Ask Best Health: What is Moksha yoga?

[media-credit name=”” align=”aligncenter”]Ask Best Health: What is Moksha yoga?[/media-credit]

When you think of hot yoga, Bikram yoga might be the first thing that comes to mind. But a relatively new discipline called Moksha yoga also falls into the hot yoga category.

Founded in 2004 by two yoga teachers in Toronto, Moksha Yoga is a series of postures practiced in a heated room. There are three levels of classes, lasting anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes.

The standard Moksha series begins with savasana, a resting pose that is typically found only at the end of yoga classes. From there, you do standing poses, another savasana, then on-the-floor postures for strengthening and opening muscles in the lower body. Classes end with one more savasana.

Similar to other yoga styles, the benefits of Moksha yoga include strengthening and toning muscles, improving flexibility and calming the mind. Sweating it out in a hot yoga studio is also said to help detoxify the body.

In addition to the personal perks Moksha yoga can deliver, the practice was designed with social consciousness in mind.

“The goal was to create a yoga practice and a yoga community that embraced a number of key philosophies, including building environmentally kind studios and giving back to the local community in a variety of ways,” says Erin Moraghan, a Moksha yoga teacher and the director of studio and community development for Moksha Yoga International.

What’s the difference between Moksha yoga and Bikram yoga?

Both Bikram yoga and Moksha yoga are referred to as hot yoga. But how do the two styles differ?  

"Moksha is different from Bikram in a few ways," explains Moraghan. Similar to Bikram yoga, Moksha yoga follows a set series of poses as a framework. "However," says Moraghan, "Moksha Yoga is a bit more flexible with changes in sequencing and different class types and timelines."  

"Many students practice both Bikram and Moksha," says Moraghan. "They love the heat and the exhilarating feeling you get after being in a sweaty class."

In addition to Moksha and Bikram, both of which are branded, many independent hot yoga studios are popping up around the country. Each will have its own philosophy and structure, so be sure to try different styles to find the best hot yoga fit for you.

Comparing Moksha yoga to traditional yoga

While it depends on the yoga studio, class and instructor, Moksha yoga is known for being more cheerful and less intimidating than some traditional practices with a more serious tone.

"Moksha yoga studios are lighthearted and fun," says Moraghan. "We keep it that way because we want everyone to feel welcome so they can experience the magical benefits of yoga."

As with other practices, Moksha yoga sequences are designed for lifelong health and are meant to be accessible to a variety of abilities.

"Moksha is available to your body no matter how you’re feeling, as long as you’re connected with what your body needs," says Moraghan. "It’s fun and inspiring to see the way that people from all walks of life can find the same benefits practicing Moksha yoga."

Ready to try Moksha hot yoga?

Moraghan recommends beginners go for a standard 90-minute class. "Ninety minutes may seem daunting to a first-timer, but the plus is that there’s more time in class for the teacher to get into the small details of each pose," she says.

And most important, relax, enjoy yourself and don’t forget to breathe. “In the heated room, learning how to be aware of breath, and taking calm, measured breaths, is vital to your practice," Moraghan says. "We encourage our students to truly let go of everything during their time on the mat, and really focus on being present.”

Find a studio near you at mokshayoga.ca.

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