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What happens at a yoga class?

Preparation

Our classes usually begin with a short period of quiet to bring students focus to the mat, preparing mind, breath and body for the practice to follow. After this preparation, students will be guided through a series of movements and sequences designed to limber the body and warm up muscles and joints in preparation for asana (posture) work.

Asana

Asanas (yoga postures) strengthen and tone the body, improving the flow of energy, helping to regulate the physical systems of the body and breath, and stilling the mind for meditation. The asanas used in a class will vary from teacher to teacher and depend on the abilities of the students and the style of yoga being practised. The objective in asana work is not how far you can stretch or contort your body, but to combine stability (stira) with ease/relaxation (sukha). BWY teachers are trained to modify asanas to individual ability and to address medical conditions ranging from pregnancy to arthritis. There are also specialist classes such as yoga for pregnant women, yoga for people with MS, or ME and yoga for those with cancer.

Working with the breath

Improving the quality of the breath not only increases vitality but also improves digestion, tones the nervous system and calms and concentrates the mind. Yoga helps us develop control over our breath and this will be a key aspect of a yoga class where you will practice breathing techniques to develop awareness and full use of the breath. You will use your breath in asana to strengthen and improve your practice as well as employing the breath to still and focus the mind in preparation for meditation.
 
"If you would foster a calm spirit, first regulate your breathing; for when that is under control the heart will be at peace; but when breathing is spasmodic, then it will be troubled. Therefore, before attempting anything else, first regulate your breathing on which your temper will be softened, your spirit calmed.”
Kariba EkKen 17th Century mystic

These techniques are developed into 'pranayama' exercises to help control and move prana (energy) through the breath. Prana means ‘vital’ or 'life force energy'.
 
"The mind is like a chariot, yoked to a team of powerful horses. One of them is breath, one is desire. The chariot moves in the direction of the more powerful animal. If breath prevails, the desires are controlled, the senses are held in check and the mind is stilled. If desire prevails, breath is in disarray and the mind is agitated and troubled.”
Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Not all exercises are suitable for those with respiratory or circulatory conditions, so be sure to advise your teacher of any such conditions before you start a class.
 

 

History and philosophy

Most BWY teachers include some history and philosophy in their yoga classes, which will help you understand something of the context of the yoga you are practising.

Meditation

While your class is likely to include a time of stillness and mindfulness, for example by focussing your awareness on the movement of the breath, or an image, sound or chant, your class may not include longer meditation practice. If this is an area in which you are interested, discuss it with your teacher as he or she may be able to provide you with further information.

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Nov
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