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From Times Online
June 12, 2010

The new yoga guide from hatha to doga

In the week that India announced it will patent 1,000 yoga postures, here’s our guide to what’s real and what’s not.

Sivananda

What is it?

Classical approach that teaches diet, exercise, breathing, relaxation and positive thinking.

Who does it?

People who want yoga at the centre of their life, not just an exercise class.

What it does

As well as posture, the aim is to improve all aspects of life from diet to self- image.

Authenticity 10/10 Teachings date back 5,000 years.

Bikram

What is it?

Bikram, aka hot yoga, is a favourite with those who like to feel as if they have worked out. It was created by the Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury, now a millionaire, in the 1970s and is based on a system of 26 hatha postures that are performed in a room heated to 38C-45C (100F-113F).

Who does it?

Devotees include Andy Murray, Brooke Shields and George Clooney.

What it does

With the focus on sweating, this is the one to choose to lose weight. It can help to burn up to 600 calories an hour. Avoid if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Authenticity

3/10 Around before yoga became hugely popular in the 1990s, but it loses points for being a hugely commercial enterprise.

Hatha

What is it?

The original yoga and the most traditional of the practices. Hatha is the term used to describe the ancient physical practice of combining asanas (postures), meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques). It is a good starting point for beginners, though as you progress the postures are held for longer, becoming more challenging.

Who does it?

Ricky Martin and Meg Ryan, along with traditionalists and stressed executives.

What it does

A study by the American Council on Exercise showed that it improved muscular strength, flexibility and balance by up to 35 per cent over eight weeks. Studies also suggest that it can ease depression.

Authenticity

10/10 Its 15th-century Indian roots and untouched asanas make this the traditionalist’s choice.

Ashtanga

What is it?

A demanding form of yoga that consists of six progressively more difficult series of linked postures, each requiring between 90 minutes and three hours to complete. Popularised in the late 1990s.

Who does it?

Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Geri Halliwell all practise Ashtanga to stay svelte; Ashtanga is also offered at gyms for its cardio properties.

What it does

Because it is dynamic, Ashtanga offers a cardio workout and resistance training in one. It makes you sweat, which is supposed to purify body and mind.

Authenticity

8/10 Although it has its roots in ancient practices, Ashtanga is a relatively new yoga that came to prominence in the 1950s through the yoga instructor Pattabhi Jois. More authentic than many.

Dynamic yoga

What is it?

A less challenging version of Bikram yoga (see below) with classes performed in 35C heat.

Who does it?

Gym-goers who want to enhance their cardio training as much as their flexibility.

What it does

Improves cardiovascular fitness more than many other forms of yoga.

Authenticity

2/10 A spin-off of a spin-off (Bikram).

Mother and baby yoga

What is it?

Mothers are encouraged to help their infants perform adapted yoga moves while they tackle the real thing.

Who does it?

New mothers who want to strengthen their core muscles without leaving baby in a crèche.

What it does

Tightens core muscles, but US paediatricians have questioned the effectiveness for babies.

Authenticity

3/10 Yoga requires concentration.

Yin yoga

What is it?

Poses are held for five minutes (up to 20 for the advanced) to restore joint health.

Who does it?

Suitable for all and favoured by athletes. Stretches can be challenging.

What it does

Asanas and breathing techniques target the spine, joints and connective tissue.

Authenticity

7/10 The use of traditional asanas and breathing get this the thumbs-up.

Kundalini

What is it?

Kundalini has a reputation for being esoteric and having slightly nudge-nudge, wink-wink sexual connotations. Much of this is linked to its postures, which are designed to awaken “kundalini” energy in the spine — an approach also used in tantric sex.

Who does it?

Heidi Montag, Amy Smart, Cindy Crawford and Courtney Love embrace its spiritual approach.

What it does

The chanting, meditation and focused breathing techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing, used in Kundalini reduce stress and help you to relax.

Authenticity

10/10 It became popular in the West in the 1960s when it was taught by Yogi Bhajan, but its principles appeared in Hindu textbooks written between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Jivamukti

What is it?

Co-founded by the American yoga teachers David Life and Sharon Gannon, this is a huge hit in New York gyms and is gaining popularity here. A combination of hatha postures, Sanskrit chanting and elements of contemporary and traditional philosophy. Often performed to music.

