Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t yoga only for thin, young, bendy people?
No. That is an aesthetic ideal aggressively promoted for commercial purposes and self-aggrandizement. Yoga is for every body.
This is my first yoga class. What should I know?
First of all, congratulations! Cultivating self-awareness and self-care is important for your overall health, as well as those you interact with in your day-to-day life – a well-rounded person makes a well-rounded community member which makes a well-rounded world. Here are a few basics to keep in mind for class:
- Timeliness – arriving five to ten minutes before class begins will allow you time to get settled calmly and won’t risk disrupting a class already in session.
- Wear comfortable clothing – street clothing will hinder ease of movement and breath. Yoga clothing, or any loose fitting athletic wear will suffice. If it’s in the cooler months, bring along a pair of woolly socks and an extra layer as the body may cool during relaxation.
- Remove shoes outside the studio – not only does it help keep the studio floor clean, but by revering the space, you honour yourself and others about to practise yoga.
- Be considerate of others – we all have bad days, but slapping the mat down and tossing around your props causes disruption and can disturb other students who may need a peaceful space.
- Turn off mobile phones – turning your mobile phone off allows you to be fully present in the moment, and is respectful of others. Switching your mobile to vibrate when you’re expecting an emergency call means you’ll be reachable without causing too much of a commotion.
- Nurture curiosity – ask questions and be receptive to new experiences. Believe it or not, no one else is judging you. Each student is encouraged to focus on what is happening on their own mat while everyone explores what their yoga means for them in that moment. Our individual life experiences manifest in the body in different ways, yet our bodies change every day, and as organic matter, we’re influenced by Nature and the seasons – all of these coalesce in us as an opportunity to hone our skills of self-observation without judgement.
Do I need to learn about Hinduism? Are your classes “woo-woo”?
You won’t find religious iconography or devotional chanting in my classes, nor do I end practices with “namaste”. Whilst I admire certain aspects of Hinduism and the South Asian cultures, I am not Hindu myself and respect the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural diffusion. What you will find is the option to consider the ethics and principles, the Yamas and Niyamas, both on and off the mat. Or you can ignore all of it entirely and just enjoy some stretching and perhaps meeting new people. Remember, time on the mat in my class is to experience support as you explore your yoga.
Will yoga make me happy?
Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “the happiness of your life, depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
No one and nothing outside of yourself can make you happy, and that is not yoga’s purpose. You may discover yoga brings stress relief, physical fitness, and breath awareness, but your thoughts and emotions are determined by what you bring to the mat and why. In my classes, I invite students to pause and observe themselves internally, perhaps to notice patterns, but what they choose to do with those observations is entirely up to the individual. What surprises some students is the discovery that yoga can bring about any kind of emotional reaction – sometimes happiness, other times frustration, and occasionally upset. Remember, for some students it may be a rare moment of stillness, a sanctuary, where they can reflect honestly upon themselves and their life. Now that is the responsibility of a yoga teacher – not to promise happiness or fulfilment, but to provide a safe space for students to simply be. By applying and practising the principles of yoga we can begin to choose our responses to the deepening knowledge about ourselves.
What do you mean ‘the principles of yoga’? What are the Yamas and Niyamas?
A collection of aphorisms which make up the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are estimated to have been recorded no later than the 5th century. Having gathered teachings from older traditions, Patanjali is credited with the text, but no one can irrefutably prove exactly who this individual was. It is also important to note there was never a singular school of yoga, but a diverse assembly from which Patanjali’s system would emerge predominant. What we do know is that courtesy, self-discipline, and compassion don’t belong to any one belief-system so these principles can be applied ubiquitously:
- Ahimsa (Non-Violence)
- Satya (Truthfulness)
- Asteya (Non-stealing)
- Brahmacharya (Non-excess)
- Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness)
- Saucha (Purity)
- Santosha (Contentment)
- Tapas (Self-Discipline)
- Svadyaya (Self-Study)
- Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender)
Do students have to study the Yamas and Niyamas in your class?
Absolutely not. If one of the principles is a theme for the day, I will mention it briefly at the beginning for students to contemplate if they wish, or they can ignore it entirely and simply enjoy the benefits of the physical practice.
Are there any other important historical figures I should know about within the yoga or bellydance community?
In appreciation of those who have inspired, taught, assisted, and supported me, I include the following links:
Linda Antigani of Mother’s Embrace (my very first yoga teacher)
Ne-Kajira Janaan of Prima Beladi (a must for the professional performer)
Urban Picnic (Nerine’s local photographer)