Stressed in Dubai? Choose your yoga...
Here's a guide to the most popular styles of yoga that can heal you back to health
It’s been six months since I decided to take up yoga six long and confusing months, where every health and fitness guru, over-eager family member and equally vocal a friend has given me their two-bit on what path I should tread on to come across some enlightenment in my life.
Yo-yoing between Ashtanga abhyaas one day, and jumping on the wagon of Tantra yoga the next, my reality had slowly narrowed down to different postures and asanas that keep me awake at nights in fear that I may have drifted down a path that would find me forever floating in an abyss of undecipherable yogic philosophies.
Sensing my uncertainty, a friend and yoga teacher, Anamika Pradhan recently decided to up my education on the subject: “If you want to take up yoga in the first place, forget the initial confusion about the different types available, and learn to embrace the true essence of yoga.
"The basic underlying principle of yoga remains unchanged, as a form of healthy lifestyle that has been taught by masters in ancient India for centuries.
Sanskrit for ‘union’, any type of yoga technique basically works towards one goal – bringing a union between your mind, body and spirit.”
She further explained that while yoga is the art, the colours that enhance this art further are the asanas or postures that help us attain both mental and physical flexibility. “As the case of every art form, yoga has been taught, re-mastered and passed down through generations, each adding their own knowledge to further augment it for different purposes and conditions,” she stated.
“Unfortunately, others have given their own new-age spin to it as part of a marketing exercise to cash in on the popularity of this growing art.”
So how does one actually choose what’s the right type for them? Pradhan was quick to point that, while there was no such thing as a ‘right’ type, each style of yoga differs slightly to cater to a specific need of the individual.
“While Bikram yoga’s 26 postures were created specifically as a rehabilitation technique after founder Bikram Choudhury shattered his knee in an accident, a technique like Kundalini yoga asserts the essence of breath and its relationship with physical movement to channel energy towards your upper body,” she explained.
While the choice is finally yours to make, 'Emirates 24|7' makes it easier by providing a brief look at what yoga styles are creating a buzz in the world of wellness today:
As creative as it sounds, Artistic Yoga, developed by renowned new age guru Bharat Thakur, blends the wisdom of ancient teachings with modern day cardiovascular training.
So if you plan to take this up, look for polishing up on your asanas, pranayama and kriyas, while improving your flexibility and endurance.
What is different about Artistic Yoga is that one movement flows into another like a dance. As one media report says, “It’s not choppy, it’s very dynamic, focused and effective.”
Plus, it also facilitates weight loss, cures diseases, tones your muscles and is great as a stress reliever. And does Thakur know what he’s talking about, you ask? Well, learning under the master Sukhdev Bhramachari since he was four years old, Thakur has spent 15 years in the caves and hills learning Ayurveda, Tantra, Yantra and Mantra yoga.
He also studied Sufism, Jainism and Buddhism before returning to finish his graduation and later post graduation in Exercise Physiology and Yoga from Gwalior, India.
So we figure, yes, he probably does.
Where can you find it: Al Hana Centre, Dubai, 04 3981351
Ashtanga Yoga (meaning eight limbs) is a technique that was popularised by Sri K Pattabhi Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India.
Originating from the ancient text Yoga Korunta by Vamana Rishi, this method of yoga involves synchronising the breath with a progressive series of eight main postures. This process can be quite intensive and produces internal heat, with a purifying sweat that is known to detoxify your muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Ashtanga is also sometimes called the inspiration to the extensive Power yoga that is so popular in the West.
We recommend it if you have stamina, as you will certainly sweat it out and feel the results soon enough.
Where can you find it: Bliss Yoga Centre, 050 872 2879
Bikram Yoga is a sequence of 26 classic Hatha yoga postures and two breathing exercises designed to scientifically warm and stretch your muscles, ligaments and tendons in the order in which they should be stretched.
It is a challenging, exciting, and vigorous 90-minute series created for everyone, regardless of your fitness level, body type or experience.
The series systematically moves fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred per cent of your body, to each organ and muscle fibre, restoring and maintaining a healthy system.
The room is heated in order to warm the muscles, which facilitates working more deeply and safely in the various poses. Heat takes the trauma out of stretching, and heals and prevents injuries. It also promotes sweating to help flush toxins from the body, giving a wonderful glow from head to toe. The heat combined with the sequence of the postures is what makes Bikram Yoga unique.
We recommend it because it works!
Where can you find it: Club Stretch, 04 345 2131
The science of yoga, which is what Hatha is all about. Combining two Sanskrit terms ‘Ha’ meaning sun and ‘tha’ meaning the moon, Hatha is all about the two opposing energies in this world – fire and water, positive and negative, hot and cold and predominantly, the male and female.
This holistic path is ventured on with a sense of discipline, combined with physical exercises, asanas, breathing and meditation.
Hatha is all about achieving a set balance in your life, something we all strive for in this stressful existence.
