Don’t know your asana from your elbow? Here’s a short introduction to yoga by Julie Knight, plus Explorer Publishing’s listing of yoga classes and teachers in Paris.
To many people, the word yoga conjures up the image of a long-haired, bearded Indian man sitting in the lotus position and chanting. It has been increasingly in the public eye, mainly due to celebrities such as Madonna, Geri Halliwell and Gwyneth Paltrow singing its praises.
Reported improvements such as toned upper arms, trim stomach and firm thighs and bums have encouraged them to take up yoga classes, but for the uninitiated and uninformed, what is it all about? Yoga originated in India around 6000 years ago. The practice sometimes seems to have an air of mystery about it, which perhaps prevents many people from trying a class. It can be seen as new-age, ‘alternative’ or a bit of a fad in the exercise world. In reality it is a holistic practise that benefits body, mind and spirit.
People take up yoga for a surprisingly wide range of reasons: to gain flexibility, to tone-up or lose weight, to improve their ability to relax or to prepare their body for a physical event such as childbirth. Regular practice of yoga will improve your general fitness and body shape, make you stronger, calmer and more able to cope with the stresses and strains of life. Types of yoga Hatha (or physical) yoga is broken down into eight stages or limbs.
Traditionally these are followed progressively to reach Samadhi, the last stage, where the spirit is liberated and becomes ‘at one’ with the universe. Yoga practised in the west mainly encapsulates stages three and four. Stage three (Asana) is the practise of the postures or poses and stage four (Pranayama) is rhythmic control of the breath.
There are many styles of Hatha yoga currently being taught, all of which have slightly different emphases.
Astanga yoga is the form of yoga currently enjoying the most attention. Also known as power yoga, the moves or transitions between asanas are performed at a higher speed than usual, thus providing an aerobic workout, missing in the alternative yoga forms.
Iyengar yoga, based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar from Pune, India, concentrates on the postural alignment of the body and limbs. The practice makes use of ropes, blocks and belts to aid in the attainment of the asanas.
Sivananda yoga focuses on the flow of energy in the spine. This style is built around a specific sequence of twelve postures or poses.
What to look for in a yoga class
Yoga includes elements such as stretching, balancing and posturing – the combination of which can seem like a contortionist act to the newcomer. However, a good yoga teacher will tailor the postures to suit the different abilities within a class. Some classes will focus heavily on meditation and visualisation, but for others, meditation simply refers to the period of cool-down or relaxation at the end of the session. Controlled breathing is a hugely important part of the practice.
Yoga is suitable for both men and women and can be enjoyed by the full range of fitness abilities. Even if you have trouble touching your toes, yoga can still be open to you. There are numerous teachers in the city and a few are listed below. Try out one or two sessions before committing yourself to a lengthy course, as your relationship with your yoga teacher is one of the most important factors in your enjoyment and progress of yoga.
Yoga classes offered in Paris:
5 rue Morand
Tel: 01 45 80 19 96
This intimate space is flooded with natural light and overlooks a Japanese zen garden to ensure total relaxation and concentration. With classes throughout the week you can discover Ashtanga in a group; or come for a private class – you can even gather some friends and attend together. The owners, Linda and Gérald, speak both French and English and you can find out more at their comprehensive website.
17 rue du
9th Grands Boulevards
Tel: 01 42 47 18 52
Bikram has a total of 26 different postures, as well as two breathing exercises, so you can excel in the Half Moon, Tree, Spine Twisting, Half Tortoise or even the Wind Removing Position. The main difference between regular yoga and Bikram is the fact that you’ll do these exercises in 105° heat. Don’t forget your water because you’ll lose lots of fluid during the 90 minute sessions. The heat will help you to get into poses you might not be able to achieve in a regular yoga environment. The more you perspire, the more toxins leave your body. You can rent a mat at the studio.
16 rue de la Grande Chaumiere
Tel: 01 53 10 86 00
RITUEL is a multi-discipline wellness studio based in the heart of Paris. We have grown from a Pilates-only studio to one that offers premier Pilates training along with Gyrotonics, Yoga, Dance, Cardiovascular and Movement classes. Just as we offer a variety of levels and disciplines of Pilates (Mat, Reformer, JumpBoard, Cadillac, Ball), we also offer multiple levels and disciplines of Yoga (Anusara & Vinyasa) and cardio/movement (Xtend Barre, and Zumba).
We have incorporated classes for kids and for teens in Pilates, Yoga, Zumbatomic and Dance Movement within a schedule that supports family participation. As always, we welcome clients who wish to have Private or duo sessions in their favorite discipline.