Pick Your Yoga Practice

Pick Your Yoga PracticeMYTH:  Yoga is only for skinny, bendy women who like to zen out and there’s only one way to practice it.

REALITY:  There is a kind of yoga for every person regardless of gender, age, physical abilities or fitness level.

The oldest person known to be teaching the yoga that Westerners are familiar with is 92.  My kids have been practicing since they could walk as they follow my moves.

Yoga is currently practiced by a variety of professional athletes like football and hockey players, downhill skiers, bikers and any other kind of athlete you can imagine.  They practice not only for the physical aspects but also because yoga helps them to focus their minds and work with their breath in ways that other types of training can’t.

There is yoga for amputees and those with a variety of other disabilities.  Yoga has been very beneficial for those trying to lose weight, whether that’s 20 pounds or 200.

If you have physical or emotional issues where you feel stuck, yoga may help you to finally get past those issues.

Getting Started

If you’re new to the practice, you may be wondering where to start.

When I began about twelve years ago, I picked up a couple books at the bookstore and started where I was – at the very beginning with no idea what yoga was or how it would transform every aspect of my life.

I bought some videos and started practicing at home since I live an hour and a half from the closest yoga studio.

I would suggest attending classes taught by different teachers to get a taste of the variety that yoga offers.  Like any other human connection, you may click with some teachers and be repelled by others.

Follow your heart and do what feels good.  Take things at your own pace.

Next Steps

Once you start practicing on a regular basis, you may hear about many different types of yoga.  I was generally confused with all the different names because they all seemed to be doing the same thing: asana (the postures or movements), pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation.

I read short descriptions online or in Yoga Journal and still couldn’t figure out the difference.

Then I read Pick Your Yoga Practice by Meagan McCrary and the differences became much more evident.  Yes, the “what” is generally the same across the many varieties but the “how” and “why” can be quite different.

I had closed my mind to some types of yoga like Bikram because I couldn’t see myself sweating profusely in a 105 degree room doing the same set of postures over and over.  After Meagan enlightened me more thoroughly on the “why” of this type of yoga, my mind is much more open to giving it a shot.

Pick Your Yoga Practice may be a bit advanced for the yoga newbie but it could the difference between just exercise or a lifelong passion to those who have been practicing regularly, even for a few months.

There’s a Lot More to Yoga Than You Think

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Whether you want to become lithe and toned, address specific health issues, gain more clarity, develop a sense of peace, discover your life’s purpose or whatever it is — choosing a yoga style that supports your intentions is essential for staying on course. Here’s a guide to get you started:

To become svelte, try Ashtanga-vinyasa yoga

Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic, physically demanding practice that synchronizes breath and movement to produce a strong internal heat designed to purify the body. With its many vinyasas (vinyasa meaning “breathing-moving system”), this style is particularly great for building upper body and core strength while toning the whole body. Prepare to sweat as you briskly move through a set sequence of postures while remaining focused on your breath.

To gain stability and increase mobility, try Iyengar yoga

Iyengar yoga is the practice of precision, paying close attention to the anatomical details and alignment of each posture. Rather than moving quickly from one pose to the next, postures are built methodically with steadfast concentration and held for longer periods of time, and props are often used to modify the poses. The method is designed to safely and systematically cultivate strength, flexibility and stability along with mind-body awareness, and is particularly therapeutic for individuals with specific limitations and conditions.

To detox, try Bikram yoga

Bikram yoga is a set series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises done in 105-degree heat with 40% humidity for ninety minutes — you’re going to sweat. The specific sequence of poses systematically works every part of the body from “bones to skin,” bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to every internal organ, vein, gland and fiber, while the heat and serve to speed up the natural detoxifying process.

To become more centered, try Integral yoga

Integral yoga is a combination of yoga disciplines designed to systematically address all layers of the body, from the physical down to the more subtle aspects of being, the emotional, energetic, and mental bodies. Classes tend to be gentle, slow, and accessible, placing equal emphasis on pranayama, deep relaxation, and meditation as well as asana practice. Transforming the whole person, Integral yoga aims to help student access the place of peace and happiness that resides within each of us.

