There is only one system of yoga. It’s like a matrix or a web of interconnecting elements, very similar to the neural network of the brain, or the internet. Each network is its own whole, while also being an expression of the greater whole.
To truly understand what is meant by a ‘style’ of yoga, it’s helpful to apply the same logic. A style of yoga is when you take a portion of the network and live this as your primary focus. While it holds its own expression of the whole, the difficulty is that the style can become the dominant expression, leaving out the wholeness of the complete system of yoga. In essence, living the style as the dominant expression can cloud the greater landscape.
It’s important to note that this approach does not reduce the quality of the style, but it tends to restrict the practitioner the longer it is practiced. Unless, the practitioner identify’s their limitations and explores another style to nurture the unknown in their practice and in themselves. But again, they are not practicing the system of yoga, they’re practising another style – another expression of the whole, but without the vision of the complete expression.
When will society be ready to embrace the complete expression of yoga – the system of yoga as a whole practice rather than just learning in parts – the ‘styles’ of yoga. And, as a practitioner what’s the commitment needed to step into this space?
A simple way to explore this is to move through a typical beginner’s journey of yoga.
As a beginner you start from the outside in. In this sense the classical posture is a good start point. At this stage of your practice, you become familiar with the positions and learn how to move your body with awareness. It’s where we all began.
It’s important that you learn alignment and the anatomy of movement to develop real awareness and strength. Alignment is also an important safety element as it helps to avoid the three common mistakes in practice:
- Lack of awareness
- Over stretching
Your muscles and joints work in a unified and aligned way, as you begin to develop your awareness of how your body works, and you move in unison with integrity. Your body gains more:
Ultimately, the idea is to become aware of your ground (stability), move in your range of space (mobility) and explore the limits of your edge (flexibility) and most importantly, maintain your openness (adaptability).
For the purposes of example, let’s imagine the practitioner begins their yoga journey with Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Here ‘the flow state’ is emphasised but there isn’t much focus on alignment. This creates momentum and high energy but if you’re over stretching and compressing your body, you’ll begin to notice that you’re sometimes pushing beyond the limits of your natural integrity.
You may identify that you need to learn to move your body in alignment to avoid injury. The Vinyasa Flow practitioner begins attending Iyenger classes. As a style of yoga, Iyengar Yoga, focuses primarily on alignment in postures. And, they are excellent at it! Now the student is practicing Vinyasa, with the insight of Iyengar alignment. They are practicing the whole of both styles, but as awareness expands and insight develops, further loopholes in their practice are likely to appear, unaware, the practitioner is searching for the complete expression – the system of yoga.
At Yago, we teach the principles of alignment and yielding in our Stability class. Activate your energetic body and find your flow in our Flow class. Once you’ve mastered both, step into Stability Flow, where the focus is holding the energetic frequency of the flow state, while moving in alignment and yield.
As you move deeper into your body, you begin practicing yoga at an intermediate level. Here you refine your balance, strengthen your centre and focus your mind. You’re activating the three main internal locks in your body, the throat, the abdominal and the perineum and consciously layering in the Ujjayi breath. The word ‘locks’ is a misnomer as it is not a locking rather a toning open, like a channel. Imagine the tip of your index finger and thumb touching and pressing gradually applying more pressure, it creates a toned openness.
When you apply the Ujjayi breath the internal toning of the body activates. A simple way to explain the Ujjayi breath is that it’s like the breath you breathe when you get your second wind. Your airways open fully, and you begin to access your dynamic breath. Applying this with the locks accesses the core power of the body.
Gradually your spine becomes very powerful, creating a shift from physical effort to energetic effort. The longer you hold a posture the less effort you put in and the more energy you get in return. Some of the qualities experienced are vitality, personal power and abundance.
As a style of yoga Ashtanga Yoga focuses primarily on the three main locks and Ujjayi breath. And, they are excellent at it! Within Yago’s system of yoga, we teach these techniques in our Core classes, with a similar focus on the three main locks and Ujjayi breathing. In addition, these principles are layered into our alignment and yielding teachings. The relationship between both these fundamental techniques are taught to our members through our Stability Core class.
An advanced practitioner moves from the inside out. As you clarify your centre you move with alignment in ‘the flow state’. In this, all the elements of practice come together as one complete expression. You move completely, in one unified flow.
