Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meditation or masala, in a yoga class?:) Different classes, different energies

While doing our training, at every level, we had one meditative class each batch. My first one with Prahlada was a huge high. Then, last time, again, while assisting, I was lucky to be allowed to experience that withhim.  So, yes, technically, my most powerful classes -- in my entire life -- have been these two... When I do my personal practice, I try to do that sort of practice at least a few times a week.

A meditative class demands a lot of stamina, physical stamina. You must have the capacity to hold the poses for long...

So, yes, while a meditative class is ideal, it is not always possible, simply because the students may not be ready for that!  U can have a gentle class. But that is not a meditative class. Most people mistake a gentle class to be a meditative class.  But there is a huge difference between the two. U can also have a calm class. But even that is not a meditative class! Below my take on the different energies u can align with, while trying yoga...

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GENTLE CLASS: Easy poses are practised and there is care taken to see the participants are not pushed too much or made to exert.
For whom: Ideal for the very stressed or the very sick. Also for beginners.
Here ideally the teacher's energy should be watchful.

ENERGY: Centering, but can be occasionally low, too low.

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CALM CLASS: This is a quiet class, where the trainer's voice is low, the class movement slow. The asana and practice  can be tough or simple, but the general temperament is calm. This is an ideal yoga class.
 Ideal for the very stressed or the very nervous or the very angry sort of person. But nothing new is usually taught there or if taught, a lot of suppressed nervous tension will be at play.  

Here the teacher may or may not be watching over the class, since his or her energy gets involved with remaining calm!!
Still, this is not a meditative class!
Point to note:
Often, in a calm class, people can be lying about with a lot of anger -- they don't like their neighbour's (on the mat I mean) energy, they don't like the trainer, something or the other. Sometimes they are angry because they feel there is not enough calm -- so though seemingly calm, it can also often have very disturbing undercurrents!! The inflexibility of the need to maintain calm can often have disturbing undercurrents!!

ENERGY: Can be centering. But also low, occasionally. Or can be suppressed anger (from some students, or from a trainer, trying to contain the group's restlessness).

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RAJASIC-SATTVIC CLASS: (For want of  appropriate substitute words, below an attempt to translate them):
This is a noisy class, where the energies are turbulent, jokes are exchanged. But the fulcrum does not shift the trainer, who may demand depth in the poses, extended holds, or variations. Though high energy, the group remains very centered.  Most importantly, the group's attitude does not veer off the pure state of yoga despite the buoyancy in the class.  This is a fun yoga class. Most of our classes with Prahlada, in the evening for the advanced teacher's training, could  be ranked in this fashion.
TEacher: Completely watchful. This type of class is difficult to cultivate, since the teacher has to watch over a boisterous class. But that depends on the teacher...

Though, oddly, this could be a meditative class if the poses are completely experienced:) 

Ideal when?
It is used to defuse the tensions of learning advanced poses or for building up stamina in the basic ones. It helps contain nervousness or fear, and defuses the physical stress. I myself prefer this style for beginners and intermediate level students. I also prefer this style while teaching new or advanced variations.


RAJASIC-RAJASIC CLASS: Where yoga has completely slid in the background. A lot of classes in the south are like that, for some reason, people talking to each other instead of focusing on the practice. Each one is doing his or own thing. The teacher is in the corner, chatting away with some student instead of watching over the class. Or too many movements without any corrections or a lot of anger from the trainer (who uses it, unfortunately, as a whip to control the class). Irritated voices. Gossiping between mats.

For whom: This is ideal for nobody. And should not be categorised as a yoga class, but unfortunately lots of classes are like that.

Teacher's enery:DISTRACTED.


An angry or a high-movement class. Simple poses repeated ad nauseum, to the point of fatigue. Where the mind is completely uninvolved. Tiring to the body. Unexciting to the mind.

Most power yoga classes (yoga?) are in that category! Here the trainers know just a few poses so keep repeating them vigorously. Neither they nor their students have the physical, or mental stamina, to hold a pose. Here the body is rajasic, mind is tamasic.

Teacher's energy: Wasted!!

TAMASIC-TAMASIC: Though a quiet class, even gentle class, it makes people, unused to real yoga, mistake this type of class to be a meditative class!!

This is the dead duck class. Here the teacher is just making a living, knows a few yogic poses. Has been repeating them for years. The students are also repeating them for years. The mind is not curious. The body is not responding to these ordinary moves.

Ideal for whom? Nobody.. but unfortunately a lot of those people who seek meditative classes end up here!!

Teacher's energy: Low!

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SO THE BIGGGG question is, what type of yoga do u do??

(Translation(These words mean much more than what I have said below, and in different context, their meanings also shift; here they are used merely as indicative of energy levels in a yoga class) :
Sattvic - Harmonious energy, in a state of balance
Rajasic -- Action, high energy
Tamasic-- Lethargic )



Anila said...

wow shameem! absolutely amazing piece..Thanks!

Shameem Akthar said...

thanks Anila. I wonder when I dash these things, if it should be written, and who cares?? But I know a lot of instructors come here, though they don't like to admit they are following the blog... it is directed at them, that they get their act together, and to misguided students, wandering off unaware into bad types of yoga:)
So, yes, I love that u bother to comment... still not having reached the Gita's advice for doing service without any returns!!
btw do u teach ?
and I did the Hanuman asana, without hand support yesterday!! Thanks to u...

Anila said...

Thanks for that note! it made my day .Congrats on the hanumanasana !:-)
No,I dont teach yoga.Gosh!that is like a dream that seems far far farrrr awayyy for me..Its been only 4 years since I discovered the joy that was yoga, and like you I am mad about it :-) I read all about yoga that I can in my spare time. Your blog is the only place where the readers are made to explore for themselves and that is exactly why I come here every single day :-) I always have a lesson to take back-or something to think about. (Those 'Watson' moments :-) ). And I dont mean to flatter you - but your blog has had a really important part to play for my life changing experience with yoga..Thanks !