The emphasis is on precise alignment of physical postures. Guru B.K.S.Iyengar uses wooden gadgets, ropes and belts to help achieve this. The most important aspect of Iyengar Yoga is sequencing—the order in which different groups of asanas are to be performed. “Unless one’s physical postures are correct, there is no point in practising breath-control techniques,” says Iyengar, who believes the eight aspects of Ashtanga Yoga are integrated.
Who: Dr Sanjeev Gandhi, 47, dentist
Fourteen years ago, the Mumbai-based dentist used to go to work wearing a collar. He had been suffering from cervical spondylitis for almost three years. “When a friend took me to an Iyengar Yoga class, I didn’t think I would last for more than a day,” he says. The asanas gradually corrected his natural posture, which helped improve the alignment of his spine and neck.
For whom: It is better to be initiated at a young age, because the asanas are physically demanding. Practised regularly, Iyengar Yoga can do wonders for ailments of the joints and the back. Don’t expect quick solutions to weight-related issues; it takes a few months to show results.
Who’s who: Rahul Dravid, Murli Manohar Joshi, Naseeruddin Shah, Mira Nair, Anil Kumble, Yehudi Menuhin, The Queen Mother of Belgium.
By combining various elements of hatha yoga with sports exercise techniques, Bharat Thakur has designed postures that address all aspects of fitness—strength, endurance and flexibility. Lessons change from day to day, with variations suited to individual requirements.
Who: Shivangi Tomar, 25 , model
Tomar has been a fitness enthusiast since her teenage days. Working out in gyms was a part of her daily routine. Three years ago, she decided to join an Artistic Yoga class. “I’ve never had weight issues, so I joined specifically for toning my body. After a year, my body was looking different—more feminine, longer and firmer,” she says. Tomar, who has recently featured in TV commercials for Sprite and LG electronics with Abhishek Bachchan, has learnt to beat stress with Thakur’s relaxation techniques that follow every session.
For whom: For anyone who aspires for overall fitness and wants a long and trim figure. “Most of my classes are suited for people below 50 because it’s intensive training for the body. There’s a special programme called classical yoga for people above 50, which is slow,” says Thakur.
Who’s who: Ratan Tata, Kareena Kapoor, Sunil Mittal, Anoushka Shankar, Bobby Deol, Bhumika Chawla and Tara Sharma (both actresses).
THE BIHAR SCHOOL OF YOGA
Originating in the Himalaya foothills with Swami Sivananda Saraswati, the Bihar School is known for its philosophical approach to incorporate yoga in daily life. It is a unique mix of karma (action) yoga, bhakti (spiritual) yoga, raja (mind) yoga and jnana (intellect) yoga, in which learners and teachers are encouraged to perform routine chores along with traditional yoga practices. Swami Niranjanananda, who has taken over as guru from Swami Sivananda Saraswati, has flexible programmes for various groups.
Who: Sarvath Khan, 35, freelance writer/teacher
Khan’s mother was a follower of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. “As a child, I was indifferent to yoga, but as I grew, it became a part of my daily life.” She started out as a fashion writer and now teaches yoga as well as writing occasionally for magazines. “Yoga isn’t something I’m not constantly aware of because the teachings of the Bihar School are such that they naturally adapt to your life,” says Khan.
For whom: Flexibility is the key to Swami Niranjanananda’s teachings. Those looking for treatment of ailments will find a non-demanding solution in programmes available in the Bihar school’s main centre at Munger. Most teachers from the Bihar school use specific elements—bhakti or raja or jnana—to suit individual needs.
Who’s who: Tina Ambani, artist Jehangir Sabavala, Shyam Seth (CEO, Great Eastern Shipping Company), Prakash Mody (chairman, Unichem Pharmaceuticals).
Gleaned from the spiritual aspect of yoga by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, this form uses meditation techniques to achieve inner growth. Like the Bihar School, it is also easily adaptable to individual needs, but the emphasis is more on one’s spiritual growth. At the guru’s main centre in Coimbatore, the ambience is ideal for focusing on meditation techniques—with a meditation hall and garden spread over 64,000 square feet and Dhyanalinga, a unique energy structure made of mercury.
Who: Sue Shewale, 21, student
As a teenager growing up in Detroit, US, Shewale dismissed her mother’s urging to attend an Isha Yoga workshop as desi mumbo-jumbo. Finally, when she was dragged to meet the guru, her mind changed. “It’s not what I had imagined yoga to be. Sadhguru had a calming effect on me and I wanted to go back.” After less than a year, Shewale convinced her mother to let her come to Coimbatore for a week-long workshop. She has been taking lessons at the ashram for the last two years.
For whom: Isha Yoga is not widely taught in cities and is best suited to those who like to practise yoga alone. The workshops at Jaggi Vasudev’s ashram—nestled in the Velliangiri mountains in Coimbatore—are ideal yoga getaways. Those who want relief from anxiety and depression can return rejuvenated, with lessons to practise on their own.