To ignite your passion and creativity, try Kundalini yoga

Kundalini yoga is a spiritual practice aimed at expanding consciousness, igniting passion and increasing physical vitality by accessing kundalini-shakti and integrating prana (your life force) throughout the body. The method is multidimensional, using rhythm, movement, breath and sound to effectively stimulate and shift your energy. Alternating between active exercises (known as kriyas) and mini-periods of relaxation, you’ll be guided to pay close attention to any internal sensations you’re experiencing — releasing stored emotional and psychological blocks and allowing creative energy to flow.

To develop more self-acceptance and compassion, try Kripalu yoga

Kripalu yoga is a comprehensive and compassionate approach to self-study that uses asana, pranayama, deep relaxation, and meditation as its primary tools for promoting physical health, calming the mind, opening the heart and developing deeper levels of self-awareness. The method is inquiry-based. Prompted by questions such as What are you feeling right now? What is your body asking for? students are encouraged to move and modify the postures, discovering what works best for them. Above all else, Kripalu emphasizes practicing with compassionate self-awareness and acceptance.

To explore spirituality, try Jivamukti yoga

Jivamukti yoga is a physically dynamic, intellectually stimulating and spiritually inspiring method that incorporates chanting, meditation, deep relaxation and pranayama into a vigorous vinyasas practice with a heavy injection of philosophy, poetry, music and affirmations. The system emphasizes the living spiritual tradition of yoga, bringing ancient teachings alive in a contemporary setting and applying the wisdom to daily life.

Whatever style of yoga you choose, being clear on your intention for practicing will help you get the most out of your time spent on the mat. And don’t beat yourself up if you fall out of practice from time to time, most of us do. Unlike resolutions, which by definition are rigid, intentions are softer, more fluid. They are riverbanks on your path, helping guide you in the direction you want to go — reminding you of the bigger picture so that you don’t get lost in the day to day.

How do you know which style is best for you?

Whichever style keeps you coming back. When in class, notice the way you feel, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally as well. How do you feel after class? Are you in a rush to run out the door, or do you find yourself lingering a little longer? One thing to keep in mind is that the class experience is as much about the teacher as it is the style of yoga their teaching. Finding a teacher that you resonate with is crucial to developing a steady yoga practice. Basically, you’ll know when you know, and the more you expose yourself to different teachers, styles and practices, the more you’ll know.

[end of excerpt]

I appreciated the indepth descriptions of these and many other types of yoga.  This is the only resource I’ve found with this information and it’s something I’ve been seeking for the past few years.

I also learned much more about the mysterious history of yoga.  The yoga we know today has evolved dramatically over the decades.

Whether you’re relatively new to yoga or are an experienced practitioner, there’s tons of great information for you in this book.  After reading Pick Your Yoga Practice, I’m excited to try more of the styles that I had previously dismissed as “not me.”

As we learn, grow and evolve, so do our needs.  This book can open the door to a new way of seeing life and yourself, regardless of where you are on your path.  I highly recommend it.

 

I have two copies of Pick Your Yoga Practice that I’m giving away to readers who comment below on how this book can benefit them.  –> Congratulations to Chris and Karen who each won a copy of Pick Your Yoga Practice!

Meagan McCrary

 

 

Meagan McCrary is a Los Angeles based yoga teacher and the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice. She teaches for Equinox Sports Clubs, works one-on-one with some of the entertainment industry’s leading professionals, and holds workshops and retreats nationally and internationally.  Visit her online at http://www.meaganmccrary.com.

 

 

 

 

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36 Responses to Pick Your Yoga Practice

    Alan Fabel
    Commented:  01/13/2014 at 2:00 pm

    I’m pretty much a clutch mostly because of my poor balance with neuropathy in my feet although I’m not diabetic. Maybe yoga and this book can help with my balance and better posture!!??

