Here’s a bit of my story regarding yoga. I was lucky the first time around. A friend told me about this new yoga class she was going to and mentioned that I might like it. I had never done yoga in my life! I went to my first class and came out a different person. It was a regular off the shelf hatha yoga class, but it was far from ordinary. Our wonderful teacher, who taught me the asanas for the next year or year and a half was a wonderful teacher. Kind, friendly yet respectful and with a certain stoic distance. He could bend in every direction but never pushed you more than you could take. He gave us a vinyasa or ashtanga class once a month as a special treat and the rest was an hour and a half of bending like a pretzel. He was young, but his presence felt like that of an old soul. His wisdom filled the room without any words and we were all hooked. Did I mention he made us all tea at the end of the class and we talked about India? Tea for 25 people after an awesome yoga class. Sounds too good to be true. Well, it was. Our wonderful teacher moved to India and we were suddenly like frantic little bunnies trying to find a new class. I tried a few, they didn’t feel right, time passed and I stopped practicing for many years.
I’m happy to say that after I moved to Spain (my previous class was in my native country, Venezuela) I began the search again. In fact I’m still in the midst of that process. A LOT has changed from my first time around, now yoga isn’t simply yoga. It’s Vinyasa yoga, Power yoga, Prana flow yoga, Bahkti yoga, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Ishta, Bikram, Anusara, Kundalini, Jivamukti and the traditional Hatha of course. This is just to name a few! What should we choose and how should we choose it? Should we take a sample class of each one, try it for a month, research until we drop? The answer isn’t easy, but I’d love to help guide you through this as best as I can.
Let me start by saying that when searching for the perfect yoga class, we need to put the word “perfect” between quotation marks. Finding a wonderful yoga class is hard enough, but going for perfect makes it nearly impossible. In fact, we should be putting those little magic marks around the word perfect for everything we do in life, at least that’s my opinion. When it comes to yoga, our parents probably had it a bit easier. When my mom was young there was yoga. That’s it, different teachers, but it was all mainly hatha yoga. With yoga going global and schools popping up all over the place there’s no wonder we have a hard time finding “our practice”. Our practice- there’s the place where we need to take the little marks away.
Although different types of yoga vary in style and this is certainly something to look through when trying to match your personal tastes to a class, there’s one thing that is at the center of it all, a wonderful teacher. This by no means refers to how deep they can backbend or whether they studied in India or in the West. It has to do with the way you connect with your teacher, that it’s someone who you feel has a lot to teach and share, whether the energy you feel when stepping into class goes with your own rhythm. That being said, of course their training is important! Please do go to a certified teacher who knows what they’re doing, we don’t want any injured necks around here. Find a teacher that will make your practice blissful and not a chore, a person whose views are similar to yours or on the other side of the spectrum, who has views completely different from yours but who you feel can teach you something new. In my experience, that is the most important thing to find, and you can find this in any school if you know where to look and if you’re patient. The asanas will flow and then the real work is up to you, the party starts, it all happens between you and your mat, regardless of whether you’re reciting Kundalini mantras at the beginning of the class or getting scorched in the Bikram “sun”.
That being said, in part 2 of this series I’ll give you some information on the different yoga schools and my experiences with the ones I’ve tried. They all have wonderful things to offer and I do believe one will probably ring a bell more than the others, but if there’s only one yoga class in your town, rest assured, you can find what you’re looking for if you remain open to the experience and find a teacher that inspires you.
In the meantime, forget about the idea that a yoga class has to be in a beautiful studio overlooking the ocean, that it’s next to your house, that your teacher is a rubber band with the perfect body, that the price will be right, that tea will be served, that the school will have a bright shiny website, that the class schedule will match yours, and that the style of yoga will compliment your personality and tastes perfectly. If you find this, well done! I found it once and didn’t know how lucky I was, but now, I just go with the feeling and the energy the room gives me, the teacher gives me, and the feeling I have when I get off the mat. What about an at home practice? We’ll be discussing that as well very soon. Stay tuned for part 2 where we’ll talk about the different styles of yoga out there to give you a little guidance if you’re still searching for a great class.
Last but not least I wanted to give a shout out to my friend and reader Elena, who continues to search and who will very likely find what she is looking for where she least expects it.
I want to end these posts with a little yogic quote. Whether these come from the Yoga Sutras, an Indian Guru or a Western teacher, they’re like little bursts of joy and inspiration. Today I leave you with one that is particularly relevant to the search for the “perfect” class:
“The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind.” Rodney Yee