy schedules and dominated by fitness goals such as weight loss, detox, strength training and contouring the body for superficial perfection.
On the flip-side, if you trace yoga back to its roots—the Yoga Sutras (fundamental yogic principles written by Patanjali)—were taught orally from teacher to student. These ideologies were meant to train human beings to cut through blockages and achieve moksha or liberation. In other words, the body was not the end goal or sole focus. It was merely a small but, important conditioning element to enhance the mind-body connection through discipline.
With that in mind, we go back to the basics and take a look at the yoga gurus that helped transform the practice, so that you can align yourself whose ideologies suit your needs and beliefs.
The Game Changers
- Lilias Folan: She is often referred to as the “first lady” of yoga. In 1972, she hosted a very novel show advocating yoga on PBS named Lilias, Yoga and You. This show continued its run on air until 1999. Lilias further went on to introduce and premier, Lilias! Yoga Gets Better with Age, in 2006. Her journey has spanned over 40 glorious years and she still continues to inspire practitioners through her personally led classes, blogs, online classes, retreats, books, yoga gear and audio guides. She is truly an inspiration to people of all ages and she continues to stay active on the yoga scene catering to older generations in a big way. Here’s where you can find her.
- Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa: She has dedicated her life to kundalini yoga, meditation, and helping the less fortunate for the past 30 years. She has co-founded and serves as a director to the successful yoga center, Golden Bridge, located in Los Angeles, California, and New York City. Gurmukh also specializes in pre- and post-natal training, annual teacher trainings around the globe, and caters to the younger crowd with classes in belly dancing, bhangra, hatha yoga, Buddhist meditation, and a whole lot more. She is the esteemed author of two books and three videos based on kundalini meditation, and pre- and post- natal care. Here’s where you can find her.
- Bikram Choudhary: He is an esteemed yoga guru and founder of the popular Bikram (hot) Yoga. This series is a fixed sequence of 26 hatha yoga postures and two breathing exercises done in a heated room of about 40 degrees Celsius. He has studied under Guru Bishnu Ghosh, brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, the renowned author or The Autobiography of a Yogi. And it is Guru Bishnu Ghosh who later helped Bikram overcome a terrible knee injury which inspired Bikram to devise a yoga series applicable to everyone regardless of age, size or body condition. His aim was to show how yoga could heal, repair, and revitalize any kind of body. Since then there has been no looking back; there are several of his teacher trainings, yoga retreats, seminars, books, audio cds and franchised studios located in just about every part of the world. Here’s where you can find him.
While all the three have stretched the practice of yoga in prominent, albeit, very different directions, it would serve you well to know about them in order to ascertain the form of yoga you want to take up.