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/13/2014 at 3:07 pm

      Yoga can definitely help with your neuropathy Alan! Bringing more awareness to your entire body helps with balance and posture and generally feeling better. Thanks for commenting!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How to Shift from What’s Wrong in Your Life to HappinessMy Profile

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        Alan Fabel
        Commented:  01/13/2014 at 3:26 pm

        Thank you, Paige. I can’t seem to spell right either – meant to say KLUTZ along with being clumsy and not having a lot of grace since I’m quite tall that contributes to the neuropathy. I have tried balance exercises at the gym but I still struggle. I think I really need to get on board with trying yoga – as it can only help. I can see how this would also help flexibility and ultimately my self-awareness. I am also intrigued on some inspiring intellectual and spiritual awareness which appears to be a wonderful holistic approach.

        Reply
          Paige Burkes
          Commented:  01/14/2014 at 3:33 pm

          While yoga allows you to practice balance, there’s so much more to balancing than trying not to fall over. For example, I’ve found one of the best ways to maintain a balance pose is to smile and relax. It’s hard to tense up when you’re smiling. :) And, yes, all this increases your self-awareness both physically and emotionally.

          Thanks Alan!
          Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Release Yourself from Your PastMy Profile

          Reply
            Alan Fabel
            Commented:  01/15/2014 at 10:22 am

            Great tip! thank you! In looking over the excerpt of the book, I did not realize that there are so many types of yoga. I have used and taught the rhythmic and deep breathing techniques also known as pranayama for those dealing with anxiety that makes a positive shift in the autonomic nervous system to slow things down just by changing your breathing. I’m excited about the holistic approaches that this book seems to focus on and the various techniques. Perhaps the gym’s way of fostering better balance for me is only maybe one dimensional while yoga and reiki is multi-dimensional more the flowing than forced which is neat about mind-body techniques. Looks like a good teaching book!!

    Nancy Grams
    Commented:  01/13/2014 at 2:07 pm

    I love practicing yoga. It just make me feel good. I can’t explain why it works, it just does. I would enjoy learning about different types of yoga. It definitely improves balance, posture, range of motion, attitude, flexability, etc etc etc. Try it!

    Reply
    Chris
    Commented:  01/13/2014 at 2:23 pm

    Hi, I don’t know when I signed up for this newsletter but this was the first one I’ve read – and probably because of the title: pick your yoga. Like you mention in your article, when I was a toddler I copied the moves my mother was making at an ashram where we would spend weekends, but apart from that I have not had much involvement with yoga since. As a teen I practiced a martial art but after this have not had much scheduled sport until the last couple of years when I have started playing netball (and damaging ligaments!) However, one person I met while travelling was very keen on yoga and she stepped me through an hour-long routine and the person I am now dating says yoga revitalises her like no other activity. I have often gone to organic cafes at a nearby beach-side suburb and often see yoga brochures. At times I have seen people practice incredible moves on the beach – amazingly toned men lifting women up into the air seemingly with ease. Having gone through a difficult break-up three years ago I felt that yoga may be a way not only to begin caring better for my body as I move into the second half of my life, but also to focus my mind and develop resilience, confidence and perseverence. I appreciate your paragraph-long summaries of the various styles; they already give me some pointers in the direction I should go. When I was younger I suffered a slipped disc and more often than not I have to work with or work to prevent lower and upper back pain. If I was to receive a copy of your book I would make the commitment to making yoga a routine part of my life. I’m also excited by the idea that taking up yoga may add an activity to the list that my partner and I can really share and enjoy together.

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/13/2014 at 3:18 pm

      Chris,

      Thanks for sharing so much of your journey! I get a sense that there’s a dormant yogi in you waiting to awaken. Yes, yoga can help in all the aspects of your life that you’ve mentioned. And it could be you and your partner working/dancing together on the beach. I experienced Acro Yoga last year for the first time and it was amazing!

      You might also like a review I wrote on this site of the book, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. The book was a hilarious look at a man in search of the style of yoga that worked for him.

