Do I Need to Go to a Yoga Class?

Technology has made incredible advances and now the age-old science of yoga is just a mouse-click or remote-button away. But hold on! If you are already feeling happy, thinking that it would save you a lot of time and effort in going to a formal yoga class, consider this:

Arpita Bahl, a 24-year-old woman, was all excited about her wedding in a few months. She was slightly overweight and so was keen on losing some flab before her D-Day. In an attempt to try out some quick remedy, she started practicing yoga postures by watching them every morning on TV.

On the first day of practicing Sun Salutation, she started complaining of terrible pain in her belly that evening. The doctor said she seems to have overdone the technique to lose weight faster!

After a few days of recovering, she took to Kapal Bhati Pranayama (again watching a yoga teacher on TV). This time, things got serious. She complained of wheezing attacks often. She informed the doctor that she did 300 fast rounds of the pranayama on the first day of learning it!

Arpita is not the only one. There are several yoga enthusiasts like her who take to quick ways of learning yoga practice – watching DVDs at home or reading up on the Internet. True, these methods seem convenient in today's busy life but they also bring with them a major health risk: the risk of harming your body if you tend to overdo a practice or not do it the correct way.

It is therefore wise to always learn yoga, like any other discipline (music, dance, aerobics), at a formal yoga school, and under guided supervision. Here are a few noteworthy reasons of why it is important to go to a yoga class:

"I was always an obese child and was never comfortable of learning yoga in a group. But at the Sri Sri Yoga Level 1 Course, I met people fatter than me. There was even a very lean guy! All of us had lot of fun learning and practicing the techniques together. Not even once did I feel awkward!" - Neeta Nangia, Sri Sri Yoga Course participant.

- Not getting the desired benefit, you may lose interestBy not going to a formal yoga class, you may be at a double disadvantage. One, by not knowing the correct techniques or the proper way of practicing yoga, you may not be able to reap the fruit of the practice.

Two, since you may not be getting the desired results even after a long time of practice, you may just end up losing interest in yoga completely.This again means no results! Why get stuck up in this vicious cycle? Join a class, learn the correct way of doing yoga from a qualified teacher and enjoy its long-term benefits!

- There's more to yoga than just asanas–You would not want to lose out on the precious ancient yoga philosophy that your yoga teacher will fill you with at the classes. Attending a regular yoga course or going to classes will help expand your understanding of the word 'yoga'. You slowly realize that it is not just working out the body through postures or learning breathing techniques (all of which can be learnt online, agreed). Yoga also includes meditation which your teacher can guide you through at the class.

The science is also enriched with some practical day-to-day knowledge that will help you live your life better. The yamas and niyamas(principles) of yoga help teach us some basic values of non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), patience (kshama), contentment (santosha), and chanting (japa), to name a few. All this and much more knowledge awaits you at a yoga class!

- Learning together helps–A yoga class can give you the opportunity to learn the practice along with several other enthusiasts like you. Practicing the techniques together can give you a chance to learn from others' experiences as well as share your own for everybody's benefit. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also says, EkasTapasvi, DwirAhyayi (While austerity is done alone, practice is done in a group).

Yoga classes will do more good to you than harm

If you have been avoiding yoga classes so far for fear of having to do all sorts of weird pretzel-shaped postures, it's time for some assurance. Relax and register for one today because you might be in for a surprise. 

- Nobody willask you to ape an expert practitioner

- You need not get scared watching yogis of many years on TV stretch their body like rubber bands! Every body is different and so is its level of flexibility. And your yoga teacher at the class would know this and help guide you from one level to the other as and when you are ready to take it.

What you see on the TV or online clippings is people who have been doing the practice for several years and so they get comfortable. You will too at one time but neither do you need to fear going to a course for this reason nor try aping them to 'show off'.

- Shedding your inhibitions, you become more confident: Anotherbenefitof going to the class: you will see a lot of your physical and emotional inhibitions go. There is lots of activity at the class – dancing, playing games and jumping – which makes learning yoga fun. They will give you ample opportunity to free your mind and body of any shyness or restraint. In fact, you may find several others at the class with a similar body structure or physique so there's no need to feel shy either. It's a good platform to learn and enjoy together.

So think again: What matters more? Saving time and effort or your own body?

  1. Avoid yoga on a full stomach. Try and avoid eating anything heavy at least 2-3 hours before going to the class.
  2. While learning, if you experience any pain or feel uncomfortable with a technique, make sure you inform your teacher first thing.
  3. Set some goal for your practice- losing weight, controlling anger, becoming creative – anything. It will help you stick to your practice.
  4. Take it easy. Your body is unique. You may slowly get there where others are. Don't push your limits and go slow with your practice.
  5. Most importantly, practice at home what you learnt in class. It is important to do your homework to get better.