Who does it?

Uma Thurman, whose brother is a Jivamukti teacher, Thandie Newton and Christy Turlington.

What it does

Vigorously physical, but many are attracted for the angst-busting effects it is said to have on the mind and because it is intellectually stimulating.

Authenticity

8/10 While it loses points for being around for less than 25 years, its emphasis on spirituality makes this a hit among yoga disciples.

Vinyasa

What is it?

Vinyasa means “breath-synchronised movement” and the entire class focuses on the sun salutation series of postures. Each posture is held for an extended period and the class moves at a super-slow pace with no break between asanas.

Who does it?

Jennifer Aniston, Russell Simmons, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. Those looking to escape the rigours of life during their lunch hour.

What it does

The continuous flow of repetitive postures enables a relaxed, meditative mindset.

Authenticity

6/10 Vinyasa dates from the 15th century, but the term is now used to describe any flowing form of yoga. Some teachers use elements of dance and martial arts, which dilute its authenticity.

Yogalates

What is it?

A hybrid of yoga and Pilates that was first developed in 1997 by the American Pilates instructor Jonathan Urla and now features on almost every gym timetable around the country.

Who does it?

Heidi Klum, the supermodel who snapped back into shape after having each of her four children, is a fan. It’s also one for the time-poor because it provides two disciplines in one class.

What it does

It is said to provide a less intimidating fusion of the best elements of the two activity forms, helping to attain good posture, correct breathing and meditative mindfulness.

Authenticity

1/10 Critics claim that it offers a watered-down version of each discipline and that you would be better off doing one or the other.

Power yoga

What is it?

A popular UK gym class, this is a fast-paced, aerobic adaptation of Ashtanga.

Who does it?

Fashionable fitness enthusiasts; Shilpa Shetty helped to popularise it.

What it does

Its athletic approach offers a total body workout. Improves fitness and balance; burns calories.

Authenticity

4/10 Some say it neglects yoga’s mind-body code.

Koga

What is it?

An unlikely fusion of yoga and kickboxing, combining stretching, kicking and punching.

Who does it?

Gym-goers looking for a quick-fix answer to stress and weight gain.

What it does

Burns calories, tones and tightens, and relieves tension.

Authenticity

0/10 Thanks to the very un-yogic combination of activities.

Iyengar

What is it?

Named after the man who invented it in 1937, B. K. Iyengar, the focus is on improving alignment and working muscles intensively.

Who does it?

Perfect for the desk-bound.

What it does

Develops strength and flexibility first. One US study showed it can improve back pain.

Authenticity

7/10 Iyengar is based on hatha traditions.

Doga

What is it?

Yoga for (American) dogs.

Who does it?

Dogs with stiff joints as a result of inactivity.

What it does

Doga is said to improve digestion and heart function as well as flexibility and arthritic pain.

Authenticity

0/10 The concept has outraged some followers.

Antenatal yoga

What is it?

Most antenatal classes are traditional hatha yoga moves tailored for the pregnant woman. During pregnancy the release of hormones such as relaxin, which loosens the hip joints to prepare a woman for birth, can make joints hyper-mobile — which means that some asanas are not suitable. Antenatal yoga also removes postures that are a risk to an unborn baby in the early stages of pregnancy.

Who does it?

Dannii Minogue and Elle Macpherson and yummy mummies everywhere.

What it does

Specifically focuses on alleviating back pain and ankles swollen by water retention in pregnancy. It can improve sleep if done regularly.

Authenticity

10/10 Uses original asanas and removes the unsuitable ones.

Restorative yoga

What is it?

This discipline provides relief for specific ailments; small classes are dedicated to healing back injuries, solving digestive problems or easing stress. Positions are held for longer than usual to gently stretch and heal the body.

Who does it?

Anyone who is under a lot of stress or seeking to heal a specific problem. Sting is a fan.

What it does

Postures are targeted at problem areas, and in classes to manage stress more attention is given to meditation. A study published this year suggested that it improved the sleep patterns of cancer sufferers.

Authenticity

7/10 Restorative yoga is not so much a different yoga style as a collection of the best asanas to restore health.

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