The first three months do not comprise a ‘beginners course’. In our experience three months is not enough either for introducing a beginner-level student to all basic categories of asanas that comprise a well-rounded practice (standing, seated, supine, inverted, backward and forward extensions, twisting and abdominal actions, modifying positions using props where required, restorative and rejuvenative positions), nor is it enough time for students to gain enough knowledge to start practicing independently without supervision.
However, three months does give enough time for our method of teaching to start working on most new students who are regular with attendance. While yoga should start working on you from the first lesson, we do expect that by the end of three months, you should be able to recognise:
at the level of the body: increased awareness and sensitivity, increased strength, balance and range of movement, which translates to a sense of opening and expansiveness, lightness, and a better posture
at the level of the mind: increased ability to be present in the moment if you tend to be easily overwhelmed at situations, increased confidence as the body gains strength, balance and flexibility
an overall sense of wellbeing, and glimpses of quietness and a deep sense of relaxation.
those who come in with injuries/ pains should start to get better understanding of their condition, get some relief from pain, and learn some basic strategies to bring them relief in case of aggravating situations. However, it can take much longer to fine-tune the practice to bring long-term relief especially in the case of chronic conditions. Equally importantly, we try to give them the confidence to not feel limited by their condition, and to try the entire range of movements and actions that are available to them.
While most people who have attended the first three months of classes regularly agree on the above experiences, it is important to recognise that these are initial experiences during or immediately after the classes. They can be transient in nature, and it might not be possible to reproduce them at will. That is possible only when the long-term practice is established.
Yoga is a vast subject, and three months is a mere drop in the ocean. At the end of three months, we hope that you will find the impetus to start your journey with enthusiasm in earnest.
Be prepared for a full range of movements - including going upside down - in every class. T-shirts and shorts, with the T-shirt tucked into the waistband of the shorts, is the widely accepted dress code in our classes across the world. Clothes that are too tight do not allow for the full range of movement. Clothes that are too loose will get in your way and will not hold when going upside down/ lifting the legs up etc. Slippery, synthetic material does not provide adequate grip in many positions. Also, please be sensitive that these are group classes.
We have everything that you will need to use in the class. However, if you prefer to be on your own mat, please carry it with you.
The stomach should be relatively empty – 3 hours since a full meal or 1.5-2 hours after light snacks. However, if you are prone to low blood pressure/ sugar, drink that cup of tea/coffee/ juice with a couple of biscuits about an hour before class. We usually have an emergency supply of snacks in our pantry.
If you are feeling exhausted/ dehydrated/ faint/ thirsty, it is ok to sip water. However, because of the unusual positioning of internal organs in asanas (like inversions and twists) yoga should be done on an empty stomach and empty bladder as far as possible. So, do not get into the habit of drinking too much water during class, or during your practice.
We usually have drinking water in the class.
Give a short break after class before you eat a big meal. However, it is ok to drink water or eat something small soon afterwards.
Immediately after a class, the vital energy of the body has receded deeper inside. Taking a shower/ bath in this condition will shock the consciousness into coming back to the surface of the skin. Savour the effects of the class and delay that shower for a while.
There are many reasons for saying the invocation to sage Patanjali in the beginning of the class. It is not a religious prayer or a mere formality. It is an expression of gratitude to our first teacher – the codifier of the subject. As a student, it is an invocation for our previous memories of yoga to surface, to help us along the path of yoga. It is an opportunity to clearly demarcate the outer world that we are coming from, and the place of learning that we are entering. Beyond the meaning of the words, the resonance of the sounds is meant to put us in a state compatible to begin the study of yoga.
However, if you have strong reasons not to join in the invocation, we will not force you. Sit quietly while the invocation is being said - use the time to settle down.
The initial invocation to sage Patanjali, and the final savasana are integral part of the class. In fact, it is best arrive five minutes before the class starting time in order to settle in, and to not immediately rush headlong into another activity immediately after the class. However, in case of emergency you may come in late or leave early. As long as it does not happen too frequently, we believe the class should be compassionate enough to make room for your personal exigencies.
