Here and now is where yoga begins.
~ The Yoga Sutras ~
Nobody really knows the true origins of yoga, but it is widely believed to have been developed over 5,000 years ago (although some researchers put that figure as high as 10,000 years). What we do know is that the word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda, around 1500 BCE but it was slow to take off in the west until the mid-1900s when a studio was opened in Hollywood.
There are now millions of students and practitioners worldwide.
Yoga is all about the body, the breath and the mind. It develops strength, improves flexibility, allows freedom of movement and has a focus on meditation.
Students of yoga each gain different benefits from the experience, based on their needs and focus and, with so many different types of yoga practice, you can be sure you'll find a class or workshop that suits your body, lifestyle and your level of ability.
We've put together a short guide, an insight if you like, into the different yoga practices, what beginners can expect and where you can go to experience yoga classes in Canberra.
Finding the Right Type of Yoga for You
If you have had prior experience of yoga lessons, you might have thought they were too slow, or too rigorous, or had too much meditation or not enough. That's the thing about yoga — there are so many different techniques and types of practice, if you didn't find your flow the first time, you might just have been in the wrong class for you.
Here are a few of the more popular yoga lessons you'll commonly find in Canberra studios and throughout Australia.
Literally meaning 'sun and moon', Hatha yoga classes vary from active to passive. In western studios, however, Hatha tends more towards the passive movement, with a focus on poses intended to realign the body and slow the breath, as well as active meditation. Teachers of Hatha yoga say it is the best style to help increase strength, flexibility and balance and reduce stress.
If you like the idea of sweating out toxins, Bikram yoga could be for you. Bikram is based on Hatha postures, with a focus on strength and flexibility, but classes are conducted in a space heated to around 37 degrees. A variation of Bikram is known as 'Hot Yoga'.
Also known as 'Power Yoga', Vinyasa is a more active yoga style with a strong focus on breath control and movement flow. Vinyasa postures are similar to Hatha postures but not as slow and meditation is integrated with the breath. As with Hatha and Bikram, Vinyasa and Power Yoga are designed to increase strength and flexibility. Depending on the studio, Vinyasa yoga may take place in a heated space.
You may have seen yoga practitioners doing a handstand as one of their postures? It was probably Ashtanga yoga, or one of its variations. The main difference between Ashtanga and some of the more physical yoga styles, such as Vinyasa or Power yoga, is that the postures in Ashtanga follow a set routine. This means they are able to be memorised and performed independently by students rather than led by a teacher.
Yin is one of the more slow yoga styles. In Yin yoga, poses are held for much longer than in Hatha — sometimes up to 20 minutes. The focus is on a deeper stretch and increasing flexibility. Yin is ideal for students wanting a longer meditation or for beginners.
The main focus is active relaxation and meditation. It is a gentle and very slow style of Hatha, emphasising the importance of breath.
These six yoga practices barely scratch the surface and there are multiple variations of each style, many of which are regional. Recently, yoga which targets a specific demographic is becoming more popular and includes classes in seniors yoga, pregnancy yoga and teen yoga.
Recently, in Canberra, a teacher was offering 'goat yoga' — which is exactly what it sounds like — yoga with goats.
What to Expect in Your Yoga Lessons
When trying yoga for the first time, beginners may feel intimidated or unsure whether their body will be able to cope with the different postures. This will be because you've spent your life being inundated with images of yoga students contorting their bodies into seemingly impossible positions.
Don't worry — this is not what it's like for most people.
Typically, in a yoga class, you'll have students at many different levels — from those who have been training in yoga for years and have excellent flexibility and strength to those who have only recently been beginners themselves and are still working out how to get their leg from point A to point B in one smooth movement.
In general, yoga lessons will follow a similar format:
- Introduction — breath exercises — relaxation
- Postures or movement sequence — stretches
- Relaxation or meditation.
For beginners, if your teacher is doing the right thing, you'll just need to relax, follow the best you can and enjoy the experience. They'll come by from time to time with little tips and corrections, all aimed at ensuring you get the most out of the experience.
If you're concerned about the movement sequences, or if you have injuries, make sure you talk to your teacher at the start. Alternatively, for beginners who are a bit self-conscious, there are a host of online classes or even YouTube clips you can watch and practise along with until you find yourself more confident.
Yoga Studios in Canberra
There seems to be an ever-growing number of yoga studios in Canberra and the surrounding regions, such is yoga's level of popularity. Remembering that yoga studios may focus only on one type of yoga practice, such as Bikram Yoga Canberra and Power Yoga Canberra studios, while others will have a few complimentary styles and a timetable of classes, here are a handful of recommended studios offering yoga classes in Canberra.
SOULution Yoga Studio
Catering for beginners to students with years of experience, this studio is like a one-stop yoga shop. They offer everything from heated Vinyasa to Yin, as well as online yoga lessons and retreats.
A small studio that is proud to offer a more personalised or small group experience, Flourish tends to focus on Vinyasa yoga, but also has prenatal and mums and bubs lessons on offer and are particularly known for supporting beginners.
With the emphasis on slow, Flow Yoga is all about breath and relaxation. They specialise in Hatha, Yin and Restorative yoga and live stream many of their classes online.
Canberra Yoga Space
This large studio in Canberra's inner south boasts a comprehensive range of yoga classes covering all styles and catering for every level from beginners to advanced. They also offer their classes in a face-to-face environment as well as online,
Other Places in Canberra to Practise Yoga
If you're not ready to commit to a studio, or would prefer private instruction, there are yoga classes in Canberra to cater for you as well.
Private Yoga Teachers
Most studios also offer private yoga sessions with their instructors. However, there are also a number of freelance, private yogis in Canberra.
- The Warrior Kind — Andrew can offer both one-on-one and small group yoga classes, as well as corporate yoga and online training.
- Yoga for Posture — Elena specialises in posture and pain management through yoga and can offer tailored private sessions as well as small group classes.
Many private yoga instructors advertise on community noticeboards and in fitness centres, or online via platforms like Gumtree.
Superprof has a number of private yoga instructors in the Canberra area, who offer both in-person and online lessons — check the individual tutor profiles to find out the yoga practice they specialise in and their fees. If you can't find someone in Canberra, online classes with a teacher in another state is a great option.
Imagine indulging yourself in a day, a weekend or a week of meditation, yoga and relaxation — time out to focus only on your body, mind and soul. There are places in and around Canberra that offer this luxury, either onsite or in a coordinating role.
- Flow Yoga Retreat — the team at Flow Yoga offer a yearly retreat, a week of yoga, meditation, relaxation and 'me time'.
- Simply Mindful — this Canberra mindfulness centre offer an urban weekend retreat, featuring guided mindfulness and meditation activities.
- Yoga, Meditation and Journaling Mini-Retreat — a day-long retreat for beginners and women who are looking for a mind and body rejuvination.
Whatever your preference, whether active or total relaxation, isn't it time you took some time out for yourself, your body and your mind?