Hope you are enjoying your weekend!
by Stephanie Keach
I am frequently asked "What is flow yoga?" "How is it different from hatha yoga?" I have been teaching flow yoga for 18 years, so my answer will vary from someone else’s answer. Yoga is a path of transformation, to be learned systematically, through meditation techniques, concentration techniques, breathing techniques, selfless service, devotional practices like chanting and praying, or through Yoga poses (hatha yoga). Most of us here in America learn it through this Hatha Yoga path. (Hatha yoga is a general term used to describe all the styles of yoga we do here in America: ashtanga, iyengar, anusara, kundalini, flow, power, etc). Flow yoga is a style of hatha yoga that I was drawn to immediately because of its fluid nature of linking movement with breath. Whether moving the body in and out of a pose, or just lifting the arm on the inhale and lowering the arm on the exhale, it made perfect sense to me to use the breath as the impetus for movement, rather than my thoughts. Yoga is, after all, a system designed to help us overcome the "monkey-mind": that very popular state of mind where rambling thoughts of the future and/or past just go on and on and on. This chain of rambling thoughts is said to lead to suffering, in many eastern traditions, including yoga. Yoga helps us to develop awareness of our thought patterns: even while doing some twisty yoga pose, we can still observe our thought patterns. Say you are sitting on the ground, stretching out the hips, and you notice the girl next to you has her face to the floor, and your face is far away from the floor. Here is where habitual thought patterns might creep in, like, "Oh my god, look at how flexible she is! I shouldn’t be doing yoga, I suck, I am too fat, too stiff, too neurotic, etc." What we don't realize at first is that these voices have been ricocheting around our heads for years, sometimes 20, 30 or 50! These kinds of negative thought patterns only stop us from growing spiritually, and especially stop us from becoming loving and kind humans, which is the ultimate goal of all spiritual traditions. However, once we realize we have these negative thought patterns, we can begin to recognize them, at first in yoga class, but later in life, at the store, or wherever. Once we start to see these patterns more clearly, then we can make the conscious choice to let them go and not continue to feed our thought energy into them. Eventually, the voices lessen and lessen, allowing more room in our thoughts for kind thoughts, generous thoughts, loving thoughts. With this understanding, yoga is really for everyone, regardless of body shape, size, flexibility, etc. It all really comes down to deep self-reflection and changing those parts of us that no longer are pure and true. I love to teach this philosophy while helping people out of pain through the yoga poses. Over the years, I have seen just about every ailment and injury, and have seen how yoga significantly or 100% fixes the problems! It is truly amazing what right effort can produce.