So you’ve tried a group class and left feeling like you were nearly in the same place as where you started. You’ve practiced at home but are not sure if you are doing the poses correctly. Maybe you are beginning to ask yourself if yoga is really right for you...
Yoga can be practiced in a variety of ways. But how do you know which way is best for you? Not only do you have multiple styles of yoga to choose from but you also have a variety of ways in which you can participate in your practice. You may find yourself walking into a class whose name you don’t understand and are unsure of the expectations. Mostly you just hear that yoga is good for your back, your tightness or any other thing that may currently be ailing you; and truthfully yoga is all that and more. For those of you more experienced practitioners, you may feel as though your practice has begun to plateau in a large class setting. You may find that you want more time from your teacher but are unable to attain that in the limited amount of time that the class runs.
Here is a guide that will break down the pros and cons and help you decide on where to take your practice to next!
Firstly, let it be known that back in the day when Krishnamacharya (thought of as the grandfather of yoga) was teaching yoga it was not done in large group classes but instead was offered one on one. This allowed the teacher to depart a mass of knowledge to their student much like a disciple. This dynamic has changed and I will refrain from offering an opinion on which methods I consider best, as I think that whether practicing solo, one one one, in small groups, or in large classes, benefits truly have to do with what your immediate goal may be as far as your particular practice is concerned.
Private Yoga Sessions
Using a qualified experienced and certified instructor can help you change your practice by leaps and bounds. (You can find one by checking out www.yogaalliance.org/.) 100% of the time is spent on you and your needs. During private sessions your teacher can observe and immediately catch improper alignment or form. They can identify negative habits that may have crept into your practice and help to break you out of them. They can assist you in getting to the next level of poses you may be struggling with by offering helpful tips, demonstrating how to use props and physically assisting your body into postures. This is also a great idea if you have injuries or issues with your body where learning how to modify, or practice safely is your main goal. While these classes may be more expensive than the small group classes, you may find that you may only need a few sessions to bring your practice to where you would like it to be. Private sessions also offer a convenience factor, fitting the time around your schedule. Your teacher may even design small session class outlines for you to work on at home during the week until your next private session. This will allow you to build your strength and flexibility in the time between sessions.
The drawback is higher cost. These sessions will generally run anywhere from $125-$150 per hour session when the teacher comes to you. Once you start them, you may not want to stop!
Small Group Classes
Now these are a nice idea when you are looking to keep costs low but want to get out of the rut of being lost in a larger class. These classes generally have no greater than 12 students in them. This allows the teacher to offer personal attention to each individual in every class. Partner work is often a large part of the class experience. This allows as much hands on time and assisting as possible. The teacher can then divide their time among everyone. These classes are taught workshop style and because of this, the cost may be anywhere from $25-$40 per hour session. The important thing about exploring one of these small group classes is that there is an agenda that all of the class participants will be working on together, otherwise it will be impossible for one teacher to meet the needs of 12 different students bringing 12 different goals to the group.
Unfortunately, you may not receive as much individual attention as you are hoping for. You may also find that as you progress, your needs and aims may vary from the set agenda for the group.
Large Class of Yoga
It’s easier to blend in and go with the flow. If you are someone who learns visually then there are generally a lot of bodies to observe and follow even when the teacher is moving through the room and assisting other practitioners. If you feed off of the synchronization of many bodies moving and experiencing a physical connection together and releasing large group energy, then this is a great experience. Another plus is that even in a very large yoga class if your form is in a position where it poses a danger to you, your teacher should still be able to get to you to keep you practicing safely.
However, you can get lost in a large class and may not receive individual attention. Therefore, it may take you longer before you realize any negative habits you may have picked up in your practice.
A home practice is an excellent way to cut your costs and maintain a daily practice. You can set your mat down in any room of the house. You can watch different yoga videos for variety and inspiration. A home practice is a great compliment to some form of private or group sessions! And hey, you can even practice in your pajamas!
The downside of this is that there is no one there to assist you. There is no teacher to make sure you are doing the movements correctly or safely. There is no one to help you understand the way the bandhas or breath work work can be used to deepen your practice. Progression to a more intermediate or advanced level is seriously limited.
Remember that your practice should be daily! It’s great to switch up your practice methods. Try new classes, explore private and small group sessions, think about what
you want to accomplish or what may be frustrating you in your practice and seek out a means to keep your practice inviting and progressive physically and mentally. You are in control of your deeper connection and have many choices at your disposal; mix it up and don’t be afraid to see where you can take your practice to.
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