Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to "be" in a yoga class to get more benefits than what you wanted

The purpose of this article

Doesnt matter if you are learning yoga with me or with somebody else. There are so many things i want to communicate to you to contribute to your growth in yoga. I am just sharing what i have learnt from the past few years of my teaching and also from my commitment to master this lifestyle called YOGA.

Looking outwards in, it seems simple enough. Just go to yoga class and follow the instructions given by the mentor. But it is not that easy to just follow the instructions. There are many levels of involvement. Be patient. Be with me. Read through completely. I have invested my energies and time in it :). It will definitely contribute to you.

Yoga for Weightloss? Yes! possible.. but dont limit to that.

Even though "Super toned body", "Size zero", "Cute yoga butt", "hot sizzling body", "mind blowing sex life" is all possible through yoga, those ancient indian yogis did not discover yoga for these purposes. The possibilities are much more deeper, so dont stop when you get these results ;). Things like these are possible:
  • Mastering Stress and enjoying it
  • Mastering your habits
  • Being your best self in discomfort
  • Making your body as a powerful tool for your life purpose
  • Radiance and glow on the inside and outside
  • Beauty Inside and outside
  • Incredible focus
  • Magnetic body language
Be Physically present

"I know i have to be physically present and that why i joined yoga.. dont give me some stupid advice, Duh!.."  Is that what you're thinking?
Its easy to come to class when you have the time and when there is no pain. You will have the tendency to miss yoga sessions when you have the body pain, other priorities come up, going on date, or hung-over-from-last-night's-party and other really REALLY genuine (sounding) reasons. Doesn't matter what those reasons are, you get yourself to class. If there is too much pain, then inform the instructor and take it easy. But show up. 
If other things call for your time, say "Sorry this is my yoga time. I cant be effective if i don't take care of my spiritual, emotional and physical body. So, i ll finish yoga and then take care of this". Chances are, if you come to class, your physical pain vanishes and you go home happier. Isnt it?

Time: why should you be before time?

We all know the importance of being on time. Some of us really REALLY try to get to class on time. Some of us have even given up the effort. Some of us make it on time.
Can you construct a building without a proper basement? The first 5 to 10 minutes of the class is like that. It is the basement on which we will be doing miraculous things with your body. 
During the first 5 to 10 minutes:
  • Either warm up is done. (Look up the importance of warm up if you dont know.).
  • Or the mood for the entire class is set 
  • Or a POWERFUL, SAFE AND JOYFUL space is created during that time.
You will be messing with the entire flow of the class when you walk in between the class. I or other instructors can handle that disruption. You might have seen me handle it. But we (as mentors/ instructors) definitely do not like that. Instead of focusing our energies on maintaining that space, lets focus on you doing better postures, breathe right.

In extreme rare cases, its okay. If the choice is between missing the class or coming late, then chose later. Only as a very very rare case.

Be mentally present

keep your phones away. keep your worries away. keep your anger away. Keep your analytic talent away. Keep YOUR logic away. Just be and do what you have been told. You can bring it all up after the class or during other times. 

When you are fully present, you might get lot more benefits than what you came in for.

Giving 100%

Giving a 100% could be different for you from the person in the next to you. Ideally, be with the mentor completely throughout the duration of the class. Rest completely when breaks are given. Be in the posture till the very last second when told. 
You have taken out time to learn from somebody who is better than you. Honour that commitment and listen. keep your judgements and evaluations aside and bring it up later and get them addressed. If you have been told to 'take it easy' or 'rest when needed' then listen to it. Take rest when your body asks you, even if the class is moving forward. There is no point in pushing if your body is going to break down.

Like my man sadhguru has told, "Stay within control and lose control". I'm paraphrasing here.

Compare yourself only with your self, not with others.

know that your journey is yours alone. Dont compare it others. 
Just ask yourself, 
  • Am i doing better than last class?
  • Am i more involved than last class?
  • Am i more flexible, stronger than last class?
  • Has my ability to handle discomfort improved?
Forget about the person next to you. They have these questions to handle for themselves.

Finding comfort in discomfort

You know that growth can happen only beyond your comfort zone. Your muscles will tone up, your body will shed fat and your lungs will get more efficient only when you push them beyond their current limits. So, if a class is too easy, you can be assured that there is no (or very less) growth  happening. It is not just physical pain but also boredom is another physical discomfort that you gotta push through. There are many things in the class that you have to go through which might not make sense according to "your logic" but it still will contribute to your overall growth. So, trust your mentor and push through. One of the best things you can do to find comfort in that discomfort is to repeat to yourself your commitment while in pain or keep your awareness on your breath or keep the awareness on the counts.

Catch your boredom when it comes. Boredom is mind's way of resisting what is going on (resisting reality than accepting it). Just say to your mind "i understand you are bored, but we are going to do this anyway. Either get on board or not. Either ways i am going to go forward with the instructions and not let you deter my journey towards my goal".

The same goes for yawning. Don't resist it or encourage it. Be more involved in class. Yawning will go away.

