While living in Knoxville, I worked at an Aveda Salon. Right across the street was a yoga studio. I would see several cars pull in between class times. Ladies in nicely fitted yoga attire and mats rolled up in hand would be passing and greeting one another. They seemed really positive and looked physically fit. I was pregnant at the time and did not have the desire to go into one of the classes, but it did stir my curiosity. Instead of going to a formal class, I received a yoga dvd for Christmas. 6 weeks After the birth of my first child and 55 lbs heavier, my yoga journey began. The dvd’s served me well until I built up enough confidence to try a class.
Now, as a yoga teacher and having experienced many different styles, I find there are many reasons one hesitates to going to a class. There are too many styles to choose from with weird names, you may be required to do postures that will make you uncomfortable, you're too shy or afraid you won’t do it right, etc.. Where do you begin? Usually you begin with one intention, then it transforms as you notice the benefits. First establish why you want to try the practice, then decide on the style.
Modern day yoga teachings in the Western World tends to be based mostly in Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga styles that are more intense for ex: Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, Hatha Flow, or Power Yoga will probably include the following: Breathing, sun salutations , standing and balancing postures, belly or prone postures, reclined postures, seated postures, and final relaxation. The breathing is primarily Ujjayi Pranayama (I have written instructions for below). You will spend about 5 to 10 minutes just tuning into your breathing to center your mind/body. Sun Salutations usually follow to heat up the body and give you enough energy to hold the poses. Salutations are a repetitive series of yoga poses performed in a continuous flowing sequence. Once you learn how to do them, they do not alter much. This makes it easy to learn and go to other classes. For those who have been mislead to think yoga is a cult or religion, salutations are not to worship the Sun. That is a myth. The core part of the practice is standing and balancing postures. Here you are encouraged to hold a particular posture for 3 to possibly 10+ breaths. You gain a lot of energy during this time. You will sweat, increase your heart rate, and your thought processes slow down. Belly and prone postures are considered an important part of the stretches. It is a powerful way to stretch, open, and strengthen the back body. Seated and reclined postures include many deep stretches, spinal twists, and forward bends. By the time you get to this part, your body is extremely warm and ready. Moving so much “life force energy” will leave you more alive and balanced. Finally, corpse pose or final relaxation. Here you will spend about 5 to 10 minutes lying on your back with your feet hip width apart, palms facing the ceiling, and eyes closed. You will feel your physical body as your teacher guides you to become more and more relaxed. You lay still and relaxed until you are instructed to work your way up gently to a simple seated pose of your choice. You will seal your practice as a group.
Bikram (Hot Yoga), founded by Bikram Choudhury, is a series of repeated postures. These asanas are practiced in a room that is 95 to105 degrees. This allows for more flexibility and sweating. This practice is usually sealed at corpse pose. There is no final relaxation practice in this style.
Iyengar Yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, is a very popular form of Yoga that is based on alignment. This style gives you great opportunity to focus strictly on how you are holding the pose. You gain much focus, concentration, and overall awareness of your physical body.
Gentle and Restorative Yoga classes are just that. All that is required here is your mind opening to relaxation. The format is similar, but these styles usually include lots of props and less invasive postures. Blankets, bolsters of all sizes, straps, blocks, sand bags are used to make sure you feel comfortable in your pose. Gentle and Restorative Yoga is wonderful if you have a hard time moving. If you have chronic ailments or recovering from injury, this practice is for you.
Holy Yoga is an international Ministry founded by Brooke Boon, a devout lover of the Lord who has facilitated the instruction of more than 500 Holy Yoga instructors world wide, including Philene Trevathan R-HYI 225 from local Dickson County. This system of yoga is built on three main structures; Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath work) and Meditation. Holy Yoga applies all three structures with complete focus on connecting to Christ within.
One thing you will definitely learn if you take a Yoga class is Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath). Sit comfortably with your spine upright and close your eyes. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale out of your nose creating a hissing sound in the back of your throat like the ocean waves. Make sure the sound comes from hollowing out the back of your throat not your nose. Try to get a rhythm with your breath, balancing your inhalation with your exhalation. Make sure to notice the pause between your breaths. Set a timer for 60 seconds and practice this as often as you like. You will receive many healing benefits!
The last thing you need to know before going to a Yoga class is etiquette. Arrive early to settle in, allowing enough time to sign in and set up your practice space. The door is locked during class time to avoid interruptions. There is nothing more disappointing to the other students than a student walking in after you have centered your mind. It is respectful to be on time or wait till the next available practice time. Bring a towel and purchase your own mat, unless you are new. Props are like shoes. You will need your own. Arrive on an empty stomach. It is very challenging to do yoga when your stomach is digesting food. It could make your stomach upset. Come to class clean and free of strong perfumes. Prepare to let go of competition and focus inward. Most studios do not have mirrors for that reason. You do not need to see yourself or anyone else in practice. Wear clothes that aren’t too loose and allow you to move freely without distraction. Remove your shoes and socks at the door (another reason to be clean). Use the restroom if needed before practice to prevent disturbances during class. If you need to leave class early, please make sure it is before Savasana, preventing disturbing meditation.
I hope this gives you some insight on where to begin your journey. Understand that everyone in the West is pretty much new to yoga. We are all on this journey together. I will leave you with the statement I frequently get from new yoga students. “Wow; I wish I tried yoga a long time ago”. Namaste.