Yes. The two classes in the week is the bare minimum at a beginner level.
Learning anything new requires stepping out of ones comfort zone, and opening oneself up to discomforts, uncertainties, and failures. This is true of any subject worth learning.
However, in the context of an asana practice, it is important to differentiate between DISCOMFORT and PAIN.
In the beginning, most discomfort is due to unfamiliarity. If feeling agitated/ nervous when attempting an asana/ action for the first time, you can come out of it. Take a few breaths, and then, try again with calmness.
A beginner might experience discomfort in using a faculty that has been unused for a long time. This is usually understood as physical discomfort– like having to use a muscle group that you have not used consciously before. But exploration of mental faculties can also feel uncomfortable if you are unfamiliar with them – like focusing deeply, and being in the present. There are those who, in the beginning, find it very difficult to stay in savasana, even though physically there is nothing difficult about this position.
The pain that one needs to watch out for is one that emanates due to wrong actions and positioning of the muscles, bones and joints, and also of internal organs. Be watchful of pain in sensitive joints like the lower back, the shoulder joint, the knees and the wrists. Also be watchful of pain that, instead of subsiding after you release the asana and bringing a sensation of release and opening, seems to persist and in fact, intensifies. Be aware that our current sedentary lifestyles have made many actions/ positions that might have come easily a few generations ago, out of reach for us. Do not take any movement for granted because it looks easy or because everyone else seems to be doing it.
If you have a previous injury or any other physical/ psychological condition, inform the teacher before class. There might be certain asanas or actions that are contraindicated in your condition, and you will be shown the modified versions of such asanas, or be given an alternate action. In a group class, the teacher might not be able to remind you every time. It is the student’s responsibility to treat their bodies with respect and sensitivity, and to remember the contraindications and adaptations that have been shown.
A better question to ask might be, ‘which activities are compatible with our lives?’ the human body is capable of an amazing array of activities/ movements/ positionings. None of them is bad - as long as we have trained ourselves to do them safely. Our lifestyles in the last few decades have undergone dramatic changes, and this is reflected in the abilities (or the inabilities) of our bodies. Many activities that happened as part of our daily lives (sitting on the floor, squatting, pushing and pulling, walking, running, climbing ) have now become unfamiliar to us. And these have been replaced by activities that weaken our skeleto-muscular system (sitting for long hours, extended usage of laptops and mobile phones etc.). In this scenario, any kind of intelligent physical activity is good. Much as an asana practice engenders a healthy body, a healthy body also supports a strong asana practice. Continue doing whatever other activity you are doing, as long as you are enjoying it, and as long as it is not harming you. Be aware that almost no activity/ sport is complete in itself, and it is best to expose yourself to a wide variety of activities. Asanas have immense potential for versatility. It is possible that as your asana practice progresses, and you learn to harness this potential of the asanas, you will lose interest in some activities, and they will naturally drop off.
It is true that hand-on physical adjustment has always been a part of our tradition. Much before Mr Iyengar devised and standardised the various props like blocks, belts etc., he used his own body to prop students up into positions when words failed and/ or the student’s ability failed. While it is obvious that there is no alternative to a physical touch when someone gets stuck in a position that can injure them, it is important to realise also that most yoga injuries happen not through sudden accidents, but through chronic incorrect actions, and it is the teachers responsibility to make corrections even if there is no immediate danger of injury. Many students are drawn to this tradition only because of this assurance that the teacher takes personal responsibility, and takes the time and effort to make corrections. Our personal experience with our teachers and other students has been that a teacher’s touch is an invaluable aid in transmitting an experience - usually it will work when verbal instructions and visual demonstrations fail.
For new students, the focus is not on perfect postures, but on encouraging the students to move freely. Adjustments are avoided unless absolutely necessary.
