Read this before your next yoga class

Grazilia Khatri shares some must-follow rules of a yoga class

So you’ve finally found a yoga class that matches your timing, location and budget. You’ve booked your space, made the payment and can’t wait to begin. These tips will help you get the maximum out of your yoga sessions.

The mat space is sacred

Begin with owning a good yoga mat. I’m sorry but towels, picnic mats or folded bed-sheets are not a substitute for a yoga mat. Before you invest in one, look around, do some research and use a couple of other mats at your class to see which kind suits you best.

Once you’ve found one that suits you, don’t forget to care for your mat. You lie on it [often with your face down], breathe close to it, sweat on it, meditate on it and then… roll it away, stack it in its assigned corner and not bother about it till your next class. It’s funny how we often overlook this fact: Mats. Need. Cleaning.

Also, avoid flipping your mat—stick to always using the same end of the mat for your feet and the other for your face. You don’t want your face to lie where a few minutes before your feet were rested.

Sharing is nice but when it comes to sharing your mat space with your gadgets… not so nice. Never place your phone on your mat. That’s your space. Books and yoga props are allowed but phones… are a definite no-no. Keep your phone on silent and away from your mat during class. Imagine trying to stay focussed on your breathing in Dhanurasana while also trying to read a text message on your cell phone. What a waste of precious sacred time!

Always dress for the occasion

It does not matter where you are coming from [or for that matter where you are headed after class], when on the mat, dress right. If you’re thinking, “Just this one time, it’s alright, I’ll wear my jeans and tank top to class, so that I can head out straight for that dinner with friends,” my advice is, skip the class. When you wear something ill-suited to your class, you miss the whole point of yoga, which is about stretching and allowing free movement. Besides, you often end up distracted and spending energy saving your modesty or fighting discomfort.

Mirror mirror on the wall…

Whose yoga pose is perfect of them all? Seriously... is that why the walls of yoga studios are adorned with mirrors?

Relax, we’ve all done it. Mirror or no mirror, we’ve compared our pose to the others’ in class. We have inflated with pride when we were the only one who could to touch our toes in Standing Forward Bend, or turned pale in guilt for not being able to pull off a full lotus, while that lass to our right did it like a pro.

There’s a popular yoga quote that goes: “Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” Curious about you, not the other girl or guy in your class. There will always be someone who is better than you and someone else who is worse. But that’s their concern, not yours. If you keep comparing yourself with them, there’s a good chance that you’ll lose track and end up either getting discouraged or feeling arrogant, neither of which is aligned with yoga. Another danger of looking at others in your class is that you may end up learning the technique wrong. If in doubt, it’s best to seek out your trainer.

Bunking the start and the finish

Yoga practice begins with Aum and breath awareness, and it ends with Shavasana and relaxation. Now you may think that you don’t need this and only want to get to the real action—the asanas, the inversions, the head stands. But, breath centring, warm up and relaxation are absolutely vital to making yoga work for you.

Even if you think you don’t need them, stay till the class concludes. If you come in late or leave mid way, it not only disturbs the flow of the class but is also disrespectful towards the teacher.

If it does not feel right, don’t do it

Hopefully you would have done a background check for the credentials of your teacher before signing up for her class, to confirm you are in safe hands. But in class, if a certain movement does not feel right, don’t do it. Stop and talk to your teacher. If after corrections, you still feel uncomfortable, respect your body’s response and back off. Now this would mean knowing where challenge ends and discomfort begins. I’m not saying you simply give up and recline on the mat every time your teacher says you’re going to try something new that looks difficult to you. But know that yoga is not injury-proof and eventually you are responsible for your safety. Doing a pose the wrong way or doing too much too soon can harm you. An experienced yoga teacher will be able to assess your level of readiness, but if you don’t feel fine doing the pose, tell your teacher and she will guide you into an easier adaptation of the pose.

This was first published in the November 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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