Guest Author - Terri Johansen
The wonderful thing about yoga is that everyone starts in their own place, within their own ability. In a typical yoga class you will see students of varying ages, levels of ability, and stages of development. These students probably came to their first class with the same apprehensions as you. Here are several things to look for when choosing a yoga class. Hopefully they will make your first class less intimidating.
Choose your teacher well. Your instructor will make all the difference in your class experience. A well-trained teacher should provide pose modifications, making the poses accessible to most everyone in class. The instructor should provide concise, clear instructions as well as demonstrations of the phases leading into each posture. Your instructor should be approachable so that you are not afraid to ask questions. Yoga is a precise form of body movement and it may be necessary to get clarification from the teacher about these movements. Itís okay to ask your teacher about her training and experience. You are putting your safety and trust in this person, so speak up. Remember it is always important to let your teacher know before class if you suffer from an illness or disability that needs special attention.
When visiting a yoga class for the first time pay attention to the environment. How does it make you feel? Is it comfortable? Did the teacher greet you? Are the other students friendly? Is the facility clean and inviting? These things can make a big difference in your initial comfort level within the class thereby freeing you to focus your attention on the instruction you receive.
Another important factor in choosing a class is the style of yoga. Different personalities will find different styles pleasing. Do a little research before class. An Internet search on the styles of yoga can provide you with a starting point. Also, visit your local library and look at books on yoga. Lots of yoga books have sections on the different styles of yoga available. One of the best things you can do is ask your friends and acquaintances if they attend a class and how they feel about it. You may experience limitations on the styles of yoga taught in your community. In that case try visiting available classes until you find the one that is right for you.
Along with looking for the right class there are some things that you may come across in yoga that seem strange at first. Some of the terminology may be unfamiliar to you. Since yoga was originally written in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit some teachers use the original Sanskrit pronunciation for the poses, while others use the English translation.
When a teacher refers to an asana she is referring to the pose or the posture. Often at the end of a class the teacher will close with a traditional yogic greeting ďNamasteĒ, which loosely translates as ďI respect the Divine within you, and within myself.Ē
Each style of yoga may approach the class structure differently. Even within the same style of yoga the format may vary according to the teacherís individual expression. When attending a yoga class you may encounter some of the following:
1) Some teachers like to incorporate affirmations, intentions, or positive thoughts into their classes. Typically nothing is required of the student other than an open mind.
2) Many yoga classes include meditation periods. These are practiced as silent meditations or the teacher may lead the class in visualization.
3) Some styles of yoga include chanting in their classes. Chanting is a vocal participation in the repetition of a spiritual word or phrase. The teacher leads chanting with the class joining in.
4) Some students like to remain anonymous in class participation. Your teacher should respect your wish; however itís good to remain receptive to the variety of choices you may encounter.
Ultimately it is up to you how you want to participate. Donít let the many options available in yoga practice inhibit you. Look at it as an adventure. Yoga can be fun, relaxing, energizing, and rewarding. Itís all about what you want to get from it. Okay, come on; letís go to class.
Begin your journey!
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