Practice with a Goal - or what's the point of a private yoga class?

yoga Oct 22, 2018

Recent research* showed that almost 9% of all Americans practice yoga at least once a month – that’s about 20 million people, up by 15 million since the last data collection in 2012. There is no equivalent data available in the UK as of yet, but chances are that you will know a couple of people who already regularly attend classes.

Sitting still in meditation is not everybody's cup of tea

Mark Singleton writes his groundbreaking book ‘Yoga Body’ modern yoga has very little to do with the original science that originated in India almost 5000 years ago. Today’s yoga caters to a global fitness-oriented scene that focuses on postures (asana), fashion and accessories in a booming industry. This new movement owes a greater debt to Indian nationalism, the spiritual aspirations of European bodybuilding and the early 20th century women’s gymnastics movements in the Western world. 

The history aside, the fact is that people who practice yoga regularly, are generally fitter, healthier, happier in their own body and mind, have better posture and work better under pressure. What’s not to like?

With so many classes available, why should I consider a private class?
Generic yoga classes focus mostly on asana (postures). Many of my beginner students feel they had a good practice if their muscles ache the next day. But postures are only one small part of yoga, and a one-style-fits-all solution is not always the best way forward. 

There is a lot more to it than touching your toes without problems.

One thing all of my private clients have in common, is that they have the profound wish of changing their lives for the better. To make this profound change, the first and most uncomfortable truth is that you may have to look into who you really are. 
And speaking of toes, it is astonishing how many people are so disconnected from their bodies that they are unable to find and move their toes when they are lying on a mat. 

Anxiety, anger, frustration, stress and sleeplessness have become commonly accepted states of modern adulthood. All of these can result in physical illness, but people may not even be aware of dull discomfort, because it has become part of life.

A commercially very successful client of mine who suffered from insomnia was completely surprised to discover that he had nothing in his life that he truly looked forward to every week.  He liked sailing, but he only went once a year. He loved to spend time with his sister’s family, but he only ever saw them at birthdays. All his friends were colleagues. He had truly lost vision of how he could live a happy and fulfilled life.

A bespoke yoga class is much more than teaching you how to be a little more flexible.
Once you start practicing yoga in earnest, you may be opened to a full spectrum of physical and emotional feelings – this is not other people telling you what to do. This is YOU realising how uncomfortable your body feels, how unable you are to move, how little quality time you actually have. And truthfully, many people, once faced with these insights, quickly stop practicing all together. Because the answer to this may be that they truly have to change the relationships with others and themselves, and change is always uncomfortable. 

None of my new clients are ever inclined to meditate because their mind is too busy, chaotic, perhaps frustrated or simply overwhelmed. They may lack compassion for their bodies, and tend to compete against themselves how to get into a full posture in minimum time, regardless of body shape or fitness. It is the most common request in a private class – people who have plateaued in their generic classes hoping that I’ll teach them how to get into a full posture.

My first class often come as a surprise, because I teach how to observe the body, and how to observe the mind. TKV Desikachar** said: “The ultimate goal of Yoga is to always observe things accurately, and therefore never act in a way that will make us regret our actions later.”

I always hope that my clients will take their daily practice to a place of mindfulness, allowing them to work subtly and precisely with feelings, sensations and thoughts as they arise. Practicing with mindfulness means taking practice to the next level, helping you to remove obstacles that stop you from living a purposeful life. This kind of experience is not available in a communal class. 

And, let’s face it. If you are not able to control your own toes, how can you be expected to be in charge of your entire life? 

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