Finding The Right Yoga Class Can Be A Challenge!
I have on occasion participated in a yoga class and witnessed students struggling in a level not suitable for them, desperately trying to keep up, or so focused on reaching the next level of the posture that they compromise alignment altogether, and their safety! This is an observation for the most part of the yoga classes offered in fitness facilities as opposed to yoga studios. Sadly, being “miss-matched to the class” happens often and understandably so.
It’s peculiar that Hatha Yoga has this “zen” reputation when the word ‘’ hatha’’ actually means, ‘’forceful!’’. Yoga has a slow, relaxing, mellow, stereotype image. (Must be all the tv commercials) Yes, these are definite components of a typical class. However, yoga can also be dynamic, fast passed, flowing, and you can get injured! So you have to be smart about it! I can usually sum up within a few classes (of the classes I participate in) which participants will not continue because of uneasiness ( partially due to the spiritual nuances) not properly fitted to the class level, or be forced to stop later because of injury.
Hatha is a broad term referring to any of the physical practices of Yoga
There are so many different styles of Yoga out there today. It has been 25 years since I completed my yoga teacher’s training and since that time all kinds of ‘’yoga stuff’’ has sprung up. For a beginner it can be overwhelming, to say the least! Some of these new styles are simply reincarnations (pun intended) of the old classics with spunky, fashionable names. Others, quirky combinations or ‘’blends’’ of yoga styles that are very effective, and other such as Christian Yoga Classes that are a welcomed alternative to traditionnel yoga classes. These Hybrids can be rather fun and creative way of ‘’changing it up’’ just so long as they are safe!
There appears to be less of a spiritual air about the contemporary, postural types of classes that have sprouted up in fitness centres and studios across the globe. Less chanting, mediation, and less eastern spiritualisms. I think this evolution of sorts is understandable considering how big the “physical culture” has become and how far science has evolved in the field of fitness and sports education in the last 40 years or so. For example, I was already a practising group fitness instructor and Fitness and Lifestyle consultant when I took my Sivananda yoga teacher’s training in 1992. Even then, I had the discerning eye and knowledge base to identify counter indicated postures which were at that time (25 yrs ago) considered safe and effective. In fact, there are to this day, postures that I omit in my yoga classes because the risk of injury out ways the benefits, or the yoga postures simply do not engage the muscle group effectively. This I believe, is the beauty of the science of exercise and how it applies to yoga. As this field evolves, so do we as more knowledgeable, competent teachers of this highly effective discipline.
Of course, not everyone is partial to the diluted “knock offs” of the original classical yoga class with its eastern philosophies and rituals that arrived here in the west during the mid-50’s and 60’s. According to die -hard yoginis, what I’m teaching, postural yoga, is technically secular! So, for those who are purposefully seeking out a more spiritual or devotional type of yoga class, one which includes; Hindu chants, meditation, and prayers, contemporary or postural yoga will not meet your needs.
“As a personal trainer and yoga teacher, I can identify counter indicated exercises, gage myself and modify my class accordingly. But how does a beginner navigate himself around in all this?”
First, think about what you are hoping to achieve from a yoga class. What season of your life are in? Pregnant, recuperating from illness, an injury etc…? I am premenopausal and a class that involve lots of inversions are very helpful in this season of my life. Inverted postures and menopause, they are a great source of relief. What are your needs and how are they changing? For example, in my 20`s I gravitated towards very fast paced fitness classes. Sivananda style yoga classes appealed to me as a balanced complement to my pre-existing training program.
“I looked forward to the moments of reflection between postures where I could be in my space and also in my class. I enjoyed the pauses between asanas when I could be still, focus on my breath, scan my body for any discomfort or tightness, bask in the sensations, tingling, and warmth of the previous asana, or simply visualize the following posture in the series.”
This style, Sivananda Yoga which focusses on one pose at a time with rests in between each movement, met my needs. It was a welcomed change from the fast paced aerobic classes I was doing then and a shear blessing to participate in now. Today, at 53 years of age, I sincerely appreciate this mindful style of yoga. I am kinder to my body now, listen to it more and hope to maintain my present state of well-being into my 90`s! The Sivananda approach works for me!
In a nut shell, when seeking out a yoga class, you’ll need to be realistic. If you are in your 50`s, for example, and are trying it for the first time, you’re going to need a class that meets your physical needs. You need to ask yourselves, what am I looking for?
A fast paced, power yoga class?
Couple classes for hubby and I?
Classical Hatha Yoga class?
Looking to reduce stress?
Postural, Contemporary “Noga-Yoga”
Modified back wellness class?
A Christian alternative to yoga?
Do your homework. Research what styles are out there so you are aware of your options and communicate yours needs limitations (if you have injuries or illness for example) to the receptionist or instructor. Do inquire about their qualifications. Don’t be shy to ask about their philosophies. Are the classes postural (Hatha) or do they incorporate eastern spiritualism, devotions, chanting, or prayer (Bhakti Yoga). I believe this is a very important question to pose. For example, I am a practising Christian, bowing, prostrating, chanting & praying in a foreign language to Hindu deities is somewhat unsettling for me. As a personal trainer, when I started incorporating yoga excersises into my fitness prescriptions, I offered postural and relaxation geared postures. Naturally, because of my back ground in sport and fitness, and having been a competitive athlete, my yoga classes tended to be alignment & breath work oriented. I call them Purely Postural, Contemporary, No-Ga Yo-Ga, or “Yoga inspired wellness.” All the amazing benefits of hatha yoga without the eastern spiritualism. My students and clients appreciated this straight forward approach to fitness. There was no Namaste, no prayer or no chanting involved. Even to this day, I choose not to ‘’Om’’ to identify the beginning and ending of my classes. I cling a crystal glass three times instead. At the end of the class, after having been led through a guided relaxation, my students simply lie quiet and still in their own thoughts. As for meditation, its true that sitting still for a few minutes a day really helps relax the body, focus the mind, and quiet the spirit. I strongly advise you to incorporate this quiet time into your daily routine. I have a personal mantra I say to say before I practice and during my mediation time, ‘’I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’’ The practice of Postural Yoga brings this statement home for me. I am so very grateful!
I have found my fit and I pray you find yours too! Take the time to look around and inquire. I assure you, it will be well worth your time and efforts!
I look forward to sharing future blogs and videos with you.