Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

So You Want to Try Yoga, Part 2: Finding the Right Yoga Class August 2, 2011

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:21 pm
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Last time, I gave you some pointers on identifying what you want out of a yoga class. Now let’s figure out how to find the right class!

  • Try different search methods to find an appropriate yoga class in your area.

Once you know what you’re looking for in a yoga class, it’s time to go find one! Yoga classes are held in a variety of places: there are independent yoga studios, of course, but you can also find yoga at a gym or YMCA, or at an unlikely spot like a dance studio, a church, a garden, someone’s home, or even your own workplace!

Gyms and YMCAs are often good, affordable options when you’re just starting out with yoga. These places usually offer yoga classes to their members along with other exercise classes as a part of your monthly membership. Joining a gym can be more cost effective than taking yoga classes at a studio, but you’re likely to get less variety and more emphasis on the physical workout at a gym. Many gyms will offer a trial membership, so you can check it out for a week and see if you like it. Call and ask if this is an option, and if it is, take full advantage!

If you want to try yoga at a yoga studio, there are several ways to find one in your area. Yogajournal.com maintains a directory of yoga studios, which is a good way to get ideas, but not every studio is registered there (I just looked at Pennsylvania, and while there are 101 listings in PA, the two studios where I practice most often aren’t listed). You can also look at local resources like yelp.com, where you can see ratings from other yoga students in your area (and both my favorite studios do show up on yelp). You could even just go to googlemaps and search for “yoga near” your zip code. If you don’t see what you’re looking for under one search, try again on a different site!

Another option is to look for an individual yoga teacher. Yoga Alliance, the national education and support organization for yoga in the United States, maintains a directory of registered yoga teachers (RYTs) who have completed the training requirements (i.e., what I’m doing right now). There may be a yoga teacher in your area who doesn’t teach at a studio or gym but who does private lessons or small home classes. Looking for a teacher might be good for you if you have an irregular schedule and can’t make it to a regular class, or if you have physical problems that make it hard to leave home: bring the yoga to you!

Finally, word of mouth is a great way to find yoga classes. Maybe there’s a yoga class that meets weekly in the basement of the church up the street from you, or maybe your daughter’s dance teacher rents her studio out to a yoga teacher on Sunday mornings. Yoga can crop up in the unlikeliest of places. Look on bulletin boards at the grocery store!

Or maybe some of your colleagues have been wanting to try yoga too – go together to your HR department to see if you could get a class started at your office! Yoga at the workplace can be a nice thing for an employer to do, since it boosts morale and improves fitness (which means fewer injuries and lower health costs!). And sometimes, if enough employees are interested, the employer may subsidize the cost of the classes, leading to cheaper yoga for you. It doesn’t hurt to ask! (And if your employer is willing but you need to find a teacher, check out the Yoga Alliance yoga teacher directory!) If you tell people you want to try yoga, you might be surprised at where it leads you.

Next time: making the most of your first yoga class!

 

So You Want to Try Yoga, Part 1: Know What You’re Looking For July 26, 2011

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:41 pm
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A few months back, my mom sent me an article clipped from her local newspaper on how to find the right yoga instructor. It’s a subject I don’t even think about anymore for myself, but choosing a yoga class can be really intimidating to a beginner! Here are some tips to help you get started on your yoga journey.

  • Know what you’re looking for.

People keep telling you how awesome yoga is, and you’ve decided to give it a try – great! But what are you hoping to get out of it? When you hear the word “yoga”, what does that call up for you? A hardcore workout, a spiritual practice, or something else? Are you looking to get in better shape, or trying to bring some calm to your busy life? Are you recovering from an injury, or do you have a physical condition that limits your movement? The beauty of yoga is that it can be all of these things, and it can work for any body type, any level of physical ability, but you should take your needs and limitations into account when choosing a yoga class. If you’re already fit and just looking for a workout, you won’t find it in a gentle yoga class, and if you’re out of shape or limited in your movement, a fast-paced class could be too rough. Understanding what you want out of a yoga class before you start looking for classes will help you narrow your search.