      You are blessed to have a partner who appreciates all the benefits of yoga and is open to sharing with you. That’s an open door to an amazing journey together.

      Big hugs to you Chris!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Release Yourself from Your PastMy Profile

      Reply
    Elle
    Commented:  01/13/2014 at 3:28 pm

    These were really valuable tips on the different types of yoga to accomplish different aspects of health. It’s not something I’ve practiced much but it keeps popping up on my radar…and I do pay attention to what pops up! Thanks for the insights Paige.
    Elle recently posted..How To Turn Discouragement Into Confidence, Inspiration And SatisfactionMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/14/2014 at 3:45 pm

      Meagan’s book goes into much more detail on ten different styles than these paragraphs. Her detail on each approach gave me a much better appreciation of the different styles and a desire to try more of them.

      Elle, I would definitely encourage you to go to a few different classes and explore. There’s something for everyone and it’s surprising what you’ll get out of the experiences, especially when you practice over time.

      Hugs!!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..4 Simple Questions That Can Make You Rich and HappyMy Profile

      Reply
    Deb Dane
    Commented:  01/13/2014 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you for these explanations! I have vowed to finally get over my lack of balance (and feeling like the only one in a Yoga class that struggles) and make this the year I get back to yoga classes. It is on my vision board twice lol.
    Deb Dane recently posted..How to use vision boards- the next step with guiding wordsMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 10:30 am

      Deb,
      You are definitely NOT the only one in a class that struggles (try asking everyone at the end of a class). Everyone struggles to varying degrees. Despite practicing the same poses for years, some days I feel solid as a rock while I’m completely wobbly on other days. I notice that and ask myself where my focus is (wobbly = not being present). When I practice yoga first thing in the morning and notice things like this, I can slow down and refocus so that I don’t bring that wobbly lack of focus into the rest of my day.

      If it’s on your vision board twice, then this is the year for you!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Finding Balance Amidst the ChaosMy Profile

      Reply
    Mary
    Commented:  01/13/2014 at 7:14 pm

    I’m going to a weekly yoga class that I really enjoy and look forward to. You said you can now do positions you previously couldn’t imagine doing. Well….I don’t feel like I’m getting any more flexible/limber or have better balance than I did when I started! I need to start doing yoga at home instead of just going to the once-a-week classes. Maybe then I’d see more improvement. Thanks, Paige, for the descriptions of the different types of yoga.

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 10:36 am

      Yes, Mary, you’ll definitely feel more progress if you practice more often. I practice 4 to 6 times a week at home. It takes months of regular practice to see some of the changes. Sometimes the changes happen so slowly and subtly that I don’t even realize how far I’ve come until I pause to notice.

      With all the online videos and resources available, it’s easy to experiment with different styles at home. It’s also good to experiment with practicing at different times of day to see what works best for you. I get up at 4am to practice before going to work. On the weekends I usually practice later in the afternoon. The different times of day bring very different energies into the practice.

      Do what works best for you. Thanks so much Mary!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Choose YourselfMy Profile

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    Melissa
    Commented:  01/13/2014 at 8:06 pm

    I have been hearing more and more about yoga. Maybe it’s a sign that I need to check it out. I never realized that different types of yoga had different emotions and pathways involved. Now I’m VERY interested! Thanks for all this great information!
    Melissa recently posted..Your Freedom is ForgivenessMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 10:40 am

      Definitely check it out Melissa! Some styles emphasize “correct” alignment while others take a “whatever” approach to the poses, emphasizing how the practice moves your energy. I like to take bits from different styles and create my own. And “my own” evolves over time as I evolve. Those are some of the things I love about yoga.
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    Karen
    Commented:  01/14/2014 at 3:48 am

    I am dealing with the terminal illness of an immediate family member and I am looking for a way to help me cope with the stress and depression that it seems to be hovering over my family and my life. I tried yoga once many years ago and loved it but since I am very overweight I am embarrassed to attend yoga classes. I would love to see the book and try some of the styles you listed. I had no idea there were so many different ones.

