Finding The Right Yoga Class Can Be A Challenge!
I have often been in classes, whether away from home or locally, and witnessed participants 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 all together (and their safety!) 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 awkwardness, not properly fitted to 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. 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 centers and studios across the globe. I think this evolution of sorts is understandable considering how far science has come in the field of fitness and sport education in the last 40 years or so. For example, I was already a practicing instructor, personal trainer, and Fitness and Lifestyle consultant when I took my teachers training course in Val Morin, Quebec. Even then, I had the discerning eye and background to identify counter indicated postures which were at that time considered safe and effective. There are still, to this day, postures that I omit in my classes because the risk of injury out ways the benefits, or it simply does not engage that 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 ancient discipline.
Of course, not everyone is partial to the diluted ‘’knock offs’ of the original classical yoga class and its eastern philosophies and rituals that arrived here in the west during the mid-50’s and 60’s. For those who are purposefully seeking out a more spiritual or devotional type of yoga class, one which includes; chants, mediation, and prayers, contemporary or postural yoga will not meet these needs.
“As a personal trainer and teacher, I can identify counter indicated exercises and gage myself and a class to my skill level, but how does a beginner navigate themselves around in all this?”
First, think about what you are hoping to achieve from a yoga class. What season you are in? What are your needs? For example, in my 20`s I gravitated towards very fast paced fitness classes. A Sivananda style yoga class (more specifically the hatha component) 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 breathe, 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 of yoga, Sivananda, which focusses on one pose at a time with rests in between each movement, was a welcomed change from the fast paced classes I was doing. Today, at 52 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 (injury free) into my 90`s! The Sivananda approach works for me!
In a nut shell, when seeking out a 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?
“What do I expect to get out of this?”
A fast paced, power yoga class?
Couple classes for hubby and I?
Classical Hatha Yoga class?
Looking to reduce stress?
Modified back wellness class?
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 Hindu spiritualisms, devotions, chanting, or prayer (Bhakti Yoga). I believe this is a very important question to pose. For example, I am a practicing Christian, bowing, prostrating, chanting and praying in a foreign language to Hindu deities is somewhat unsettling for me. When I started incorporating yoga into my fitness prescriptions, I offered postural and relaxation geared classes. Because of my back ground, my classes tended to be alignment oriented and my students appreciated this. Thus my history with completive athletes. There were no Namaste’s or chanting involved. I don’t ‘’Om’’ to identify the beginning and ending of my classes either. I cling a crystal glass three times instead. I keep fitness separate from faith. My classes, apart from my motto ‘’I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,’’ are a pretty straight forward, and posture oriented.
That’s not to say I haven’t (met with my Maker) on the mat on occasion! I mean, He is omnipresent!
I have found my fit and I hope you find yours too! Take the time to look around and inquire. I assure you, it will be well worth your time and efforts!