Predominately practiced in the West, or so we hear, you should opt for Hatha if you are looking for poise, calming your mind and learning how to discipline yourself.
Where can you find it: Al Karama Ayurvedic & Yoga Centre 04 335 5288,
Gems of Yoga 04 331 5161
Based on the teachings of yogi BKS Iyengar, this style of yoga practice emphasises body alignment to obtain the maximum benefits of any pose and avoid injury.
Iyengar practice usually emphasises holding poses over long periods versus moving quickly from one pose to the next.
Also, Iyengar yoga encourages the use of props, such as yoga blankets, cushions, blocks, sand bags and straps in order to bring the body into alignment.
These props are great for beginners who want to experience the asanas with a little less difficulty and exhaustion.
So, if you are suffering from any physical ailment, Iyengar yoga is the one for you – and the added advantages include stronger legs, increased general vitality, and improved circulation, coordination and balance.
Where can you find it: You can join private sessions taught by Yasmin
Asady 050 724 0180 and Djoeke Van der Werf 050 784 3520
Kundalini Yoga works with the purpose of freeing one’s dormant spiritual energy that is found in the form of a coiled up snake at the base of the spine, specifically in the body’s first chakra – the energy centre.
First introduced to the West by Yogi Bhajan in 1969, the practice of Kundalini Yoga includes meditation and postures, but focuses more on chanting.
Using rapid, repetitive physical movements, flowing into one another, rather than maintaining single postures for a long duration, Kundalini affects your breath on each flowing movement.
As the Kundalini energy rises upwards through the charkas, seven in total, and ending at the top of the head. Kundalini Yoga also believes in an eighth chakra – the aura, which strengthens through regular practice.
The process of the snake rising through the charkas in Kundalini Yoga is also sometimes described as the merging of the male and female energies.
Kundalini is currently the IT yoga of the new generation, so if you want to be cool and learn to channel your energy, this is what you should enrol for.
Where can you find it: Call 055 726 6970
Mantra comes from the Sanskrit word mantrana, which literally means advice or suggestion.
Mantra yoga is more meditation, which allows an individual to experience the benefits of the union of sound.
With rhythmic repetitions of specific chants or mantras, the practitioner repeats the syllable, word or phrase continually in a form of japa to clear their mind from everyday clutter and concentrate on transcendental meditation.
While the chants can be said in the mind or out loud, what is important is the speed of chanting as it corresponds and affects the speed of mind, the heartbeat and the breathing.
If your speed is fast, the rest of your body speeds up its rhythm with the cycle, which may leave you exhausted during the session but is a refreshing experience right after.
Opt for Mantra yoga if you are looking for a more relaxing experience, which combines meditation and proves soothing to the soul.
Where can you find it: Do this in the privacy of your own home or grab a few friends for company. Pick a nice quiet spot at home, spread out your yoga mat and select a word or sound you would like to chant. Now relax and let the rest come to you.
If there ever was a Westernised version of yoga, then Power yoga is it. Some may call it the Americanised version of Ashtanga yoga, others say that it’s just a generic style that is more intensive.
And intensive it certainly is, with sweat-inducing, muscle-stretching and posture-fixing asanas that will have you feeling a workout, but with the added benefits of meditative breathing.
Do remember that unlike regular yoga, power is a lot faster paced, as each yoga move immediately flows into another, so you may want to try something else if you are looking for a gentler yoga session.
Where can you find it: Gems of Yoga 04 331 5161
Contrary to popular belief and commercialised Western practices, Tantra Yoga is not just about sex or pleasure.
Borrowing heavily from Kundalini practices, Tantra Yoga in its true sense refers to the union of the male and female life force. While the origins of this form of yoga has been roughly traced back to the first millennium CE, its theories and practices have undergone a drastic change from its pure form.
Today, almost everywhere Tantra yoga talks about tapping into your suppressed energy – considered by most as the greatest form of energy in our bodies.
The Tantrics maintain that there is an enormous energy locked into sexuality, which, if released from the lower end of the spine, can flow up the spinal column to bring divine illumination to the brain.
While this yoga involves working with a partner, purists look at it as a form of corruption, as you should find your internal energy not somebody else’s’.
Where can you find it: Your guess is as good as ours.
Viniyoga is ideal for those who have recently suffered from injuries or are recovering from surgery, and require a therapeutic practice that suits their individual needs.
It is a gentle form that is tailored to each person's body type and needs, as they grow and change over time.
In Viniyoga, students are taught that the breath should actually lead the body into and out of each posture, which is why this form of yoga is less concerned with arduous precise exercises than with developing a balanced and appropriate practice for each student.
The postures are usually performed with eyes closed, except the standing ones, and students are actively encouraged to practice depending on their emotional and spiritual needs, which can include meditation, chanting, prayer, and other rituals.
Where can you find it: While Viniyoga classes are not available in Dubai to our knowledge, this form of practice is often compared to the Iyengar style of yoga, and it may be a good alternative for those who are interested in this.