Considering attempting this 5000 year old practice that has somehow become a modern phenomenon? Nervous? Don’t be. Here are a few secrets to know before you jump in.
1) What To Wear
Back in 2000 when I first began exploring Yoga I would show up for classes in anything from whatever I had worn to class that day to my running shorts and a tank. "Active Wear" was not a thing. It wasn't until I started attending classes at a local gym that I began to seek out clothing that would better allow me to stretch out and bend my body.
There's no need to go shopping for the "right" clothing to wear to your first Yoga class. Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. A little hint: before you choose those tights you ordered online, do a forward fold with a mirror behind you and make sure they aren't too revealing.
2) What to Bring
You don't need any special tools to do Yoga. In fact, Yoga mats are a modern phenomenon. It wasn't until B.K.S. Iyengar came onto the scene that things like blocks, straps and bolsters became synonymous with the practice of Asana. If you are in need of some extra support during the practice a good teacher will notice and provide you with assistance, a variation on the posture or improvise a tool.
Bring water and, if you have long hair, tie it back so that it is not a distraction during the class. How you look while you are doing Yoga is of little importance compared to how you feel.
3) What to Do
Observation is the key to learning anything. If you are just beginning practicing Yoga feel free to look at the teacher and around the room. This is not so you can compare yourself and attempt to be like everyone else, but more so to gather information and decide if this is the right place for you to be. We all get uncomfortable when outside of our elements, and a Yoga Asana class can certainly make you feel like you are on a different planet. The only way to learn more about what to do is to observe.
A good teacher will not only demonstrate the postures, but describe them well. Watch, listen and do your best to follow the instructions. The more you do, the more comfortable you will become.
4) What to Say
Personally, I like it when the studio is buzzing with conversation before I begin teaching. I think it is important to meet the people with whom you are sharing the room and the class. This helps everyone feel more comfortable practicing and helps to eliminate the "silent competition" that can be created when people do not talk to each other.
I also think it is important to ask questions. If the class you attend begins with a chant or invocation as what it means and why it is being done. If there is any sort of saying, expected practice or movements that everyone seems to know and join the only way you will learn is to ask why and how.
Ancestry Means Something
It's nice to know where you came from. Your individual ancestry can help you to identify who you are. In the same way, the line of teachers that provided knowledge and guidance to the one you practice with can provide you with a better understanding of why they teach the way they do. Lineage in Yoga is a valuable bit of information.
Did you know that Raja is the root of all Yoga? Hatha is the seed of modern Yoga. All Yoga began at the time of the Vedas during which traditions and practices were shared orally. It wasn't until people began to write (The Vedas and Upanishads) that the practices were codified.
Knowing who your teachers are can make a difference in your understanding of the practice. If your teacher can trace their training back to a teacher who is trained in the traditional and authentic practice (Raja and Hatha) they probably have a stronger grasp on what Yoga is.
If your teacher cannot identify the lineage in which they were trained they may not be a teacher at all. Instructors can tell you to move, to breath and to focus. Teachers give you the tools to access Yoga. Those who continue to study, observe and deepen their own practice become guides who can show you the way to practice Yoga authentically.
Religion, Culture, Wisdom
LIfestyle practices including Hinduism and Buddhism influenced the way in which Yoga was described. As the stories of the Vedas were written, they were transformed by the way in which people were living at the time. Each new translation of the stories; from Sanskrit to Persion, then to Latin and eventually English, that which was written was changed. Beliefs, religion, culture and more effected the way in which the ancient texts were translated.
Even today there are new books, insights, perspectives and thoughts on how to practice Yoga. Every instructor has their own ideas they want to share. It can be challenging to find a guide with whom you connect. Keep practicing and searching for the right one.
Yoga In Everything, Everywhere
Every time we read the writings as they are translated by a new story teller, we are given a new perspective. The explanations change as a result of current culture, influence, experiences and individual meta-cognition.
Although the practices remain consistent; Asta-anga (eight limbs) must be practiced in order for Yoga to occur, the approach changes. Dependent upon where you were raised, your beliefs, teachers, guides and circumstances effect your practice.
One thing remains true for all of us: Yoga exists in everything, everywhere. We just need to reveal it. Stick with it. Practice Yoga Everywhere. Discover your Self.
If you would like to discuss or learn more about the history of Yoga and the practices of Raja and Hatha book a Realignment Coaching Session with Jenay or begin deepening your practice through the Lake Tahoe Yoga School 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Program.
Receive a Private Evaluative Yoga Session before you join a scheduled practice.
I Don't Need No Stinking Props!
I have been guiding Yoga Practices since 2006. My practice and teaching style began as Vinyasa. I had no desire to appear as though I didn't know what I was doing or that I needed a prop to access a posture. I was young, fit, strong and (kind of) flexible.