Who’s who: Tamil actor Vijay, actor Nandita Das, Carnatic musician Sudha Raghunathan, Ravi Venkatesan, chairman, Microsoft India.
The foundation of Baba Ramdev’s Divya Yoga is pranayama, the techniques of breath control laid down by sage Patanjali. These techniques were seen as esoteric before Baba Ramdev brought them to the masses through television and camps. He has devised a set of six simple pranayama techniques: Bhastrika, Kapal Bhati, Baharya, Anulom Vilom, Bhramri and Udgeeth.
Who: Digvijoy Phukon, 23, BPO company employee
After completing graduation two years ago, Phukon joined a BPO (business process outsourcing) firm at Gurgaon and got thrown into a work routine that involved long night hours. He was asthmatic and his stressful job worsened the problem. “After medicines had failed me, I switched on the Aastha channel one day and got started.” With less than half an hour of practice every day, Phukon’s health improved. “My energy levels are high and I’ve survived two Delhi winters without any allergies,” he says.
For whom: A means to achieve short-term results for managing chronic diseases and general well-being without rigorous demands on the body and mind. It’s everyman’s yoga, but best suited to those who want optimum results in the shortest time. Not for those who want to master yoga techniques.
Who’s who: Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Hema Malini, Shilpa Shetty, Mallika Sherawat, Bihar chief minister Nitesh Kumar.
It’s a 90-minute session of 26 asanas inside a room heated to 41C. Beginning with a set of breathing techniques, it goes on to 24 classic hatha yoga asanas that require the use of every part of the body and ends with another set of breathing techniques. “I don’t have to know what every client’s requirement is, I have devised the session in a way that suits everyone. Bikram Yoga is the A to Z of yoga and hence the number 26,” says Bikram Choudhury. The high temperature, he reasons, is to optimize the stretching ability of the muscles.
Who: Gulshan Grover, 52 , actor
Grover was introduced to Bikram Yoga when he went to Los Angeles. “In Beverly Hills, he’s the guru for the who’s who of Hollywood. About five years ago, I decided to try it out,” says Grover. Since then, he has taken about 100 sessions of Bikram Yoga. “What takes years of practice is there for you in a 90-minute session of Bikram Yoga and what makes it work is the sequence of the asanas.” says the actor.
For whom: Definitely not for the weak-limbed. It’s a gruelling form that’s ideal for people with bodies seasoned with some kind of exercise regime. If that’s in place, Bikram Yoga can be rejuvenating and can enhance fitness levels.
Who’s who: Madonna, Bill Clinton, jazz guitarist Quincey Jones, Brook Shields, John McEnroe, Shah Rukh Khan.
It literally means eight-limbed yoga. Laid down by sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras of the Vedas and preserved in its pure form by Guru Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, the goal of Ashtanga Yoga is complete purification of body and mind. That is possible through eight steps requiring complex physical postures and breath-control techniques.
Who: Urmila Maheshwari, 41, chartered accountant
About 15 years ago, Maheshwari developed a chronic backache and stress-related ailments. Her energy levels dropped owing to late working hours and commuting long distances every day. “I took up Ashtanga Yoga with Yogacharya Anandji as a last resort,” she recalls. In two years, she lost weight, found herself in better control of her professional life and the nagging physical ailments started abating. “Ashtanga addresses both the mind and the body and all the asanas are interdependent,” says Maheshwari’s guru.
For whom: A regimented, but effective form of yoga for anyone looking for a better quality of life. It suits people of all ages, provided it is taught according to an individual’s requirements, because it encompasses three elements—hatha (body), raja (mind) and vinyasa (spiritual)—in the eight-fold practice. But don’t look for quick results.
Who’s who: Rekha, Madhuri Dikshit, Sushmita Sen, Sting, Madonna, Lady Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivek Oberoi.POWER YOGA
The term came to India in the 1990s from the US. It was designed as a fusion form that combined flexibility and fitness training with yoga postures for optimum results. Done in a gym, most practitioners use the 12 exercises of the Surya namaskar (sun salutation) along with strength training. Says fitness instructor Leena Mogre, who teaches Power Yoga in her institute, “I like to alternate every asana with push-ups or other forms of strength training. That helps increase lean muscle tissue facilitating calorie burn.”
Who: Malini Patel, 44, homemaker
About six years ago, Patel wanted to find out about the the latest fitness buzzword. She enrolled in a gym that offered classes thrice a week. “I didn’t get the instant results a vigorous daily work-out gives, but in the long run, it has made me mentally alert and I am in great shape,” says Patel. Now she is also learning Iyengar Yoga. “Power Yoga is a great way to get started because it demystifies the esoteric notions associated with yoga,” she says.
For whom: Like Artistic Yoga, it directly addresses issues of weight and strength. It’s a recipe for those looking for a lean body, without having to include yoga classes separately into their fitness regime. But it does not give the holistic experience of breath control and relaxation techniques.
Who’s Who: Katrina Kaif, Sameera Reddy, Bipasha Basu, Sonia Garware.