Making your way through the Yoga Jungle

Last week I was asked to write down descriptions of the Yoga classes at the resort where I am currently working for in Canggu. There is a comprehensive schedule with 5 to 7 classes daily in various Yoga styles which can be attended both by hotel guests as drop in students from outside. At Udara Resort Bali there are several Indonesian teachers who were trained either by Westerners or by local Yoga teachers. And there is my Russian colleague and myself leading classes in various styles.

This was an interesting task, as I was both attending some classes lead by teachers that I haven’t met before, tried out Yoga styles that I haven’t practiced before and got to read what the teachers themselves wrote about their way of teaching. And of course I brought in my own experience and knowledge as a teacher. I realized how confusing it can be as a newcomer to Yoga what style and which teacher suits best for the own body, personality and intention of the practice.

Why are there so many Yoga styles?

The basic way of practicing Yoga in India was to stay with a teacher for several years and to learn from a certain lineage of teaching that was handed over from one teacher to another. The various styles of Yoga, especially in the West, have grown exponentially in the last decades. This change has happened for a good reason in order to meet the needs and interests of the people living in this age, to make Yoga popular and accessible to anybody. On the other hand, it also gave way to a development where Yoga became a big market to make money, to invent fancy new styles that have not much in common with Yoga in the way it was traditionally taught, and to create trademarked brands around a glamorous teacher who seem to be quite ego-driven.

How to find a suitable class as a beginner?

So as a new student, ask yourself the following questions before you head out on your quest to find a suitable class: Why do I want to practice Yoga? Is it just to become fit and to have a lean body? Am I more interested in the holistic aspects of Yoga including meditations, philosophy and knowing how the wisdom gained through Yoga can translate into my daily life? Do I have certain injuries or physical conditions that could limit my practice? Is the teacher well qualified, do I like the way he teaches, do I feel safe in his class and to I trust him? Does he live what he teaches?

The best way to answer these questions is to try out various classes with several teachers, to ask fellow students about their experiences, to inquire with the Yoga teachers, consult your doctor if necessary, to read about Yoga and to use your common sense. If you wish to have an active, dynamic practice, then Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Flow classes might be the best for you. A well rounded practice is usually the Hatha Yoga with a moderate pace and breathing exercises (pranayama) or meditations to complement the physical postures (asanas). Yin or Restorative classes are a great way to slow down and focus on long held stretches, especially when you have a very active lifestyle. These are just to name a few styles and of course there is much more out there to explore.

How did I make my way through the Yoga jungle from the very first beginning?

I remember my own start as a Yoga student, where in the beginning it was just about the body and seeing Yoga as another form of exercise similar to aerobics, Pilates or stretching. Actually my first Yoga classes were at a Gym in Bonn in Germany. Luckily there was a great Yoga teacher who was guiding me in a very encouraging way and answered patiently all my questions as my interest in Yoga became stronger and stronger. Over the years my practice has changed a lot and I am lucky that I met so many inspirational teachers on my way.

I completed my Yoga teacher trainings in several styles and I enjoy teaching different classes from more dynamic Vinyasa to meditative Yin classes. My personal practice became more holistic and my focus has shifted from the physical to the more spiritual aspects around meditation and self-knowledge. The beauty of yoga is that it can accompany you throughout you whole life and that you can adjust your practice in ever changing ways according to your intention, time, body and life situation.

How to keep the practice fresh over the years?

I see very good reasons to stick with one tradition in order to go deeper and to be guided by one teacher who sees your progress and gives you the right tools to explore higher levels your practice. On the other hand it is also very valuable to keep your practice fresh by attending different classes, to learn other techniques and poses and ways of doing them, to get new inspiration and stay committed to the practice over the years. If you are used to do a very active, dynamic style of Yoga, why not complement it regularly with a Yin Yoga class, where you hold the postures for several minutes in stillness. If you are used to do silent meditation, why not try a shaking or dancing meditation once in a while where you include movement of the body as a tool to clear your mind.

Confessions of a Yoga teacher…

As I get older, I can see how I get a bit lazy with my physical practice with the excuse of seeing the meditation as more important in my life and of not to take enough time for my own practice besides the teaching. Nevertheless, I realize that I feel much better when I do move, stretch and strengthen my body, when I have more energy, a better way of breathing and when I feel great in my body.

So the last weeks at Udara have brought me lots of new inspiration for my own practice. I love the fact that Yoga can also be playful and fun – it does not always have to be too serious! Hanging upside down in the Aerial Yoga hammock for example, or doing Yoga in a 35 degree warm water pool have been new discoveries for me of moving my body in different ways, and allowing much more lightness and fun into my practice. I love joining classes of other teachers and to be a student again. Even being a Yoga teacher since many years now I enjoy the fact, that I will always continue learning and that Yoga will be part of my life no matter of how old I am.

Why is Yoga such a jewel?

That’s the beauty of Yoga – you don’t need to bring your leg behind the head and you can do it regardless of your flexibility and age. As a teacher, I respect all the different intentions why people come to my class and I offer various options to modify the practice if needed. It is my true wish to share that Yoga can be a valuable tool to bring more balance between body, breath and mind which ripples out into your life off the mat. Sometime you may realize that the jewel of Yoga reveals its beauty in ways you have never imagined before when you stepped on your mat for the first time.

If you are interested to read the descriptions of various classes, have a look at the Udara schedule and content here: http://www.udara-bali.com/yoga-at-udara/

Do you have a question or would you like to book a class? I am looking forward to hear from you!

Happy practicing 🙂

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