As traditional 90-minute classes give way to hour or in some cases 50-minute long classes, yoga instructors are challenged to alter their classes to fit the condensed timeframe. To accomplish this, important aspects of Real Yoga are being eliminated, such as Savasana. Savasana, arguably the most important yoga pose, is sometimes barely five minutes long. Beginning intentions or grounding into your body, vital to set the tone of your class, is all too often just a roundup of ‘let’s begin’.
I’m also seeing a controversial trend where classes are becoming more of a fitness regime where students are taken through poses in rapid succession without actual anatomical instruction. Some may argue that ‘any kind of yoga practice is better than none’. But what about those that want Real Yoga?
Compounding these problems, a 2016 study from Yoga Alliance, the US-based professional organization for yoga teachers, identified most people receive yoga information online or from a friend outside of class – not the teacher – where hands on training is more beneficial to the student as led through a traditional structured class. Supplementing your practice with accurate and reliable information, such as from sources like OM, is becoming more and more important. You deserve the best!
You want to achieve all the physical aspects as well as the mental and spiritual benefits of yoga all while managing an already packed life schedule of must do’s. So, maybe, a 50-minute class fits nicely right in between your work and home life.
So why the lecture?
While all of this is being discussed by global yoga leaders, I believe the net result is you, the student, are being cheated out of Real Yoga. What do I mean? Real Yoga is based on eight limbs, which asana is only one part. Real Yoga is a body, mind and spirit way of life, not just moving through physical postures.
So, rather than complain about it, here’s my call to action for you.
First, your practice is a place to declare peace and is not limited by time. It’s a place you protect with every fibre of your being. If the trend in studios looks more like fitness classes then you need to back fill on your own time the important aspects of Real Yoga: mind and spirit.
Let me be clear, I’m not here to bash teachers, they’re dedicated and passionate and accomplish much in their allotted time. As for the studios, shortening classes is profit driven. I can’t fault them for that either. I’ve also recently spoken to studio owners who say students say they simply don’t have the time for an hour and a half long class. So, commit to protect what you have and allow me to show you eﬀective ways to deepen your practice.
Everyone has 15 minutes in their day. To maximize the eﬀect of these precious minutes, I oﬀer you three secrets to deepening your practice:
1. Daily Self-Check In.
Classes used to dedicate more time at the beginning of class to getting grounded in your body.
Spend 15 minutes every morning doing a self-check-in. A journal can be helpful but not necessary. I use one because I find it visually holds me to task.
Dedicate a small space solely for your check-in. I know this can be a challenge, but the results are dramatic when you have a peaceful corner to call your own. Sit. Close your eyes. Breathe. Feel your body. No judgement, just awareness. Give gratitude for all your body does for you. Ask your body what it needs today. Open your eyes and note what you feel or a message you receive. Continue to check-in with your intellect, your emotional and your spiritual self. I learned this simple process later in life, but feel it is the single most life enhancing transformational tool I have in my ever-expanding yoga toolkit.
2. Dissect any aspect of a pose.
Assign yourself a pose or, better yet, something very specific about a pose for a week.
Example: Hand placement in plank.
Plank is one of my favorite poses to dissect because a strong core is essential to a healthy yoga practice and life. In most classes Plank is not held in a static position for very long. All too often, we move from Plank, down through Chaturanga Dandasana to upward facing postures repetitively. Proper hand placement aﬀects your wrists, shoulders, back and total body alignment.
For proper hand placement, the weight must be distributed evenly, giving attention to the first finger and thumb all while paying attention to the pads of each finger. Practice this while at your desk or any table. Then, when you’re ready, stand facing a wall or by placing your hands on the ﬂoor in forward fold.
Place hands evenly apart spreading your fingers. Concentrate on pressing down through the knuckles at the base of the index and middle fingers, and grip the surface with the tips of all four fingers and the thumb. This will cause the arch of the hand to slightly lift, distributing your weight evenly so it’s not on the heel of the hand.
3. Savasana anytime, anywhere.
Meditation or your form of time- out. Call it what you want. Stare at a candle if it quiets your mind. You don’t have to do a physical posture to get into this pose. My home Savasana is an art journal. I sit without a goal other than listening to my inner voice, my spiritual self.
You need Savasana. Why? If studios only allow fve minutes or less, you’ve missed out on the most important asana. Here’s my myth buster: It’s only been in the last hundred years that yoga poses were created. They were part of a global movement that combined religion and spirituality with western ideas of athletic and physical training. The Indian yogis Krishnamacharya and Kuvalayanda, inﬂuenced by the western ideas of exercise and athleticism as a gateway to stillness, established the health and fitness regime that dominates the yoga movement today. Bottom line, you need to bring Savasana back into your practice – no matter where you practice the pose.
I encourage you to try one of the above for a month. Instead of thinking you only have 15 minutes, let’s celebrate that you have those minutes and use them wisely. Let the promises you’ve heard of extending your practice into your day happen for you.
Whether your 15 minutes is spent on the ﬂoor in Corpse Pose, standing and moving while breaking down a pose or sitting upright in a chair writing, I assure you doing so will deepen the physical aspects of your studio practice. As you tune into yourself you will extend that back into the yoga studio and the rest of your day.
This is what I see as living Real Yoga
If you want to take your practice beyond the asanas and into the other eight limbs of yoga, information is available through a variety of sources, including this publication.
But if you’re pressed for time, money or opportunities, carve out 15 minutes today and get started on my secret tips and start your new life of Real Yoga.
By Stephanie Spence | Om Yoga & Lifestyle