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What should I consider when offered options in a yoga class?

Hello there.

I appreciate you being here.

Yoga is rife with options - it is one of my favourite parts of the moving practice. I thought I'd take some time to talk about how to manage these options. I see it happen so often that people fall into a cycle of taking the option they always do. A little background into what can inform these decisions might offer you a different perspective the next time you're in a yoga class.

I think the decision making process can be broken down into three main categories and I'll provide a little anecdote too.

Your energy levels

I think this is the most important. Assess your energy levels. When you walk into the room, and you sit to breath and settle, really find your energetic space and allow that to guide you. It can be as simple as you're wiped out from the week so take an option that exerts less energy. Alternatively, it could be that you're looking for a boost so you challenge yourself to explorer something you haven't tried before. I think one of the most challenging parts of yoga is taking the time to consider what you need - it's always so difficult because what we need and what we want don't always align.

I have to remind myself to follow this one quite strictly. As a yoga teacher, when I walk in a class there can be an expectation, both internally and externally, for me to try the most that I can. The reality is that I'm worn out and exhausted from teaching so I need to be more gentle with myself by washing away those expectations that I mostly place on myself.

Your body's history

After attending yoga classes for some time, you get to know what works for you and what doesn't. When deciding on an option, it can be as simple as you know something doesn't work from you because you tried it recently and your body didn't react well. Our bodies are fantastic things that generally run very efficiently. It's okay for our body to not like something. I would recommend always periodically checking in with different options as our body changes over time.

I had a stint of tightness the muscles that run either side of the spine. This would then cause discomfort in my side. There were certain poses that activated the back of the body that used to really antagonise this - locust pose was a major one. Over time, slowly but surely, I worked with the options that felt good - with locust pose I would only lift the arms or legs independently. I would allow myself to periodically check in with poses that antagonised it. I can now do those poses - and I've returned to loving locust pose as much as I did before.

Your intention

Knowing why you are attending a yoga class can really help you to figure out how to proceed with choices in a class. This is completely personal. Whatever your reason for attending, whether that is for that day, week, month or year, come back to that when you're in the room. It's easy to get swept up with the flow of the room and forget about the reason. However, by staying true to your reason, you'll be filling your cup rather than pouring from it.

Whenever I go to a class now, I generally have an intention to breathe. I welcome whatever the practice has to offer but keep the breath flowing and keep an awareness on it particularly when I venture into poses that I don't typically do or teach.

I hope this has helped to highlight some of considerations for when you're in a yoga class. Stay true to these considerations and it will aid your practice. We want you to walk out the class feeling great.

Final note from me... I offer options in a class. Some teachers may call them variations or modifications. I find options a little less prescriptive though.

Thanks for reading


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