Experience Leads to Wisdom
My teacher, guide and friend, Amy Pearce-Hayden, strongly suggested that I teach an alignment practice. It changed my entire perspective. I had to practice with tools in order to be able to teach with them. I had to focus upon what I was doing accurately, inaccurately and also what I saw my practitioners doing with their bodies. I would practice creating with my body the postures that I saw my practitioners doing. I became skilled at seeing, feeling and doing postures with both accuracy and misalignment.
Begin Where You Are
Rather than attempting to force me into shifting my perspective, Amy gave me the opportunity to experience what I wasn't willing to see. I was allowed to work from my practice of Vinyasa and develop a deeper understanding of the postures through my own practice and desire to be a better teacher.
This is what an Evaluative Session can do for you. Before jumping into one of the practices at LTY give yourself the opportunity to get to know Jenay and the Rajahatha lineage. Give us the opportunity to learn about your practice, understanding and experiences. Then, we can work together to help you choose the practices that most align with your needs and desires.
Are you ready to begin the practice at LTY? Request an Evaluative Session to identify the best sessions with which to start.
Remove knots (Granthi) through Bandha and free yourself from the binds of the past.
Throughout your life you have gathered memories, experiences and impressions. Your body holds within it past injuries and discomforts. You may even be able to draw a direct correlation between the limitations in your body and an injury or experience from the past. Scars and bruises are visible expressions of past experiences. As we practice, we reveal that which we carry with us, but no longer need. Through the application of bandha we can both reveal and remove that which weights us.
Granthi = Knots
Have you ever had to comb out the knots that have collected in your hair or had to remove something that has gotten stuck in it? The practices of Hatha Yoga are intended to work similarly. At first, you may experience discomfort and they require much effort. As you continue to practice, the work becomes more subtle and the effects less noticeable. You slowly eliminate the obvious expressions of the past. Then, as you work more deeply, you begin to “smooth” the Granthi or knots that have grown.
The Subtle Body
The gross, or meat body, is visible and tangible. We can see the changes that happen as we practice. We feel the difference as our body becomes fit, mobile, and healthy. Less accessible is the subtle body. Made of emotion, thought and energy, the effects are evident only when we pay attention. The doorway to the subtle body is breath. As we move, we breathe. When we breathe consciously we stir up the residue that has settled over time. The dust of the past can then be released so that it no longer blocks the flow of Prana.
Directing the Wind
Can you remember a moment in your life when you felt uplifted? The moment gave you a feeling as though you could float right off the ground. As we practice directing Prana through bandha the intention is to reverse the downward flow of Apana and make it rise upward. In doing so, you might experience a feeling of upward rising or euphoria. The more subtle this practice becomes, the more knots we untie and the lighter we feel overall.
Why do you practice Yoga? Is it for fitness, relaxation? Is it because your friends do it? Yoga is not something that we do in order to get something nor is it a fad to be attempted and abandoned when something new comes along. It is a practice for life. If you've been practicing and haven't noticed any changes beyond the physical, perhaps it's time to find a teacher who offers more than postural instruction.
Yoga is an ancient practice and science. What was discovered long ago by the ancient yogis was that there was more to life than what they could see. With each new level of consciousness reached, they sought more, they reached further. Today, may of us begin the practice with the physical (Hatha). To do Yoga we must apply the system of practices in a way that improves us beyond the physical. We must seek that which lies beyond what we can see.
My teacher and I were speaking about the dilution of Yoga that has occurred over the past decade or so. She said to me, "Imagine someone deciding to go to school to be a chef. On the first day, the teacher tells them to get out a knife and cutting board, eat a hot pepper and then go take a nap. This is what is happening in many Yoga classes: the instructor has been told that there are things we do in the practice, but they are not taught why, how or when they should be done."
I couldn't agree more. With few exceptions, every class I have recently attended has included aspects of the practice applied inaccurately or in incorrect sequence. It felt just as my teacher had described: like I'd eaten a hot pepper and tried to go take a nap.
The practice of Yoga is complete; it addresses body, breath, energy, emotion and thought. Through fitness, we find strength and balance in our bodies which moves us beyond our limits; beyond our fears. Pranayama (directed breathing techniques) connect body, energy, emotions and thoughts. Through mindfulness practices we find an inner calm that we can draw upon even in the most stressful of situations. These practices develop individual awareness and connections with others. They help us to discover the bonds between all things in the universe.
In the ancient texts these practices are outlined specifically. They are described and prescribed specifically. The names, techniques as well as time and place are included. To ignore these explanations is to ignore the practice of Yoga.
Ask yourself "why?" Why are we doing this breathing practice? Why are we holding this mudra? Why does this sequence of postures include crow? If you don't know the answers ask your instructor or teacher. If they don't know the answers, then it's time to find someone who does.
Seek more than what you expect, more than what want. Dedicate yourself more fully to the practice and be open to the experiences that arrive on your path. Include the practices of Yoga in your life and your life is bound to change.