September is National Yoga Awareness Month, so we’re taking a look at yoga’s history, its various types, the many physical and mental benefits of the practice, and some suggestions for incorporating our expertise in steam showers into your post-yoga routine. Whether you’re a proper yogi or a beginner whose only yoga knowledge consists of the term “downward facing dog” (no judgment!), we’re sure everyone could benefit from a more consistent yoga and steam wellness routine.
The History of Yoga
Yoga began as an ancient Indian practice, with the term first appearing thousands of years ago. It’s believed that precursors to yoga poses originated during the Vedic period around 1500 BCE, which eventually evolved into a religious and meditative practice found in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist writings. This form of yoga wasn’t physical exercise as we know it today, but rather a spiritual ritual revolving around core values including transcendence, consciousness and enlightenment.
Buddhist Hatha yoga emerged around the 8th century and is the most likely form of ancient yoga that we’d associate with today’s practices, as it combined well-known body postures like cat pose, child’s pose and warrior pose with measured breathing and meditation. Hatha yoga eventually made its way to the U.S. around the 1940s and exponentially grew in popularity amongst Americans in the 1960s and beyond, and is still a classic approach and entry point to practicing yoga today.
Modern Types of Yoga
Modern yoga in the Western world appears in many forms, from physically challenging styles to calming and restorative types of practices. Here’s an overview of just a few popular modern yoga practices:
Adapted in the 1980s, this is an athletic practice that’s also commonly known as power yoga. You can expect more movement, quicker pose transitions and a slightly higher heart rate during Vinyasa, making it a great form of exercise.
Founded by renowned yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, this more relaxing type of yoga focuses on proper alignment and precisely holding poses for longer periods of time while controlling breath. You can expect to do slower, deep stretches and to use props to safely perfect your form.
Hot yoga is an intense practice that usually takes place in a heated room typically set to 105 degrees and with 40% humidity. You’ll typically go through a sequence of 26 postures that focus on endurance, building strength and increasing flexibility. These poses and stretches will likely feel much easier to get into from the heat loosening up your muscles, so be sure to not push yourself to overstretch and inadvertently cause an injury. Hot yoga is great if you want a cardiovascular workout – you’ll definitely sweat heavily, so hydrate well before and after the practice.
If you want to wind down and clear your mind after a long day, restorative yoga is for you. Similar to Iyengar, this type of yoga practice focuses on spending more time in just a few poses to help you gently ease into relaxation, so try it at night before bed for best results.
There are many more types of yoga practices, but as you can see from the few mentioned here, they can vary greatly. All forms of yoga practices are known to release tension, build muscle strength, and improve endurance and cardio-respiratory fitness. And because yoga is all about a mind-body connection, the benefits go beyond the physical. By focusing on your breath and appreciating your body’s abilities (regardless of skill level), yoga can provide calming mindfulness and mental clarity.
Post-Yoga Steam Therapy
If you want to prolong these amazing physical and mental benefits, try heading to your steam shower after your yoga session. Steam has very similar restorative benefits to yoga, including detoxifying the body, relaxing muscles and relieving stress. We recommend incorporating a multi-sensory steam shower experience to include chromatherapy, aromatherapy or sound therapy to further balance energy, improve mood and unwind post-yoga. Get ready to feel like a brand new person!