By: Howie Holben
For many people both in India and the West yoga is more than a way to stay in shape, it is a way of life. Of course, this is the traditional purpose of yoga which actually encompasses much more than just the physical poses that are so common in the West.
However, even if you are only doing Western fitness-based yoga, will you find that after some time yoga begins to define a part of who you are. There are many different variations of yoga available in the West including "flowing" yoga, a yoga and Pilates mix, and even "hot" yoga, yoga done in a hot room so that you sweat out toxins while you exercise. Yoga is a very individualized way to exercise; you only do the poses to the level at which you are comfortable. That also means that classes should be a very comfortable place where you feel safe enough push yourself to your limits, but not beyond. Because of this, many yoga classes have been created to put people together from the same community such as prenatal yoga, yoga for women, or gay yoga.
Since you need to feel comfortable and relaxed in order to get the full benefit of yoga, besides tailoring classes to certain demographics of people, the entire structure of the yoga studio and class is geared toward a soothing atmosphere.
The room should be welcoming, and usually will have soft lighting and maybe even soft music playing at the before the session begins. The floor should also be both supportive and cushioned so you don't have to worry about straining your joints as you go through your poses. A good yoga instructor will also be someone who can put you at ease both before and during the session.
The flow of a general yoga class is also designed to challenge you without stressing your mind or your body. Generally the class starts out with some easier warm up exercises.
Even the yoga class itself is designed to make you feel comfortable. It starts out with basic breathing and warm up exercises that will help your mind clear out all the cobwebs of the day. Then you move into more challenging exercises and poses.
If you are doing a Pilates combination class, you will do those exercises toward the tail end of the classes when you are fully warm and ready to push yourself up to the next level.
Just when you think you can't work anymore, you will be given a chance to some simple cool down moves and mediation exercises before leaving the class.
All yoga classes are designed to make you feel both relaxed and energized. They are truly exercises for both the mind and body. Many yoga practitioners even begin to think of yoga as a lifestyle choice. That is why there are so many community oriented yoga classes such as gay yoga that further help to bring people together. If you want to explore deeper you can try gay tantra.
Author Resource - Column fashioned by Howie Holben. Spirit Journeys advocates a gay yoga retreat and has ideas on gay spirituality.
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