Pain management

Most of the time we resist yoga class for this reason. What to do when there is pain?
Joint pain? Stop immediately. Its a part of Knowing when to stop. If you have been in communication with me/ your instructor/ mentor, i would have told you some general guidelines on when to stop and take a break even if the class is moving forward.
Pain is inevitable. You cant avoid it. Sometimes, your joints are not in the optimal level and they start showing up while doing yoga. It does not mean that yoga has caused the pain. It means that yoga helped you disclose the weakness in your body through pain. So when there is pain in any of your joints like your knees, wrists, or even back pain, etc then stop take some rest and when the pain subsides, continue with the class. Ofcourse, if your problem is more complicated, talk to your instructor..

Soreness/ Muscle pain is okay. Some pain like this will go away when you keep continuing with your practice. Talk to me/ instructor after the class or during breaks.

Enjoy! without getting distracted

Happiness does not lie only with glenfiddich or chivas regal or kingfisher or fosters. It is also in yoga class ~ in meditation ~ in an asana ~ in a sitting. Its all chemistry anyways. We are just doing some 'breaking bad' stuff with your body ;). So.. Lets get happy the healthy way.
Happiness helps in getting you to the goal faster. Plus you will infect others and the whole space is transformed and you help others in their transformation. Your flexibility and strength is improved when your emotions are conducive (read positive ~ Happy).

Connect with the mentor

Sometimes, knowing who you are will help the mentor to guide you through the class; to motivate you when you are about to give up; to kick your butt when your laziness is takes you over. And if the mentor seems busy, instead of just giving up, find a way to let him/ her know about your progress, concerns. Don't just keep it with yourself. Most of the times, we want to know everything about you, but sometimes its just logistically difficult.
So, when the time is right, the instructor can use it to help you grow faster and reach your potential and goals.

Listen to the instructor

It is good to ask question to have the doubts cleared. Most of the times i will address it, sometimes i wont letting your practice answer for you. Chances are your question will be answered and your concerns will be addressed in the process of doing the posture.
Just be with the instructor. Just be with me. In the end, I will leave you completely addressed and taken care of.

Talking in class

Some of you can stay quiet for 1 full hour. Some of you cant stay quiet for even 1 minute. Those clever and funny remarks keep coming and you have to share it. Its good as it keeps the class light. But in another dimension it becomes a hindrance and obstructs the energy and flow of the class.
Talk, create laughs, ask questions.. not as a child would do for its own pleasure... but as a mature person who is responsible for the space and people around you.

Make yoga as "priority 1" in your life.

Organize your life around yoga. Yoga is the higher truth. Align yourself with it. It is a right brained thing. I will not satisfy your left brain by explaining it. You will get it when you get it. :).
If you are smiling while reading this, you got it. 
If you are angry while reading it, please, be patient. Just be. just be with me :).
If you still aren't smiling.. be little MORE patient. :)

Know your purpose of doing yoga

Reflect on these questions:
  • Why am i am doing yoga? 
  • Is this instructor/ mentor really helping me to grow towards my goals?
  • Am i progressing?
  • Is system addressing my question?
Share it with me/ instructor when its relevant.

Don't argue on payments. Give from your heart by being giving

No yoga teacher is doing it for the money. Please get this very clearly. Nobody. Not even a single teacher. May be he/she is the most greediest person on the planet. But that one hour, when they are with you, instructing you, they are not doing that for money. It is not an easy job. You dont make it easy for the teacher. 

So why do i do it? Why do i teach? One word. Contribution.
To contribute. May be to help you grow, may be to make you happy. That giving makes me happy. I just do it for me and you get benefit. When i am happy, i contribute the best. Help me (or your instructor) to contribute more.  So don't make us teachers go through the problem of asking you for the payment or deal with negotiations about payment amount and date. So, you do your best to keep the instructor away from those concerns.

I promise you i wont cheat you. I make sure that you get more out of the deal than i get. If you feel otherwise, don't do yoga with me (or that instructor) until your feelings have changed. You do your fees as a part of your contribution. Not as a business transaction (not that anything is wrong with the business).

Flirt. But dont let that come in the way of your or anybody's growth

Take a chance. play. If you cant be playful in life, what the hell are you doing in life anyways?. But accept the consequences too. Remember, when you walk into the yoga class, you take responsibility for you and also for that space and people in it. So include everybody and help them get to their goals or at least don't be a hindrance.


Show up every single day (with an adventurous attitude).
Follow instructions (to the subtlest detail possible).
Learn something new.
Unlearn something that isnt helping you.
Share some laughs.
Be patient.
Allow your demons to show up and use them for your growth and goals.
Go back as a meditative person.
Go make somebody else happy for no bloody reason.


anshu chugh said...

Santa u know for a fact I have been dealing with bringing myself to work out and I joined 2 places and left coz I wasn't feeling motivated.. I just read and u know what I feel like doin yoga now n I so wish I could do it with u... u have inspired me... and yes am smiling.. Bcozz reading ths article makes me sense the discipline u inculcate in Ur class dropping all the frivilities and devoting 1 hour of the inducive space created in Ur class ...

Unknown said...

Santhanam,excellent,very well thought and written!I'd like to share this with all my students!

Unknown said...

Hey Anshu.. Post me the progress. If you have any other concerns in terms of going ahead with workout, i am just a call/ whatsapp away...

Hi Unknown.. Let me know how was their reaction when you shared it to your students :)

Prasanna said...

Well thought out and worded. Great work da!!!