yogabeing

yoga blog by yoga lover in Bicester

Advanced Yoga??

Recently a student said to me “I really need a more advanced class”.  I asked her what she meant by this and she responded that she wanted to do things like Headstands and  other strong challenging postures.

I do teach in a gentle style, and understand that different styles of yoga suit different people.  But is a physically demanding class a more advanced one?  Physical postures are but one of the Limbs of Yoga (Patanjali’s Sutras).  And they are traditionally used to prepare  for meditation.

You may have heard the phrase ‘Beginners Mind’ – it comes from the book ‘Zen Mind, Beginners Mind’ … there is a lovely quote right at the beginning of the book “In the Beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”.  To me this means approaching everything with a sense of curiosity – whether it is something familiar or something new – by doing this, there is always something new to notice.  And you can certainly apply this in yoga.  Take a ‘basic’ posture like Tadasana (Mountain Pose) – how do the feet feel today, what is my balance like today, how is my breath,  etc.  By taking this approach, you are also ‘really present’ – your mind is not thinking ‘what am I going to have for lunch?’ for example.  If you get this degree of focus and awareness in your yoga practice, this is to me what makes a practice advanced.  And if you take this approach, you are always a beginner, never an expert!

 

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How to find a good yoga teacher


So you’ve decided you would like to take up yoga …. how do you choose a good yoga teacher:

  1. Check our their training.  A good teacher will be happy to tell you about their training.  Yoga teacher training takes around two-three years.  (If someone has only done a short weekend type course, they will not have any real depth of knowledge with which to guide and support you).  All the reputable teacher training programmes cover not only yoga postures, breathwork, mudras (gestures), and bandhas (energy locks), but also the philosophy that is an integral part of yoga, plus anatomy and physiology, health and safety, teaching skills, how to adjust students safely, common health issues etc … you can see why a comprehensive course needs to take a coupe of years.
  2. Are they registered with one of the major yoga organisations – such as British Wheel of Yoga – to be registered with the British Wheel of Yoga, a teacher has to have evidenced a comprehensive training and also on-going professional development – i.e. they are competent to teach and keep their teaching skills up to date.
  3. Check their insurance.  A good teacher will be fully covered by an insurance policy..  Whilst one hopes nothing bad wil ever happen, it’s another sign that you are in good hands.
  4. Can you try out a class?  A good teacher will want you to be in the class that is right for you and will be happy for you to try a class before committing to a term.
  5. Does the teacher seem professional?  Are the tidy and organised?  Are you asked to complete a health questionnaire before starting a class (in a gym it might be a verbal health screen rather than a written document, as you are likely to have completed a full screen on joining).
  6. Do they explain things in a way you can understand?  A teacher may use demonstration or words or a mix of both.  Some may bring along pictures or other teaching aids … but you should always know what you are supposed to be doing.
  7. Is the teacher happy to answer questions?  You should always feel able to ask questions (even if you choose to wait till the end of the class so as not to interrupt the flow of the class)
  8. Do you like the teacher?  And yes this is important … if you don’t, you won’t keep going to the class!
  9. Do you enjoy the class?  Do you feel welcome as you arrive and enjoy the practice.  Yoga is wonderful with the teacher that is right for you.
  10. Does the class flow well.  A good class will have a mix of standing, seated/kneeling and laying postures with alternatives offered to suit different levels of ability.  There will be forward and backward bends, side bends, twists and inversions, plus breathwork, relaxation and perhaps meditation.
  11. Do you feel good afterwards?  Most people find yoga refreshing and relaxing, they enjoy the stretching, toning and de-stressing.
  12. Do you want to go again?  Find the class that makes you want to keep going back for more!
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Starting a home yoga practice

So you’ve been going to a yoga class for a while and would now like to start developing a home practice too … what might you want to think about?

1.  Where to practice

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a room you can dedicate to your practice.  But for most people it will be finding somewhere in the house (or perhaps the garden on a nice day) where you can practice undisturbed.  So long as you have space for your yoga mat and enough space around you to move safely you’ll be fine.

2.  Creating the right environment

To make your space special, maybe you’d like to have a candle (safely positioned) or some flowers, an ornament …. whatever you fancy really that just marks the space out as special to you.  I’d suggest shutting out the cat and dog …. they always seem to want to join at the most inconvenient moments!  Make sure you’ll be warm – perhaps have a blanket nearby to wrap yourself in for your final relaxation.  And don’t forget to turn the phone to silent.

3.  Getting started

Settle yourself first – slow, deep breathing – standing, sitting or laying as you prefer.  Then do some warm up movements – gentle stretched.  Then work through some postures that you are familiar with – trying to incorporate a range of movements – forward bend, backward bend,side bend, twist and inversion.  And finally some breath work and relaxation.  Avoid anything that is contraindicated for any health issues you may have.  Don’t overthink what you plan to do … go with the flow … otherwise there’ll always be an excuse not to get started!  It really doesn’t matter whether you spend 10 minutes, half an hour or more ….. just do it!

4.  Keeping up the momentum

We tend to start something new full of enthusiasm … and then life starts to get in the way … I’m too busy, too tired, there’s something on TV (or whatever your pet excuse is!).  It’s useful to note how good you feel after a practice, and any changes you notice in how you act and feel later.

5.  Sources of inspiration

Your yoga teacher may provide home practice routines – I do for my students – see http://www.yogabeing.co.uk/resources.  Yoga journal is a reputable site http://www.yogajournal.com  The British Wheel of Yoga also has some poses http://www.bwy.org.uk/yoga-postures

Do be careful with what you pick up on the internet … anyone can put anything up and there is an awful lot of rubbish there!

6.  Enjoy it

Really the most important thing ….. pick times of the day that suit you – it doesn’t have to be the same time everyday, or the same length of time … or even every day. …. just enjoy!

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Why yoga keeps me learning

I’ve often noticed that  I can be doing a yoga posture that I know really well, and have probably done hundreds of times before, yet it never ever seems boring … there’s always something else to notice …to be aware of….. something that just keeps my yoga fresh, interesting, rewarding and wonderful.

Have just been reading about the concept of the Cross of Learning ….. and it really resonated with me.  It’s mentioned by Alison Trewhela in her Yoga for Health Lower Backs book (a programme I’m teaching in Bicester).  She says “one of the wonderful aspects of yoga is that the subject is vast.  Learning can take place at various levels and layers and go in various directions.  Typically in the West, we feel we must learn ‘vertically’ with learning becoming more difficult as we go in an upward direction.  Similarly, we can learn more challenging yoga poses, but the more yoga we do, often the more we benefit from returning to the very basic simple poses and penetrating downward or inward gaining more precision, depth and subtlety.  In yoga we also learn ‘horizontally’, by adding ever more details about the same poses.  All these different directions of learning should be regarded as progression in yoga.”

I’ve blogged about this concept myself, as it is to me a really important principle.  I feel it’s somewhere so much of the joy of yoga comes from.  There’s no need to do gymnastic poses …..just feel your yoga from your heart and it will always be fresh, vibrant an amazing.

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