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 10:56 am

      Karen,
      I would highly recommend finding a class vs. practicing at home given the situation with your family. A yoga community can be incredibly supportive.

      Regarding your weight, don’t let that keep you from attending a class. I’ve read a number of articles in Yoga Journal written by people who are overweight. One featured a picture of the author in Warrior II. She was at least 100 pounds overweight. She wrote of how yoga helped her to accept herself and her body as it was. I believe she had an illness that made it very difficult to lose the weight. Another article was written by a man who was about 300 pounds overweight when he attended his first class. He said that the other participants helped him with poses that he initially couldn’t manage. The supportive, accepting community of the class helped him physically and emotionally to eventually lose the weight. Now he’s a yoga instructor working with people just like him.

      One of the keys of yoga is acceptance – of yourself and others just as you are right now. As I wrote at the beginning, it’s a myth that classes are full of skinny, bendy women. I’ve been to classes where the instructors were overweight. Their physical appearance didn’t prevent them from reaching out and blessing others with their gifts.

      Showing up at a yoga class isn’t like showing up at an exercise class. There are no expectations. Everyone arrives as they are and is accepted. Try different styles and different teachers. Find one that works for you as they can be quite different.

      Many blessings to you and your family, Karen.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How to Shift from What’s Wrong in Your Life to HappinessMy Profile

      Reply
    Vidya Sury
    Commented:  01/14/2014 at 6:53 am

    Very enlightening post Paige! (And so good to see you back!). I know of people in their nineties who practice yoga regularly. It is amazing to see these people carry on with their daily routine, which includes looking after themselves, going out on their morning/evening walks and shopping at the supermarket. Probably the only concession they make is to have a cleaning woman. :) I know one 95 year old who makes her own spicy chutney every single day and eats three times the quantity of food I can manage. Great metabolism…and oh, what lung power! :D

    I would like to read this book so I can use it to be fitter – it is the most serene way I can think of!

    Hugs, Vidya
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      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 11:36 am

      It’s always wonderful to see you Vidya! In your home in India I’d imagine that it’s more common to see people of all ages and backgrounds practicing yoga. I see the culture in America slowly evolving in that direction. You’ve described some of the benefits of that movement – elderly folks staying very fit and happy!

      Big Hugs to you!!
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    Vidya Sury
    Commented:  01/14/2014 at 6:55 am

    Forgot to say I just visited Meagan’s website. Amazing. :) Thank you!
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    Cathy Taughinbaugh
    Commented:  01/14/2014 at 7:38 am

    Hi Paige and Meagan,

    Wonderful post and I especially like the descriptions of the different styles of yoga. I’m off to a class shortly. I have found the benefits of yoga and it truly has changed my life. Thanks for sharing your info. about Pick Your Yoga Practice. It sounds like a great book that gives more insights about yoga.
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    Anj Handa
    Commented:  01/14/2014 at 9:49 am

    I’d love a copy of your book as the article really resonated with me. I took up Ashtanga yoga a couple of years ago and have thoroughly enjoyed it. However, since October I have tried Flow yoga and Ashtanga under another teacher.

    I have had two bouts of labyrinthitis since the summer which has affected my balance and have also being learning Reiki, which has made me think about self-care. I’m also setting up a heart-centred business with partners, so anything to help with creativity and ideas would be useful.

    I just need a guide to help me consider which is best for me. Thanks!

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 11:45 am

      It certainly sounds like you’re open to trying new things, Anj. That’s awesome! As you’ve probably found by changing teachers, learning what’s best for you is an experiential process. It’s almost impossible to do by simply reading about things. You won’t really know what it’s like until you get out there and experience it for yourself.

      After reading the book, I still have no idea which style is right for me. Learning more about the “why” and “how” of each style got me to open my mind more to styles that I had dismissed. Now I’m much more open to trying them all – and excited about doing so!

