Group yoga – Kick boxing and spinning make for great physical fitness activity, but they can be daunting to beginners or even harmful to exercisers recovering from an injury. For anyone who wants to start a new physical fitness practice or needs to take time starting over, group yoga is a great choice. Practiced for centuries, group yoga can gently stretch or vigorously exercise the body. Additional benefits to group yoga include a calming of the mind and spirit. Finding the right yoga class or instructor is key.
Practicing Yoga Individually, or in a Group Setting
Group yoga classes are available at many gyms for no extra cost when the participant is already a member. Group yoga classes are often offered independent of gyms as well. Additionally, yoga teacher offers one-on-one sessions in the home. The personal fitness goals of the participant will dictate whether or not they choose group yoga or individual sessions.
New yoga participants may feel more comfortable practicing one-on-one with a yoga teacher. They may also benefit from the extra attention they will surely receive in such a setting. This could be very important for anyone recovering from an injury who need to move quite slowly through the poses. Call yoga studios to find out if the yoga teacher offers individual instruction. Participants may elect to practice with the instructor in the privacy and convenience of their own home.
However, if joining a yoga community and getting to know other participants is key, a group yoga setting is often the right choice. Yoga classes are available at all levels and even within those classes the instruction is often differentiated, so all will feel welcome. Different types of yoga include Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga. A Vinyasa yoga focuses more heavily on sequences of poses and movement.
Yoga Practice Benefits Both the Mind and the Body
Yoga teacher often begins and ends with deep stretching and meditation exercises that calm the mind and cool down the body. Practicing yoga can be very restful following a stressful day at work. The meditation and stretching following the practice allows the individual to reflect and appreciate their progress in their practice that day.
Meditation linked with yoga practice has a calming effect on the mind and the body. It can even be spiritually revitalizing. Deep breathing exercises coupled with meditation often leave the participant in a relaxed and reflective spirit. There is no loud, pulsating music or glaring overhead lights that often stimulate exercisers in the gym. In fact, yoga is often practiced in a dark room with the lights dimmed so that the participants do not obsess over how they look while posing.
Yoga – the study of oneness
Yoga, as it is often practiced in the west, has become a fitness first enterprise. However, yoga, it must be remembered, is an ancient practice of self cleansing and preparing the mind, body and spirit for unity with the supreme “what is.”
The supreme “what is” can be termed the higher Self, God, Tao, the universal consciousness or many other names. Perhaps it is best described in the Tao Te Ching as:
The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
In essence, all practices that foster the illusion of separateness are not conducive to the study of yoga.
Dedication to Unity
In Autobiography of a Yogi, one of the most important spiritual books of the 20th century, Yogananda offers a poem called “God! God! God!” This excerpt portrays the desire of unity of a yogi.
Every night, in time of deepest sleep,
My peace dreams and calls, Joy! Joy! Joy!
And my joy comes singing evermore:
God! God! God!
In waking, eating, working, dreaming, sleeping,
Serving, meditating, chanting, divinely loving,
My soul will constantly hum, unheard by any:
God! God! God!
This is a similar state of consciousness described by Amma, the hugging saint, in her states of devotion towards Krishna and Devi. Amma has no sense of separateness. She is a living practitioner of unity.
Einstein, Gannon, Iyengar and Prabhu on Unity
Another believer in the state of Oneness was Albert Einstein. Though not a formal practitioner of yoga, he wrote about the illusion of separateness, likening it to a self-made prison that restricted “us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Great teachers from many spiritual traditions talk about returning to the natural state of being, and that is Oneness. Yoga exercises, yogic breathing, yogic thought and meditation, are about retraining the mind, body and spirit to recognise its original state of belonging.
One of the great teachers of yoga to the west, B.K.S. Iyengar writes that yoga explores the evolution of humanity. “This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”
Bhole Prabhu writes that “the process of yoga is an ascent into the purity of the absolute perfection that is the essential state of all human beings. This goal requires the removal of our enveloping personal impurities, the stilling of our lower feelings and thoughts, and the establishment of a state of inner balance and harmony.”
Yoga is unity. All practices and thoughts that stem from the idea of separateness are not conductive to yoga. Yoga is a returning, or a revealing of the true nature of human being, that of supreme consciousness.