As a long time yoga instructor, I have seen, and even experienced myself, some serious confusion when it comes to knowing which yoga classes are right for which people.
There are so many options out there—and there seem to be more every day. How do we determine the best fit for us?
And I’m not simply talking about which type of practice we might enjoy the most, but which will truly enhance our lives, expand our consciousness, and keep our bodies and minds optimally healthy.
Here are some simple questions to help determine if we’re practicing our most advantageous yoga. Remember, because we change and evolve each year, each week and even each day, it’s good to ask ourselves these things frequently.
1) Does this class/style feel like the middle way for me?
“The term Middle Way was used in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the first teaching that the Buddha delivered after his awakening.[c] In this sutta the Buddha describes the middle way as a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This, according to him, was the path of wisdom.”
This is an intelligent approach to yoga as well, as it encourages physical and spiritual growth but discourages injury and ego.
Like Goldilocks, we should try and find the class/style that is not too hard, and not too easy, but just right—and that will mean different things to different people. Be honest with yourself about whether you are working too hard or not working hard enough, and adapt accordingly.
2) Does this class/style inspire me?
I used to be a dedicated Ashtangi, and it is certainly a venerable yogic style, but as a creative person I slowly came to realize that the repetitive movements were kind of soul crushing for me. When I relinquished my attachment to the idea of being an Ashtangi, and let myself enjoy Hatha Yoga instead, in the form of Vinyasa Flow, I was delighted by the chance to practice new poses and try new sequences.
I felt my whole relationship with yoga become revitalized and remain excited for every Vinyasa Flow class I teach or take.
Find something that more often than not makes you want to run out the door to class, and don’t be afraid to experiment; Iyengar, Yin, Ashtanga, Restorative, Hot, Bikram and many many other wonderful genres of yoga are all ripe for the picking. Explore, have fun, try new teachers, new studios, find what really lights you up inside and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not the “right” kind of yoga.
3) Am I seeing personal growth from this class/style?
We should never be on autopilot in our yoga practice, but leave every class with some new insight, having embraced the idea of a new challenge (even if we haven’t yet found the courage to actually undertake it), or feeling some sense of betterment, whether it be in our body, mind or spirit.
If our practice is just about going through the motions, we aren’t practicing yoga at all.
We are not engaged in the process of our own evolution, and therefore, though we may be moving our bodies in the shapes of dogs and warriors, we are really just a stagnant pond.
If we feel like we are stagnating in a particular class/style, we have two options; we can wake ourselves up and try to look at it with a new perspective, thereby reinvigorating ourselves, or we can move on to something different and see if we can find forward movement there.
The trick is to remain engaged at a core level with your practice—as fascinated by it as a child is by a colorful butterfly.
If you can ask, answer and act on these three questions honestly, you will be practicing the best way for you, and will be able to reap all the rewards that come from the beautiful mystery that is yoga.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: The Yoga People/Flickr