The Hardest Yoga Classes to Sub

I’m ranking these based on the current offerings at our studio. In {loose} order of priority, this is based on specific style, energy needed, preparation time, and overall yoga knowledge.

So, from the easiest to the hardest, here we go:

8. Vinyasa
7. Hot Yoga

6. Gentle/Slow
5. Beginners
4. Fundamentals
3. Restorative/Yin
2. Rocket
1. Ashtanga

Both vinyasa and hot yoga include a lot of beginners. They are intended as beginner-intermediate classes. A teacher could easily get away with not even "teaching" class. You could just facilitate without teaching any poses or anything at all. They could demo a class or even just verbally talk them through. For the anonymous yogi who just wants to get in and out, that’s what most expect from these kinds of classes. Its the least strict and as freeform you can imagine. There isn’t any format or preparation required.

Fundamentals, Beginners, and Gentle/Slow attracts many beginners. Anything with beginners can be a little more of a chore because you first want to keep them safe. Secondly, they have limitations that are obvious. So you need to give lots of options and modifications. And you have to slow the class way down to workshop poses. It helps to prepare for these classes. A little preparation goes a long way. And you actually have to "teach" the class. Not teaching is not an option. You also have to be very aware of bodies. They can be very challenging classes to teach.

Restorative & Yin are not the same, but in the same category. A very good knowledge of body types, anatomy, and props are needed. You always need to prepare for this class. You have to have lots of patience with yourself. It helps to know calming phrases and imagery to usher yogis through such a thoughtful class. I’m more of a yang teacher, so teaching a yin-style is difficult for me. I may prepare 6 or 7 poses for the class expecting to hold in those postures. But I often end up running out of poses because of too fast of a tempo. It really requires a teacher to "teach" and also be very present. It takes a very special teacher to do this.

Rocket and Ashtanga are very difficult classes to teach. They are very stylistic from Ashtanga. Technically, there is one right way to do a pose. Options and modifications are [sometimes] possible, but the intention is for you to do the correct posture. These are timed sequences that vary little in the practice. And many of the postures are very difficult to accomplish. It requires a teacher to "teach" a lot! They need to adjust poses and to have a hypercritical eye. Overlay all of this with the breath, bandhas, and drishti and you end up with very complicated practices. For the experienced teacher, a lot of preparation is not required. But to be accomplished, the teacher is required to walk the walk. They need to practice a lot on their own. There is no way to fake the practice. They are by far the most difficult styles to teach.

I’ve left out several styles just because we don’t currently have those in the studio. On the same level of Ashtanga would be Kundalini and Iyengar styles. You could echo the Ashtanga paragraph for these styles. Baptiste and Bikram also follow sequences like Rocket and Ashtanga, but they are more focused on the heat and intensity aspects. They are not nearly as technical as aforementioned styles. The technical styles of Ashtanga and Iyengar are unmatched elsewhere.

For most teachers, you begin with general vinyasa styles. These styles are creative and can get very complicated and with lots of wisdom and ambience created. The effect of all styles can be the same on a student regardless of style because they aim to get to the same final point. That is, to rid their minds and bodies of random chaos and find their peace, or bliss, in the end. But for the styles that require a lot of knowledge to abide by the specific style, a lot of personal practice and study is required.

#yoga #yogateaching #styles #yogastyles #teachingstyles

We Need Yoga, not just “Mobility” pop

I was watching a video yesterday of some of the most elite CrossFit athletes taking a Power Yoga class. It made me so happy to see it. They were focusing on breath and I could tell they were feeling the poses. These athletes are super strong and have amazing abilities. And their movement positions are faultless. The amazing thing about CrossFit is that is encompasses any fitness modality that you can think of. And while they do become extremely proficient in some sports, they cannot possibly be proficient in all.

CrossFit athletes do “mobility”, which is a functional form of stretching. This includes warming exercises, soft tissue manipulation (foam rolling, lacrosse ball,…), stretching, and often assisted stretching with bands and other props. I think its an amazing set of tools to have. But I sense that most don’t do actual “yoga”.

Mobility includes yoga poses done in specific ways for their benefit. But they are not really doing yoga. I think CrossFit’rs and other athletes would benefit greatly from yoga. As a yoga teacher and CrossFit’r, I could easily tell when their positions were out of yoga alignment. I work with bodies all the time and can see issues quickly. I can picture the muscles that were causing them problems and was identifying in my own mind how I could help.

Believe me, I admire these athletes so much. I’m their biggest fans. They do things that I can’t even fathom. They can do a workout in 2 minutes that takes me 10 minutes. Their aerobic capacity and strength is through the roof. I have no doubt in my mind that a regular yoga practice would help them immensely. When I watched these athletes, I saw limitations in their flexibility. Tight hamstrings and glues are among the most obvious, but shoulders, thoracic spine, and other areas are issues too. If they could open these areas, they would feel better about themselves and likely improve performance.

But its not just flexibility. Yoga requires a huge amount of specific strength. When I watched the Fittest Man on Earth struggle with crow pose (bakasana) and an L-sit lift (Brahmacharyasana), I was shocked. When I saw Sara Sigmundsdottir with a fairly flaccid Warrior 3, it made me wonder. I could see not only tightness in hamstrings and glutes, but I saw weakness. What if they could be stronger in those poses? What would it do for them?

For me, it does a lot. I am a much more capable, well-rounded athlete because of yoga. Yoga is super amazing for overall well-being. But it also helps with sleep, hormonal regulation, and the breath. All of these are supremely important to athletes. Then add on recovery, rehabilitation, and injury prevention and you have a winner!

