From the outside, an asana yoga flow and a mat-based Pilates workout may look similar. So, what is actually different between them? I’m sure you will get a variety of answers depending on whom you ask.
I feel a natural high after any physical activity, but my energy feels completely different after a HIIT workout than it does after a vinyasa flow or a yin yoga session.
When I finish a “minute rounds” class with my youngest, where we all go all-out on one single exercise (push-ups, curl-ups, heavy bag-punching …) for a minute, and then move on to the next station, for one entire hour, I feel exhilarated. But sometimes, I also feel a surplus of energy and I need to calm myself down by mindfully stretching and maybe even meditating for a bit.
So, after a lifetime love story with various sports and physical disciplines including running, dance, swimming, boxing, weight-lifting and yoga, my personal take is that what sets yoga apart is “intention.” That is, deciding that, when I get on my mat, I am consciously going on a physical, mental and spiritual journey, where every breath, every movement, every thought even, is intentional. Or at least, that’s the plan!
I love that yoga integrates the subtle energy body into the physical practice. The grounding and settling down that typically initiates a yoga practice helps me pull inward and set an intention for my flow. That could be finding balance, forgiving myself, working through grief, or anything of the like. Asana yoga reminds me that I am more than just a body, and when I eventually get flowing into downward dog or any other pose, I am aware of the small but noticeable energy shifts taking place as I breathe and move.
At the end of a yoga practice it’s like I’ve been on a quest, which ends pretty much where I started, taking stock of how I feel at all levels: mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually.
Of course I can and do incorporate this awareness when I engage in any other physical activity, but when it happens on the yoga mat, and I identify it as a yoga practice, then it’s a holistic experience. When I’m done, I usually feel complete and I don’t have the urge to do anything additional to close my practice.
So that’s my experience and how I feel the difference between asana yoga and other types of bodywork. I’m curious. What is that like for you?