Yoga-ing in the City
Brrr… Yes, it’s been cold lately, a perfect time to explore some indoor fitness options and join the throngs of Vancouverites who flock to our city’s overwhelming number of yoga studios in search of inner peace and, yes, toned tushes.
Greater Vancouver’s yoga studios numbered more than 300 at last count – about the same as in Toronto - with new ones continuing to sprout each month, begging the question of whether they will soon outnumber our city’s coffee shops.
If you are considering testing out the benefits of this ancient practice of breath and movement that we know as Yoga as your new daily fix, here’s a map for navigating the various styles offered in Vancouver and where to find them.
If it seems overwhelming, remember: just slow down and breathe.
Founded in 1997 by an American teacher named John Friend who studied for many years with B.K.S. Iyengar-- probably one of the most well-known Indian yoga gurus of our century--Anusara Yoga seeks to combine the physical alignment of yoga poses, with the philosophy of Tantra that believes in the intrinsic goodness of all beings. Classes have a specific format, each generally beginning with the chanting of a specific mantra and a focus on a particular theme for the day, followed by a practice where you flow from pose to pose but spend time on alignment based on Anusara’s specific principles. The practice is probably the fastest growing “new style” of yoga in North America and Vancouver seems to be a recent convert on the Anusara map.
Find Anusara at:
One of the first flowing styles of Yoga to become popular in the West, Ashtanga Yoga follows a strict series of poses. Pattabis Jois, a contemporary of Iyengar founded the system and passed away in 2009, leaving behind a strong lineage and many trained teachers. The idea is that by practicing this logical series of poses, you will continue to, over time, refine them and learn from the practice. Ashtanga Yoga can be quite vigorous and fast paced, so it is a great idea to attend a beginner class if you are new to yoga. The classes generally begin with the Ashtanga Yoga Mantra. The emphasis is more on flow vs. alignment and moving with the breath. Mysore Classes are a great way to work on deepening your own practice, where you follow the Ashtanga series at your own pace under the supervision of a teacher.
Find Ashtanga at:
Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver: www.ashtangayogavancouver.com
The Practice Place: www.thepracticeplace.ca
Yoga for the People: www.yogaforthepeople.ca
Most people know of the infamous Bikram Choudhry as someone who tried to patent the series of yoga poses he teaches. Today Bikram Yoga is still one of the most ubiquitous styles of Yoga practiced in North America, with hundreds of studios scattered around many cities. Bikram Yoga is sort of like the McDonalds of Yoga, the studios are carpeted, have mirrored walls and are set at the same intense 40 + degrees C temperature. You can expect to listen to the same dialogue from all Bikram teachers who are instructed to lead the class in a specific way, and you can also be prepared to sweat a lot. Remember to drink a lot of water before, during and after, and don’t forget a towel.
Hot Yoga is basically an evolution of Bikram Yoga and usually consists of varying series of poses done in a heated room.
Find Bikram Yoga at:
Find Hot Yoga at:
According to Vancouverite Eoin Finn, founder of Blissology Yoga, Blissology involves creating a path that maximizes the highest degree of happiness for you and all beings, or in other words, balancing your own desires while respecting the web of life. The physical Yoga allows you to put the Blissology principles into practice. In a Blissology Yoga class, expect to find a focus on core alignment, breath, physical movement, fitness and a lot of fun. Finn hopes to continue to adapt Yoga to modern needs through the evolution of this practice.
Find Blissology Yoga at:
Ha-tha in Sanskrit, means the sun – moon or the union of opposites. Hatha simply is one of the eight limbs of Yoga and means the physical practice of Yoga. In the west today, Hatha Yoga means a slower paced Yoga class. It is a great place to begin if you are completely new to Yoga and don’t have much physical fitness. It is also a great precursor to deeper meditation and being able to be still.
Experience Hatha Yoga at:
An alignment based system founded by widely known teacher B.K.S. Iyengar in India, Iyengar Yoga is a great place to go deep into the “how” of physical Yoga. Teachers emphasize the use of many props, such as blocks and straps so that you can experience the benefits of a yoga pose despite your limitations. It can be highly beneficial if you are recovering from an injury or accident.
Experience Iyengar Yoga at:
Learn more about Iyengar at: www.bksiyengar.com
A style of Hatha Yoga unlike most of the other lineages, Kundalini Yoga, focuses more on energetics over alignment. The idea is that by opening energy blockages in the body, you can then open physical ones and get stronger and more aware. Kundalini classes can be quite aerobic with a lot of fast, dynamic motions. Most teachers begin with the chanting of yoga mantras.
Experience Kundalini Yoga in Vancouver at:
Flow / Power / Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa in Sanskrit simply means a logical progression of events, in the case of a physical yoga class, the evolution of a series of poses from one end point to another. In Vinyasa or Flow classes, as in Power yoga, teachers can sequence their classes to focus on a particular theme but with a focus on flexibility and strength. All these styles were developed by teachers who had studied Ashtanga yoga and were looking to make it more accessible to western students, and all these classes can differ greatly from teacher to teacher so it is best to attend a few different ones before deciding which ones you prefer.
Experience Flow / Power / Vinyasa Yoga in Vancouver at:
Founded by students of Iyengar who evolved his teachings further into a subtle, alignment based practice that is great for all levels of students, Vijnana Yoga emphasizes that meditation, breathing techniques and a daily physical yoga practice are building blocks to experiencing yoga. When the mind is quiet, the body relaxed and the breath at ease, then an intuition can surface that guides us through conscious movement, action and thought. It is an intuitive knowing, an intelligence that surfaces when the body, mind and heart are united as one.
To learn more about Vijnana Yoga offerings in the Vancouver area, visit:
A slower style of yoga that targets the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis and lower spine, Yin Yoga classes tend to hold poses for a long time and focus on softening into deep relaxation. Yin Yoga can be a wonderful complement to an active lifestyle.
Experience Yin Yoga at:
A few tips for choosing from the plethora of Yoga available in Vancouver. Look up teachers’ bios and their qualifications and don’t hesitate to ask the staff at yoga studios those questions. Be mindful that similar sounding classes can feel quite different when led by different teachers so it helps to try out a few different classes before you decide on your favourites.
Get to know the vibe at the studio or class, learning what is important to you. Look at your neighbourhood community centre for various yoga class offerings and lastly, be mindful of your body. Be sure to tell your teacher if you have any injuries and if something does not feel 100% right for you, know that it is always possible and recommended to take a break.
After all this is Yoga, where we’re trying to bring our bodies and minds more in sync with the ultimate aim being, as local yoga teacher Eoin Finn succinctly puts it, “feeling better than when we started.”