Give yoga a try! Not just one try, but several before you decide if you like it or not. And be sure to visit several teachers. Every teacher has a bias and their own style. So its important to visit different ones.

Come in Peace

When I started deep into this yoga journey, I had a yoga teacher who was someone I really enjoyed taking classes with. She had this free spirit but was also grounded with a good foundation of yoga knowledge. She always interacted with her students and was very gracious with them. Her happiness was contagious and I learned so much from her.

One particular day, this teacher was clearly not herself. She taught this candlelight yoga class that exuded peace and serenity. It was still vigorous enough to build heat, but it was mostly chill. But this day, she didn’t interact with her students like she normally did. She was more to herself and closed off. And this normally chill class turned into Power Yoga to the nth degree. She never smiled. She didn’t interact with us. It was like a one way street. Her fireball of emotions landed on us and she felt nothing back.

As time went by, I mentioned my feelings about that class to her. She totally acquiesced to my observation. She said that it was a really bad day for her with personal things happening in her life. She said she should have stayed home and cried instead of coming to class like that. I wouldn’t say she was angry or hateful to us. But she was surely hurting.

I wrote a recent blog post about this, likely spurred on by an Ashtanga Podcast with guest Mary Taylor. I will surely write more about that once I process it more in my mind. Yoga can have a profound effect on our personal lives. But as a teacher, we can’t take our students down a path that they don’t deserve. If you struggle with pain in your life as a teacher, you need to take some time away to resolve those issues. And you certainly don’t want to take it out on your students.

If need be, make sure you allot time before class to do a personal practice. Then take some time to meditate. During this time, your intention should be forgiveness, releasing darkness, and finding peace. If you can’t come to class with a clear mind, then maybe its not your time to teach. Find someone else to take your place.

Spread joy and peace. It happens through your words, your body language, and your touch. That darkness in your heart doesn’t stay there. It goes to everyone you meet. And you can’t hide it. It has to be released. If you don’t, those around you will pay a price. And like this podcast expressed, releasing those feelings can result in physical opening in your body as well as a spiritual awakening. But repressing those feelings can result in unfathomable pain in your body and mind. It can result in sickness and pain in your body. And it can totally take away your peace and joy.

Find peace my friends. Talk with me about it some day. I’d be happy to help you find your path.

Energy Transference Through Touch

When I go and touch my dogs, they always react. If I approach softly and gently, their skin quivers as my hand lightly touches only the hair first. When I start long gliding strokes, they yawn and wiggle their tails. When I scratch along the backbone, my one dog taps her back foot on that side like she’s doing the scratching. If I’m a little rougher and playful, they roll on their backs and kick and squirm. They are very in tune with the touch.

I get a multitude of reactions from people with Thai Yoga Massage. I make sure my first touch is gentle but always firm. I want to know that I’m there with confidence, but it is a safe place to be. When I adjust yogis in class, its the same thing. I am not going to hurt them or push them beyond their abilities. If anything, my hand is there for awareness. It lets them know I’m there, I care, and to encourage movement. The touch works miracles in people.

In Thai Yoga Massage, they call the touch giving Metta, or "loving kindness". It has roots in Buddhism but is not solely a Buddhist concept. The belief is that the giver can transfer kindness into a person through the touch. Before a session, I am going through a mindful meditation while I’m preparing the space. After communicating with a client, I do a short Wai, or Wai Kru, to breathe and cleanse my mind. Some traditional therapists actually have a more elaborate Wai Kru with singing or music and will quote an invocation or poem. Its a special time in a Thai session.

On the other hand, I also feel if a therapist has a lot of negativity, then that can also be transferred to a client. Its really a tough time all over the world with political unrest. People let politics take over their lives. They yell and scream and get down right nasty about their hatred of someone. But not only politics. They get angry at philosophies, like capitalism or socialism. They are very vocally against religious ideologies and outspoken people. It an unbridled hatred that can’t be contained in some people.

As a Christian, I have to be careful with how I react to this hatred. I can turn the other cheek and just let it go. I’ll mindfully pray for that person and hope that their hatred can find peace. I rarely go into re-training a person, though that is often what I should do. I should show love and grace. But I’m not perfect either. None of us are. Sometimes I am hurt by these things. I see someone post anti-Christian rhetoric on social media, and then I’m shocked when I see other friends jump on the hating bandwagon too. Would they say these same things to my face? How do they really feel about me? I’ve always been kind to them. I even consider them as friends. Do they say these things about Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, Mormon, Hindu, or other faiths? Do they even realize what they are saying?

I should try to help people understand my viewpoint. Its just scary when they are foaming at the mouth about their hatred of a religion or a President or some ideology. All I want to do in those cases is get away. I want to diffuse the situation so that I don’t escalate the hatred. So I do the chicken way out and unfollow them on social media. Sometimes its the safest way.

The unfortunate part of this is, what if that person is a yoga teacher, or an elementary school teacher? What if they say outrageous statements and then appear to emulate peace and harmony in a yoga class? Are they hypocrites or maybe just good actors? What if they are bodywork healers? Will they transfer their negative hatred onto their clients? I worry about that. When I entrust myself to a professional, I’m assuming I won’t be hurt and face negativity. But I’m wary about going to any business owner who doesn’t have my best interests in mind.

Its a difficult situation in business. Do you remain outspoken and stand by your values? Or do you temper what you say in polite society so as not to push away your clients. Hopefully, even if you feel strongly about something, you can do it in a positive way without slander and crawling in the mud. But when you fling mud, you really don’t know the innocent people it will hit. Its not an innocent thing. Some of us have strong views too, though we’re not as outspoken. There is often a silent majority out there. But we just walk away and wish you peace.