Monthly Archives: May 2013

You say ashtanga, I say vinyasa

Let’s call the whole thing…  hatha.

All the physical aspects of yoga can be called hatha, no matter what “style” you choose to practice.

I thought I’d compile a little list (it’s by no means exhaustive) to give you an idea of what style to focus on if you want a particular result.

Want a “yoga body”?

Power yoga
Bikram (if you must)
Anything that says it’s “vinyasa”

Want more calm?

Restorative classes (in most styles)

Need a personalised practice to recover from injury or illness?


Kinda details-focused?


What’s the deal with hatha?

It’s pretty much all hatha.


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Good foundations

Foundationn1. that on which something is founded. 2. the basis or ground of anything. 3. the natural or prepared ground or base on which some structure rests.

– The Macquarie Dictionary


Hands. Feet. Sometimes forearms, sometimes knees, or the crown of the head. But usually hands and feet. These are the foundations  of any yoga pose, from which our bodies find their stability. Only from a stable foundation can a structure be solid.

In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says:

Sthira sukham asanam 
TKV Desikachar translates this as: “Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation.”

Hands and feet serve as the foundations of a pose; they ground you in a physical sense. But they also ground you in a spiritual sense, when you are grounded you feel safe, mentally and emotionally stable.


For many, yoga provides a sense of stability, or groundedness, of coming home.

There’s a reason why calling someone “grounded” is a compliment.

Hands 2 


Feet w bubbles

Katie Manitsas from Jivamutki Yoga in Newtown says, “Jivamukti would say that the foundation to any aspect of yoga, whether its the physical asana practice or the spiritual discipline or ethics, is connection to the earth. Patanjali says the connection to the earth needs to be steady and joyful. We take that to mean literally – physically – the asana needs to be well connected to the earth so you don’t fall over but also the relation to the planet earth should be steady and joyful.”


Katie says that’s where Jivamukti’s environmentalism element comes in – it’s the foundational philosophy of Jivamukti Yoga.

“When we become comfortable in our own bodies and secure, confident then we become externally comfortable and confident but if we are filled with insecurities in our relationship to our body, or form, then we can’t have good and sustainable relationships outside of ourselves.”


Yoga has helped Christiane Steinward enormously with a sense of grounding.

She says:  “I often teach about our connection with the earth. These things have been so beneficial to me personally. Energetically I think the [physical] yoga practices work on the lower chakras, balancing the energies there, which naturally makes us more effective in the world, then after some time we move into the energies of the higher chakras. People often start with the physical practices but are gradually enticed into the spiritual side by developing feelings of love, compassion, joy, peace which may lead to the person connecting to the divine.”


“That has been my experience – I started off by getting my life together in a practical sense then I have gradually gone more into the higher chakras towards more devotional practices. It is an ongoing journey for me and I keep working on the lower chakras through my practice.”

Strong hand


Urdhva dhanurasana

Good pair of hands


All photographs by Michelle Newton (c)

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The future is now

I’m drawing circles with my hips, my shoulders, my arms, my head. My body becomes fluid, like a stream flowing over rocks. More than 100 others are also sinuously moving their bodies to the beat of trance-inducing music. It makes me feel expansive, calm, uplifted. It’s all rather blissful.

I’m at Future Sound of Yoga’s flow session, two hours of yoga aimed at switching off the mind, connecting with the body and letting go. The class has just begun and we are being led in this fluid stream of body consciousness by Angel Singmin and her DJ husband Matt.

The sandstone walls of Paddington’s Uniting Church reverberate to the evocative power of Matt’s soundtrack. The music serves to move your awareness from body, to breath, to the internal, personal landscape.

“The experience is as much about the music as it is about the yoga,” says Angel.

Matt carefully chooses tracks that will create the right mood for each Future Sound of Yoga event. He draws upon electronic dance music – like ambient, trip hop and tech house – and atmospheric bands or artists such as Bjork, Sigur Ros or Radiohead.

Angel and Matt believe music helps people go “deeper into the moment”, letting go of thought.

“Some people like to use the beats to tap into their physical flow and find the music helps energise them or can carry them through the movement; others might hear a piece of music that helps them relax more,” says Angel.

While chanting mantras in Sanskrit has long been a part of the culture of yoga even in the West, recorded music has not. When I first started practising yoga, way back in the mid-90s, the classes were mostly silent affairs. Now many teachers use music in their classes, most often to create ambience.

In a 2006 essay in the journal Brain, neurologist Oliver Sacks recounts the renowned psychologist Anthony Storr’s definition of the function of music. He says it is “collective and communal.”  It serves to “bring and bind people together. People sing together, dance together.” And tonight, to practice yoga together.

Sacks says the “coercive power of music” can lead to profoundly altered states of consciousness.

Not that the people assembled here tonight are falling into music-induced trances (or maybe they are), but a feeling of “sangha” – a Sanskrit word meaning community – is created – by the atmosphere, lighting, music and of course the yoga.

In the crepuscular light of the church, we move through a series of vinyasas. Though the flow session is billed as more on the “yin” spectrum, sweat still trickles down my back. As we move into more challenging poses, I am aware of the tightness in my right hip, the slight twinge in my lower back. I feel like I’m being worked.

Angel throws in some partner yoga, which has me inwardly groaning and wishing my friend hadn’t cancelled on me at the last minute. This feeling only lasts a moment – it seems there are plenty of others who have come alone.

Yagoda, who is from Poland, and I synchronise our breath and movement perfectly to flow through a series of sun salutations. We help each other into an ingenious, (almost) unassisted handstand.

“There’s some sort of weird physics going on here,” she says.

It’s more like leverage – each of us exerting pressure and resistance so that, each in our turn, we are upside-down and balancing on our hands. Yagoda has never done a handstand before – and here she is in the middle of the room with only my hand to steady her.

As for me, it’s one of my favourite things, but I’m still euphoric.

I’ve always loved yoga classes that incorporate fun and play; this one fuses that with a powerful beat.

Lyana“It was lovely, such an escape. It’s such a lovely space in the church. It really gives you time to focus inward. A lot of yoga classes are all about being very fast and body conscious, whereas this is centred on yourself and being grounded. And with the combination of the music and the yoga it’s just perfect.”  Lyana Doyle

“I’ve been to their classes, mostly to the flow class. I just like the flow side of it and having the music is great.”  SuzieSuzie

The yoga of sound – or nada yoga – is deeply embedded in yogic philosophy. It is thought that the very stuff of the universe is vibratory  – “sonic in nature” according to Russill Paul, a musician, yogi and former monk.

Paul has written about the yoga of sound in The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power or Music and Sound. Ancient yogis understood the profound effect sound can have on our wellbeing.

You can read more about nada yoga and Russill Paul here.


Angel and Matt Singmin, creators of Future Sound of Yoga.

Photo courtesy of Future Sound of Yoga and Abi Singmin

photo credits in youtube package:

Photo 1 – Future Sound of Yoga
Photo 2 – Mikey Anderson
Photos 6&7 – Jonas Peterson
All other photos – Michelle Newton

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