      All the best to you in your new business!
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    Natalie
    Commented:  01/14/2014 at 10:47 am

    It’s only been a few months since I started my yoga practice, but I’m already in love. I have to admit though, I’m a little unclear on the different styles of yoga. I would love to know more about what each type of yoga has to offer so I can better apply it to my life. I really want to make yoga a regular part of my life and not just another item to put on my list of exercises I’ve tried once or twice (remember that spin class in 2005?). :-)
    Natalie recently posted..A Little Halloween JoyMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 11:50 am

      Ha! I love it Natalie! My list of “exercises I’ve tried” is quite long too. Yoga is the one thing that has stuck with me and I can’t live without it. While any type of yoga can change your life if you allow it to, learning more about the different styles can help you to find an approach that feels the best for you.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Choose YourselfMy Profile

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    Rachael Jones
    Commented:  01/14/2014 at 12:29 pm

    I’m really excited about this comprehensive text that I could possibly recommend to friends and family who are beginning their journey or just looking for options in their Yoga practice. Personally I am looking forward to reading into some of the yoga techniques I have yet to practice or experience. When I find something that I like, I share it!

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/15/2014 at 11:54 am

      I feel the same way Rachael. Why keep the good stuff to yourself? When I saw this book, I thought, “Finally! The resource I’ve been looking for!” And, naturally, I wanted to share it with everyone here.

      All the very best to you Rachael!
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    Kymberly
    Commented:  01/15/2014 at 10:13 am

    This book sounds ideal for me! Finding a yoga class that suits my currently ability is difficult – there aren’t so many options as a chronic pain patient, with limited energy and time. Integral and Kripalu sound most intriguing, as I rail against my limitations more than is healthy for me! I used to practice hatha yoga, many years in the past, and do miss it.
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    Paige Burkes
    Commented:  01/15/2014 at 12:05 pm

    Hatha is a great place to start, Kymberly. As I found in the book, some styles are very accommodating to those with special needs while others don’t accommodate at all.

    You might want to read Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. I wrote a review of it earlier this year. It’s the journey (a hilarious autobiography) of a man trying to find the right yoga for himself. He found his home in Kripalu and writes about his experiences at their center in Massachusetts and why it worked for him.

    I can totally understand the “limited time and energy” thing. Given that, I would suggest attending a class here and there and taking home what you learn to practice at home. Despite practicing for over 12 years, I’ve been to very few classes given where I live and time limitations. Almost every time I’ve been to a class I’ve learned something new, been challenged to do something I thought was impossible or learned how subtle shifts in how I was practicing opened the door to ease in the poses and further growth.

    As with so many things in life, it’s mostly a mind game and our bodies follow our minds. The more we can learn to reverse that, the better life gets. Yoga is a wonderful teacher in that respect.

    Many blessings to you Kymberly!
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    Steve Cullinan
    Commented:  01/16/2014 at 11:30 am

    I have a “google alert” set up on “yoga” and receive an email each day with all the yoga articles and blogs posted each day. Most of the time I just glance over the list and actually read just a few. Your’s was very informative and I’ll definitely get the book. I started late in life (54), but yoga(asana, meditation and pranayama – taking my first class) has and continues to transformed my life. I’ll definitely try some of the other types of Yoga NOW!

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/17/2014 at 11:11 am

      That’s awesome Steve! I’m honored that you read this article and so happy it was helpful for you.

      I love that Meagan spends a whole chapter on each of 10 different styles and has another section where she spends 2-3 pages each on a host of other styles. She covers the origin and methodology of each style and gives a taste of what a class would be like for each one. In the beginning, she also covers the history of yoga. It’s a great resource!
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    Ann
    Commented:  01/16/2014 at 9:33 pm

    I too have been studying yoga for about 12 years, on and off — this past year I’m working on making it a more regular practice in my life. Before now, I had only vague notions about some of these styles of yoga, doing kind of an Ashtanga-Hatha hybrid version myself. This is piquing my interest for some other styles of the practice. Thank you for the giveaway!

    Reply

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