As students of yoga, we have all heard of the different “types” of yoga classes available. Hatha, ashtanga, classical, vinyasa, yin, power, hot, flow, aerial, Iyengar… the list is endless and continues to grow almost everyday. So how does Classical yoga differ from the others?
Classical yoga is different in that it contains almost all the elements as prescribed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, the ancient text considered the definitive authority on yoga.
The other variations dip into the vast body of knowledge that is yoga and choose only certain elements. Some focus on strengthening postures and active sequences while others favour breath-specific movement. There are those who give importance to stretching, while some concentrate on strict physical alignment. Classical yoga encompasses all of these elements to enable practitioners to achieve the ultimate goal of yoga. No approach is wrong, they are all different paths to getting to the same goal: attaining inner peace and happiness.
How Classical Yoga Works
So while a Classical yoga session may seem more “easy” and “relaxed”, it provides all of the physical benefits as the other types. Through its series of classical postures (asanas), it maintains a gentle focus on breath and incorporates the essential breathing (pranayama) and relaxation techniques that make any yoga practice true to what the Yoga Sutra prescribes: “Sukham sthiram asanam.” (“Only that which is comfortable and stable is a yoga posture.”)
Classical yoga also meets the second requirement or aim of yoga: “Chitta vritti nirodhah.” BKS Iyengar, in his famous book Light on Yoga, translates it as: “Suppression of the fluctuations of consciousness.” Or, in other words, “Controlling the monkey mind.” Classical yoga does this through its focus on breathing mindfully during postures as well as through specific breathing techniques.
Benefits of Classical Yoga
The respiratory system is the link between the body’s sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the para-sympathetic nervous system (PNS) – or between the body and the mind. It, therefore, stands to reason that breathing mindfully can help bring about a balance between the two. And since imbalances between the SNS and the PNS are the cause of most of our modern-day chronic ailments, Classical yoga can play an important role in tackling these ailments.
We will discuss these ailments and how best to deal with them in our upcoming blog posts … watch this space. In the meanwhile, take a deep breath and enjoy your day. Namaste!