The first time I went back to beginners classes was when I was training to be a teacher – at the time I was working full time and had a child at junior school, so Sunday morning practice often got abandoned, and so my “rescue” plan was Andrew’s Sunday night class. I quickly realized that I had missed a lot when I first studied yoga and so not only did I get the practice I was seeking, but I got a lot of information I hadn’t been ready to hear first time around.
Attending a beginners class is incredibly humbling – it’s easy to forget how hard those first few years were, when everything is a challenge and you die in every single pose and are screaming “WHEN ARE WE COMING OUT” with every fibre of your being. So my challenge in my own practice is to work as hard as I used to as a beginner, but hopefully not always with the internal screaming! But sometimes it’s good to do that too – as Geeta said we should practice difficult asanas. As we start to develop our home practice, we should study ourselves in that practice, how we prepare, what we work on (and don’t work on!), what our attitude is, what distracts us. Or as Jayne asks “What brought you out (of the asana)?”
As a trainee teacher, it’s incredibly helpful to reconnect to what the start of the yoga journey should be like – it’s so easy when you’re training intensively and working with other trainees to lose sight of who you will be teaching. How you teach new students, how you don’t adjust physically, how you have to work on your communication skills – is all learnt by either being in a Beginners class or by “helping” out. And it’s easy to forget it once you’re qualified too!
When you do home practice or teach the sequencing of the practice is a real challenge. You have to understand how to break asanas down and how to approach them. If you don’t know how to get started, I got a top tip from Angie one day, which was to write down the sequence I’d just done with Jayne, and then practice it. Might seem blindingly obvious to some of you, but it wasn’t to me!
There are lots of sequences out there to follow and I’m attaching a couple of links to USA practice plans which are a little shorter than Guruji’s sequences in the Dorling Kindsley book. The main thing I tell my students is to start. Standing in Tadasana while the kettle boils for your morning brew counts as practice. Don’t aim for an hour – aim for 5 minutes.
When you help out in class you see some of the magic of the subject of yoga – you see the change in people’s energy from before class to the end of class – we’ve all experienced it for ourselves, and to see students in Savasana after class the first time, you realise what a huge responsibility you’ve taken on and what big footsteps you’re attempting to follow.
And finally we all have moments when we think – what am I doing, why am I doing this yoga thing? When doubt assails us, or grief or life overwhelms us, I would always recommend a beginners class, as it brings us back to our yoga roots and grounds us firmly again.
BKS Iyengar said “I am a Beginner” – there’s always so much more to learn and we can study with that mindset in any class, but a beginners class brings me back to that.