Integral yoga was brought to us from Indian yoga master Sri Swami Satchidananda in the late 1960’s. This style of yoga really focuses on the spiritual part of yoga but also the physical aspect. While practicing integral yoga there will be a lot of chanting, meditation and prayer as you move through the different poses. This style of yoga also incorporates several traditional poses learned through yoga teacher training that are designed to help increase your strength, flexibility, improve meditation and relax your mind.
Integral Yoga poses will incorporate the sun salutation which is a smooth movement which is made up of several different positions. Practicing this pose will help increase your body strength, balance and flexibility. You begin the pose in the mountain position which is a relaxed standing pose. With a flowing movement you bend slightly backward with both arms stretched straight above your head and then slowly curl forward to touch your toes. From this point you move the pose to a lying position flat on your belly and curl your head and buttocks upward. To complete the pose you slowly move back to an upright starting position. Yoga teaching will guide you on the transitions to move with flowing movements through this pose.
The headstand pose is best practiced with some props like a folded towel or a cushion because of the strain it can apply to your neck, head and shoulders. This pose definitely requires you to have strength and yoga experience. Begin the pose with kneeling and then put the top of your head on the floor. Lock your fingers behind your head forming a V shape in front of your face with your forearms. Your forearms should be the support for the rest of your body. Once you feel comfortable and your breathing is in control, exhale and slowly lift your feet above your head. If you are a beginner you should start with holding the position for a maximum of 10 seconds. Work your body into a longer pose the more you practice is advised through yoga certification.
Another popular Integral yoga pose is the bow pose. This is a good position for those that are beginners. It does tend to put pressure on the back and chest. You begin with lying on your stomach and holding your legs at the ankles. Slowly breathe out while pushing your chest and thighs off the floor from pulling at your legs. If you can hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing and then repeat several times. Yoga teacher training will advise you to build up to the time you hold the pose. That is another way of building your strength and stamina without causing yourself injury.
Integral Yoga views the Tree Pose as representing the qualities of an actual living tree. The qualities they refer to are tolerance, strength, balance, grace, flexibility and generosity. This pose seems like a simple one but actual require quite a lot of stability. You stand with your arms in the prayer position. Slowly, one leg will bend in toward the groin area and you are left balancing on one leg. Through a lot of practice you will learn how to shift your weight over to the leg you balance with and be able to create a strong lasting position.
How to Sequence Integral Yoga Poses
Integral yoga is a style that takes asanas, meditation, breathing and relaxing and mixes them up in the same practice. Your mind and body become one unit. This style focuses more on your mind than your physical body and encourages those who practice to be peaceful both inside and outside your practice. It is a very popular style of yoga. Integral Yoga is a set pattern of poses that will last about 75 minutes for a normal practice session. All the routines are set up with asanas, relaxation, breathing and then meditation in yoga teaching. To set up your sequence here is what yoga teacher training instructs:
Begin with 45 minutes of asanas
Move into a deep relaxation session after the asanas
After your deep relaxation session you will calm your mind and focus on your breathing patterns
End the session with meditation
Once you feel comfortable practicing this style of yoga you begin to practice anywhere. Yoga teacher training will help you learn the basic traditional asanas and breathing techniques and then it is up to you to build on your personal practice.