How to personalise a general, multi-level Shanti Yoga class to meet your needs
Beginners are students who are new to yoga practice or those who have taken a few weeks or months of yoga classes from an assortment of teachers from different disciplines. This category also applies to those who have physical challenges or injuries which inhibit their movement.
As a beginner, you must focus on the instructions for the principles of health, alignment and movement, learning the essentials for a healthy and sustainable foundation for your yoga practice. Here, you learn how to work with your body with precision and insight, while developing an understanding of the various practices and stretches and their variations. Listen to the instructions for safe ways to enter and exit the yoga stretches. Work gently, yet challengeingly as you learn about structural alignment and beginner yoga and prana movements in the floor, seated, kneeling and standing poses, twists and gentle forward, backward and side bends.
Intermediate students are able to consciously direct their breath and are thus starting to achieve a balance between effort and relaxation during practice. They are beginning to acquire the basic ability to make minor adjustments to their own alignment and form in a yoga posture and are comfortable with moderate levels of sensation and physical challenge.
You’re ready for intermediate practice when you have achieved a familiarity with the basic poses and you know what is healthy for your body, based on your ability to listen to its messages. In your intermediate practice, to expand the asana, you must cultivate a keener awareness of movement and breath as you increase your strength and resilience. So, now you can attempt the more advanced choices and variations offered in seated and standing poses, twists, forward, backward and side bends, balance and inverted postures. Here, you focus less on step-by-step instructions and must emphasise the application of the asana. Learning to 'let go' and experience body sensations opens a dialogue with your innermost self. This skill transfers into more awareness of your approach to life's challenges outside the yoga room.
Advanced students are those who have regularly and unbrokenly practiced yoga over a period of several years and are able to focus and direct their minds and physical bodies and consciously direct their breath and awareness during practice. Additionally, they are skilled at making their own alignment adjustments in a yoga posture, are responsible for their own safety and are comfortable with high levels of sensations and physical challenges.
Advanced yoga practice brings about a dynamic flow to your class practice and permits you to experience a wider range of intensity, intricacy and challenges that requires a spirit of adventure as well as an advanced level of skill. At this level, a student is aware of subtle movements of energy, internal contractions and states of consciousness.
Props such as belts, blocks, cushions, blankets, mats, chairs, the wall etc. are available to enable students understand their own bodily limitations and allow correct practice, regardless of student age or flexibility. They often add an extra level of safety and comfort to your yoga practice. Props help support your muscles and bones in their roles, relieving them of their support and action. Your nervous system sends and receives fewer messages and becomes quieter. Layers of tension melt away as you learn to be present to what is happening in your body and mind in each moment. Even experienced practitioners of yoga enjoy holding familiar poses longer with supported practice.
Remedial yoga involves the use of props in gentle poses and you must place emphasis on open, gentle breathing that relieves the effects of chronic stress and toxicity and facilitates a state of deep, lucid relaxation and healing. Your approach towards restoration must be thoroughly restful. A restorative practice such as nidra or pranayama helps you settle quietly into deeper sensations and awareness within your body. It is peaceful and nourishing.
Prenatal and postpartum Yoga. General, multilevel classes offer a supportive space to engage with others who are also engaged in gentle asana and pranayama practice. In pregnancy and after, you must focus on postural alignment, strengthening and stretching the legs and spine, opening the hips, toning the pelvic floor, deep breathing and relaxation.
Don’t hesitate to ask the teacher for suggestions as to which classes may be more suitable for you. Please keep in mind that personal instruction, as in a personal one-to-one session, is also available.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
Travel with Shanti & Peter Gowans this November for a trip of a lifetime.