6 things you shouldn't worry about at a yoga class
Are you new to yoga?
You can imagine what it’s like; you turn up to a new yoga class, all of the mats are perfectly aligned, all of the students in the class look like they’ve stepped out of an Instagram account, they all know the Sanskrit names of all the poses and flow seamlessly from one pose into another and the yoga teacher looks delighted.
But what happens if you think you don’t fit into this picture? Will you throw the class into disarray? Spoil the experience for all the other people? Upset the yoga teacher and be banished?
As a yoga teacher, I’d like to tell you some of my favourite things I LOVE to see going on in classes.
Shock horror, not everyone who comes to my classes has the very newest, branded, eco-friendly yoga mat nor is adorned in the very latest designer yoga togs but people who come to my classes are considerate of the space and the other people in it.
What I mean by that is, they know why they’re all there.
They say hello to one another as they remove their shoes and socks, they place their belongings to the side of the room where they won’t cause an obstruction, they roll out their mat and they ready themselves by laying still on the mat or sitting in quiet contemplation. If a late comer enters the room, I’m always warmed when I see people respectfully moving their mats to make space for their neighbour. It really is a communal experience,
Yoga classes should be silent with the exception of the sing-songy intonations of the yoga teacher, right? Errrrmmmm. Not so, as far as I’m concerned. The universe moves with vibration and sound every single second; why should yoga classes be any different.
There are loads of noises you can expect to hear. Brace yourself, because this one this covers a multitude....
Ok, so we’re not expecting to sound like a grizzly bear lolloping up a hillside but when keeping the focus to the breath or practising ujjayi pranayama, I expect to hear when the sounds of breath. And it’s delightful. Controlling the breath can actively help you to relax and soften into your body. It can also help you focus and direct your physical energies to where they need to be.
A bit of a newsflash here; your yoga teacher is actually a real-life, actual human being who sometimes makes mistakes with their words.
No? Ok, just me then.
I think I’m famed for my mix-ups of the left side and the right side, the hips and the knees. Sometimes my verbal queues incite chuckles and far from wanting to send the people to the back of the class, I want them to feel relaxed and comfortable. Sometimes things are funny. Plain and simple. We’re all human at this party.
You’ve grounded down, you’ve elevated your heart centre, you’ve aligned your chakras and you’ve focussed your dristhi. Now it’s time for savasana. That beautiful, musical sounding Sanksrit word that means I want you to do nothing.
Your body is soft and relaxed on the mat as you concentrate on doing this Nothing and all of a sudden, there is a low, growling sound coming from you stomach. You’re not hungry, what’s going on and why does it sound so loud?
First of all, it sounds louder to you because the sound is coming from within your own body and you don’t usually hear it because you’re normally concentrating on many other things. And now you’re in a still and quiet room. More often than not, I do not hear these sounds, and I’m certain the person on the neighbouring mat doesn’t hear them either.
What I do notice is when people throw their arms and hands on to their stomach, almost telling their body to pipe down, and feeling embarrassed.
When your body is busy and dare I say it, feeling stressed, all your energy is directed away from the reproductive and digestive systems and sending towards the body parts required for battling the cause of this stress, the heart and breathing rate is increased the muscles of the arms and legs have an increased blood flow. We know this as a sympathetic nervous system reaction - perfectly normal. When you are able to rest, your energies are directed back towards the reproductive and digestive system. Things start to move again down there with the prana back at the party.
Digestive noises are not weird nor should they be any cause for embarrassment.
And while we’re here, the dreaded….. yoga trump...
If it should happen to you I will of course, send you to the back of the class.
I’M JUST KIDDING!!!!
They happen, folks. Whatcha gonna do about it?
My good friend Jane at Gedling Colonics will back me up here - gas is produced as a normal part of digestion within the gut. Sometimes, the stretching, pulling and lengthening of the muscles during the asana practice massages the digestive organs, helping things……move along.
So, can we re-frame the scenario that something disgusting has just happened to be, “wow, I’m exercising my body inside and out AND I made a tuneful sound - I'm pretty amazing, really”.
Special mention to a good friend who “lovingly” defaced one of my Instagram posts last year….
Are you paranoid about dropping off during your savasana because you’re worried you’ll snore?? Does that stop you from fully relaxing?
Let me assure you; it happens.
And it. Is Fine.
It happens to me when I go to yoga classes.
Often as I’m packing up, people have approached me feeling all kinds of embarrassed and wanting to apologise that they might have been sawing logs loudly in the corner. Perhaps they get told off for it at home (sorry, Husband).
Here’s the thing. If you go to a yoga class, the chances are you might be feeling a bit stressed out. Or are having problems winding down after work. Or not sleeping properly. Or have some physical discomfort that your yoga practice might be easing. You might have come along to said yoga class with one or two friends, but it’s fair to say, you probably don’t know everyone in the room particularly well.
If you start stacking up Z’s when you arrived only an hour ago with a million and one things flying around your head and in a room full of people you don’t know, then I say
GOOD FOR YOU!!! (I’m not shouting here, I’m just very excited.)
You were clearly in need of the rest and I'm so happy that you can find that within the safe space of my classes.
When I say ‘take the time to make yourself comfortable’, I truly mean it.
When you see the odd one or two mini-fist-pumping at the mention of the word ‘Savasana’ and scrambling to find socks, jumpers, blankets, duvets and teddy bears, they know they need the pause and they are gonna get their money’s worth out off it.
I want this to happen, believe me.
It’s a common thing for me to say during my classes - take the variation of the pose that suits your body best today.
Every single body is built slightly differently, isn’t that the beauty of our individualism? Also, the different experiences of our individual body on any particular day means that sometimes a pose will feel good, another time it won’t. So, I try to offer variations for everyone to find their comfort.
Of course, I’m never expecting anyone to turn up to my class and start free-styling like a maverick, coming into a headstand whilst everyone else is rocking a warrior pose - that would be odd and a teensy bit unsafe (because I wouldn’t be able to watch over so many people taking such a varying degree of motion). But it does mean that sometimes, I do have half a group taking a cat / cow stretch (viralasana) and the other half taking a child’s pose (balasana).
This I love.
This tells me that every single person is being mindful of what’s going on in their body right now and what they need in that moment. Exactly what the physical yoga practice is all about.
Perhaps you are a beginner at this thing called yoga and perhaps you have felt a bit intimidated by expectation of what a class might entail. Of course, I can’t speak for all yoga teachers with these opinions but I hope this has eased your curious mind.
Because the best thing you can gift me in my yoga classes is straightening your mat, a loud snore, taking the right pose for you in the moment and the odd tuneful toot.
Love & light,
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