Too often, when we’re starting to build a healthy new habit, we find ways to talk ourselves out of it and remain set in our old ways. I once knew a guy who paid for a gym membership for a full year without ever going to the gym – he had every intention of getting back in shape, but he couldn’t commit to the changes in his daily routine (like packing a gym bag, or taking a short lunch and leaving work a little early) that were necessary to make that happen. It is hard to make these sorts of changes! Trying a yoga class is ideally the first step in breaking an old habit and starting a healthy new habit. You don’t want to give yourself any reasons or excuses not to do it! So take a few minutes to decide what you want out of your yoga practice. It can just be something simple, like “getting in shape”, and it can change with time as you learn more about yoga, but having a basic idea of what you’re looking for will help you choose the kind of class you want. If you go to any ol’ yoga class, it might not be what you’re looking for, which will make it easy to say “Oh, I tried it, but yoga’s not for me.” Well, that class might not be for you, but there are many different types of yoga classes! Try to identify what you want up front, and then choose a class that seems appropriate for your needs.

If you’re looking for a great workout, try vinyasa or ashtanga style yoga: these styles keep you moving! Or try Bikram yoga, or any yoga class that says it’s taught in a hot room. A yoga class at a gym will often be heavier on the fitness component, too. If you have an injury or a movement-limiting problem, try looking for a class labeled yin, gentle, or restorative yoga – these classes will move slowly and often use props to make sure you’re fully supported. When in doubt, look for a beginners or basics class, as this should be appropriate for anyone, no matter how nervous or out of shape.

And then (and I shouldn’t even have to say this), go to the type of class you’ve identified as being what you want. It’s really easy to say, “Oh, the beginners class is at 6:00, but a 7:00 class fits my schedule better, so I’ll just try advanced acro-dance yoga instead.” Don’t set yourself up like that. Sure, you might discover a surprising love for acro-dance yoga, but more likely you’ll be in over your head and unhappy. Know what you want, and then go do what you want to do.

Now that you have an idea of what you want to get out of yoga, next time I’ll talk about  ways to find some yoga classes in your area to try!

 

General guidelines for asana practice: comfortable and steady May 3, 2011

Filed under: breath,teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 7:19 am
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N gave us a handout listing general guidelines for a yoga class:

  1. Start with a centering exercise
  2. Breathe in and out through the nose
  3. Engage diaphragmatic breathing (not shallow breathing)
  4. Do not hold the breath; let breath flow
  5. Practice on an empty stomach
  6. Wear loose-fitting comfortable clothing
  7. Always end practice with sivasana and meditation
  8. Stay present and focused on practice
  9. Make sure you are comfortable and steady in every posture
  10. Close the eyes if you are able, or focus on drishti (focal point)
  11. Have no expectations of your practice; remain detached
  12. Each posture has an attitude behind it: acceptance, surrender, balance, strength, heart-opening
  13. Each posture works with subtle body energy and chakras
  14. Time of practice and place of practice are important elements

Many of these are common-sense things or things I’d heard before, but there are a couple that were new to me. One of these is #9, “Make sure you are comfortable and steady in every posture”, which I’d never heard before coming to N & J’s classes. They’re not saying that you should feel as comfortable practicing yoga as you feel sitting on the couch. What they’re saying is that, even in a difficult pose, you should be able to feel comfortable and steady staying in the pose for a while, despite the fact that it’s difficult.

We all know that, when practicing yoga, you need to find a balance between actual pain and the strain of stretching in a new way. If a posture is causing actual pain, you need to get out of that posture or modify it so it doesn’t hurt. However, some strain is natural, the body’s way of letting us know that something is going on here. Feeling strain allows us to practice tapas and use that burning feeling in our arms or legs as fuel to become stronger.

Despite the strain and ache in our muscles, we need to find a way to feel steady in the posture. If we’re wobbling all over the place, we can’t find our balance, and our feet are slipping, then we’re not practicing the pose properly. The best thing to do is to come out of the pose a little bit: change your stance, bend a little less, modifying the pose until you feel steady. If you don’t feel steady, it’s a sign that your body isn’t ready for the most challenging modification, and maybe you should spend a little more time in the basic posture or a in gentler modification. If you feel steady in the posture, then you can allow your body to relax into it a little, and you can hold the posture comfortably for longer.

Similarly, N & J tell us to pay attention to the breath in a difficult pose. Is your breathing ragged and uneven? Are you panting like you just ran a marathon? Or are you holding the breath? Then it’s time to modify the posture. Hatha yoga class isn’t like kickboxing class – the point isn’t just to give the body a good workout. You want to be able to keep your breath deep and even and regular as you hold each pose. Let your breath guide you as you flow from one pose to another. There’s nothing wrong with modifying a pose to make it easier, or with taking a rest if you need one. Get your breath back to a nice even flow and focus on keeping it steady and even as you practice. It will make your practice stronger and you’ll feel better afterwards!

Are any points on the list of general guidelines unfamiliar to you? Do you see any surprises here?