As a style of yoga, Vinyasa Yoga focuses primarily on the flow state. The flow state is a constant form of movement that is both energising and effortless at the same time. The body moves in circular motions. Each joint is an expression of a circle from the swivel joint, to the hinge joint and to the spinal column itself. This layers into the natural flow of the inhale and exhale of the breath. When moving in unison it creates powerful flows of energy.
You can experience this energy in our Flow classes. Move in the energetic flow state with the insight of alignment and yield in our Stability Flow class. Experience flow energy with the power of the core and the breath in our Core Flow class. Bring all of these elements together to really challenge yourself physically and energetically in our Power Flow class.
The System goes deeper
Along the way we all encounter blocks or limitations within our body. To release these blocks, we need to be able to move with subtle energies. As a style of yoga Yin Yoga focuses primarily on micro movements and the subtle movement of energy in the body. And, they do it excellently! When we slow our movements down and make smaller and smaller movements, we begin to access the subtle layers within the body to open and release deeply held energetic knots and blocks.
At Yago, we teach these principles in our Restorative class, with a particular focus on micro movements. We integrate these teachings into our focus on alignment, an activated core and the flow state. And the layering of these elements are found in our Restorative Flow class.
To bring everything together, mindfulness is essential. Essentially, it’s the difference between the ‘what’ of the practice and the ‘how’. Attending a yoga class is very enriching, it’s the ‘what’ of the experience, like the eating of the meal. But learning the ‘how’ requires a practitioner to focus on the nuances of the practice. Practicing with awareness of the ‘how’ of the experience is the making of the meal.
As a style, Mindfulness Meditation focuses primarily on awareness of the moment and the subtle nuances. We develop this through our Mindfulness and Meditation classes. But beyond this, Mindfulness Meditation is a part of everything we do and every class we teach.
To practice mindfully we centre ourselves physically, energetically and mentally so that the physical, energetic and mental bodies are moving in unison. It is from this position we actualise our potential and become master yogis. This space leads us to the next level of practice, engaging with chakra energy and the Kundalini experience.
Accessing higher states of energy and consciousness
To enliven higher states of energy and consciousness we need to go deeper into the body and begin to access the central nervous system, the brain, the heart, the chakras and awaken our primal nature to raise up our light body.
As a style of yoga Kundalini Yoga focuses primarily on the higher states of energy and consciousness. And, they do it excellently! We bring this experience through our five Kundalini classes; Kundalini Rising, Kundalini Flow, Kundalini Breath of Fire, Kundalini Bliss and Kundalini Ecstasy classes.
It’s essential that the structure within the practitioner is ready for this experience, a stable body, breath and mind are necessary. Doing strong Kundalini practice without knowing how to yield in the body, breath and mind can be very similar to doing strong flow classes. A lot of energy is released but if the internal structure cannot sustain the experience then it dissipates. Being well rounded in the system of yoga is the most effective way to begin Kundalini practice. In fact, I would say it’s essential.
Why is an integrated system important?
The Yago Way has 16 different classes within the system – and we have some new ones in development. Begin with a primary focus and move through our system to layer the principles of your learning to become a truly well-rounded practitioner.
The population of this planet is experiencing exponential growth in the trajectory of consciousness. Creativity, technology and innovative thinking are moving faster than we could have ever imagined. And in this expanse, disciplines continue to integrate, to merge, to unify – to become greater than the sum of their parts. And from unity comes strength.
As consciousness expands, people’s needs change – they will expect and need more from their yoga. But at the moment, yoga is decentralised, it’s fragmented in its delivery – each school has their teachings. All wonderful, but they serve as a part of the picture, not the whole. To best serve the people, yoga must unite.
At Yago, we believe it’s time for all the styles of yoga to unify into one comprehensive system. Within this system all styles should hold their space, they are their own worlds and their own experts BUT they are not brought to the world in isolation of one another. They are brought as a network, as part of the greater whole. And within this network they all exist to form a complete map – a complete journey of the system of yoga. This unity and integration is surely the best approach for people all over the world. As they traverse the landscape of expanding consciousness, the map of yoga is always there to offer them support and guidance. No one person or one tradition owns yoga, yoga is for everybody to embrace.