The 411 On Yoga 101

 Contributing Writer: Renee Simpson

Yoga Collage

Yoga has gone way mainstream.  There seem to be as many ideas about what yoga is as there are methods.  To some, yoga is about excercise and that’s an end in itself.  To others, yoga is a means to an end; a spiritual practice to ready onself for meditation.  For me, a New Yorker on the constant quest for an optimally healthy body and a decent boyfriend, yoga beautifully responds to both of these needs. Whatever yoga means to you, I have this to say: if you haven’t tried it, please do try it, if you have tried it and dropped it, please do consider picking it back up again, and if you have a yoga practice, awesome, spread the word, spread the Love, and keep spreading your arms for a nice, deep stretch.

This Hawt Shop post will focus on some of the methods of yoga. For an exposition on the philosophy of yoga, here’s a thorough treatment and an enlightening read:


Light on Yoga

You Feel Amazing Just Reading It!

In my own practice, I’ve found it important to learn about different yoga methods because I believe finding your method (even if it’s about combining different methods) is a key to developing your practice and sticking with it.  Like many, I got my start with the well publicized, nation-wide available Bikram Yoga method.

Bikram Yoga

All Bikram Yoga is hot, but not all hot yoga is Bikram.  As this method is likely the best known, because of the heat, the rigors of the practice, and the magnamity of Bikram Choudhury (the founder) who is quite litigious in defending his copyrighted method of 26 asanas (poses), in 105+ degree heat, for a set 90 minutes.  Wherever you go, the method is always the same.  If you would like to try this method, it is recommended that you drink at least two liters of water, stop eating at least two hours before class, dress skimpily, and a word of advice from me based on personal experience – there is no need to push yourself into a pose, just move with your breath and let your body enjoy the detox.  As my own yoga practice evolved, I found that Bikram was not right for me because I did not want the same routine each class.  I like the unexpected, even in yoga.


Vinyasa Yoga

This is a flow method, unlike Bikram where you stop and switch from one pose to another.  No two Vinyasa classes will likely be the exact same as there are a variety of different asanas (poses) that the instructor will sequence out for the class (often spontaneously).  Classes range from 60-90 minutes and some studios offer Hot Vinyasa.  As a means of warming up the body, early on in every Vinyasa class you will be sent into a sequence of Downward Dog (lower right photo) – Plank – (upper left) – Chaturanga (upper right) – Upward Facing Dog (lower left, sometimes it will be interchanged with the Cobra pose, not shown).   This sequence may occur on it’s own, or as a part of the extended series known as Sun Salutations.  Vinyasa Yoga is great for strengthening.  After my first 10 classes I found myself able to do push-ups as part of my own pre-class warm up.  That’s miraculous because push-ups are something I used to watch other people do as I involuntarily made squishy-yikes-that-looks-painful faces.



The Sequence of: Down Ward Dog – Plank – Chaturanga – Upward Facing Dog (and/or Cobra, not shown)



Sun Salutation Sequence


Iyengar Yoga

The author of Light on Yoga (above) developed this method.  One of it’s hallmarks is the use of props – bolsters, blocks, belts – to further help to align the body.  In my opinion, this method is a must try.  In my first Iyengar Yoga class, we were instructed to grab hold of belts, which were fastened securely to the wall, and then hang ourselves upside down.  What’s great is that if you do not have a headstand practice, Iyengar Yoga can get you upside down in no time flat. This method includes a lot of instruction and time is taken for each set-up.  In this way, it’s very different from the rigor of switching between Bikram asanas and the flow of Vinyasa.  I personally found this method to have deeply opened up my chest, because of the use of belts to assist with stretching.  The slower pace of the class also helped me to develop my confidence in my own body.


Iyengar Use This One

Whot?! Yeah, This Is You, First Class. It’s Dope.


Yin Yoga

I.Love.Yin.Yoga.Full Stop.

Yin Yoga, opposite of Yang Yoga (the above methods are more Yang), is about deep conditioning of the fascia (connective tissues that make up approximately 30%  of our muscles).  I see it as a great practice to include with other more Yang (doing) practices.  The trademark of Yin Yoga is that poses are held for longer periods than in other methods, usually 3-5 minutes. This method can be practiced in heat, depending on whether a studio offers Hot Yin.  It requires less effort than the more Yang methods and is deeply relaxing.  Yin Yoga is not as common as the other methods, so if you do not have a local studio that offers Yin, check out Restorative Yoga, Gentle Yoga, or a Yoga Intro class.  Yoga teachers (outside of Bikram Yoga) tend to be receptive to taking requests, so you could try requesting that one of the poses in the practice be held for a few minutes.   In the alternative, take a Yin class on youtube if you can’t find one by you.


yin yoga 1

So Many Layers of Awesome Happening Here

Plus Sized Yoga

It hurts my heart that the category “Plus Size” even exists, because we are all One Size – Immeasurable, Infinite Energy.   Plus Sized Yoga, however, does perfectly illustrate that Yoga is not about thinness or size. Yoga happens on the physical level of muscles and the energetic level of Spirit.  We all have muscles, we all have Spirit, and for this reason, anyone can do yoga. Yoga is all inclusive, like the Universe we live in.


Plus Sized Yoga Collage




Tupac, The Illest Prophet

Contributing Writer: Renee Simpson

Only God Can Judge Me

I believe we are spiritual beings having human experiences.  I also believe Tupac knew this.  When I look at his life, I mostly see Tupac the man, but when I hear his words, I think of Tupac the spiritual sage. I followed his life so closely I sometimes felt like a remote stalker, but since I’m a Writer, I prefer to consider myself one of his informal biographers.  He was never a rapper to me; he was more other worldly from the jump.  I have always considered Tupac a Prophet who spread the Word, just in the particular form of Rap.

Small Banner 2

In a 1988 interview, when he was 17 years old and beautifully idealistic despite his mother being an actual crack-head, Tupac had this to say about creating equal opportunity: “I think adults should go through school again. Rich people should live like poor people, and poor people should live like rich people, and it should change every week.” The healing spiritual advice that This Too Shall Pass, is fully evident in Tupac’s idea.  If we were all rich for a week, then poor for a week, there really wouldn’t be a rich or poor socio-economic status anymore because the richness would constantly pass, as would the poverty.

But how did Tupac go from a young idealistic education reformer to Thug Life? In his own words, from an interview after his first album, “Comin outta New York, I never learned the Game, then I went to Baltimore and I didn’t learn the Game, no one ever took the time to teach me the Game, then I went to Oakland and I learned the Game…. The Game is motherfuckin’ free, but shit, we just need to make some money off it.”

Being that Tupac’s life started with a family in the Panther Party, it makes sense that he was destined to become a Prophet, it’s just that he came up in the Rap World. For who he was, for the spirit he had, every avenue of fame was open to him; he could have been the dynamic leader of a Church, or a radical professor at Brown, but he happened to come up in Hip Hop because he was street, and that’s where he found his opportunity and made the most of it.

He wasn’t only a prophet, but a feminist. Tupac taught me something about male perspective on women and sex, to paraphrase: act like a hoe, get treated like a hoe, act like a lady, get treated like a lady.  Yes, he tapped mad ass, as a part of Hip Hop life, and he did have that run-in with rape charges (and was found not guilty of course) but he still laid down some of the most female supportive tracks in Hip Hop history, “Dear Mama,” “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” and “Keep Ya Head Up.”  The lyrics reveal Tupac’s genuine compassion and understanding for the web of disadvantage in which women, especially poor women, are often enmeshed in a patriarchal society.


Tupac, the man, may be gone, but his spirit and his words, are everlasting.

To Infinity