At all times, discretion is used in making physical adjustments. However, a teacher, irrespective of their experience and expertise, has no fool-proof way of knowing whether a students is ready/ willing to be physically adjusted. And a student has the choice of informing the teacher in case they do not want to be thus adjusted. In case they are not comfortable doing this in the presence of others, the student also has the choice of informing the teachers privately via email. No other explanation is asked for. We also have an Internal Committee that advises and intervenes on all matters relating to gender and touch. Our Internal Committee functions as per the POSH law, and the student may directly contact any or all of the IC members. These choices/ information is communicated to all students.
As a general rule, you are not entitled to make-up classes for the classes you have missed. However, please discuss this with the teachers. If there is space in a compatible batch, you will usually be given a one-off permission to attend an alternative class.
As a beginner student (or even later) you only have to attend the regular classes. Participation in all workshops/ events is voluntary.
Our workshops usually have an eligibility criteria of a minimum years of regular attendance. These workshops are meant for a deeper exploration of specific concepts, and do not make sense unless the basic asanas/ actions have been understood.
The events are free and open to all. Events are organised to mark celebratory days during the year - Guru Purnima, Patanjali Jayanti, the year-end Annual day etc. These are joyous occasions for students from all batches to come together and meet each other informally (and to wear non-yoga clothes!) However, the events are not merely social occasions. All events are organised around the the subject of yoga, and include talks, discussions, screenings that feed into our learning process.
Look out for workshop and event related announcements in class, on phone messages, and in posters that will be put out before the event/ workshop.
Self practice sessions are dedicated times set aside for students to come in and practice by themselves what has been taught in the classes. Self Practice sessions are open to all students
Establishing a self practice is essential for anyone who wants to make sustained progress on the path of yoga - the sooner this can be done, better it is. Of course, one can also do a self practice at home. However space constrains and other distractions can often be an hindrance to practice at home, and a much stronger level of practice can be attained in a space/ time dedicated to yoga. The teachers also use these time to do their own practice, and are available to answer questions.
Self practice sessions are open to all enrolled students. A beginner student may start coming for the self practice sessions as soon as they feel confident of doing at least a few asanas independently without instructions.
There are many ways to practice, the easiest self-practice strategy for a beginner student is to practice/ repeat by themselves what was taught in the previous couple of classes, or to practice/ repeat those asanas/ actions that they have difficulty doing.
Look here for a few more hints about self practice
Please inform us in advance if you intend to take a long break. If you have not informed us about a long absence, and we do not see you in classes for 2-3 weeks, and you are not paid up for the month, we assume that you have decided to drop off from the classes. we will respect your decision to do so, and will stop sending you class/ event related messages. This does not mean that you cannot get back to classes, but please get in touch with the main teacher to discuss re-admittance procedure.
If the reason for your absence has been illness, the teacher might suggest that you take things easy for a few sessions - or even that you move to a gentler batch for a short period.
Even if you have been absent due to other reasons, resumption of regular classes might need to be done in a phased manner. While many long-time practitioners can continue to practice by themselves even if they are not attending regular classes, this is often not possible for a beginner student. In the absence of regular practice, the body faculties will regress even if the mind seems to remember the asana/ action. We have often seen people jumping into a regular class enthusiastically after a long break, only to get cramps, aches and pains. It is the student’s responsibility to be careful when coming back to class after a long break - this is especially true if your yoga classes is the only form of physical exercise that you do. Always speak with the teachers before the class so they can instruct you on adaptations separately if required.
Even though we conduct group classes, we maintain personal engagement with our students. Students are free to contact us through through email/ phone messages outside class times. However, please follow the following norms if you need to have a discussion with any of the teachers:
Keep your discussions limited to your asana and pranayama practice.
If you want to have a quick chat, immediately after the class is the best time to do it. We usually stay around for a while after the class just for this reason. Use this time also to make fees payments and buy props.
Immediately before the class is NOT such a good time for a chat - it is the time when we are trying to focus our energy and effort to prepare for the class, and would prefer not to be disturbed unless it is critical. However, if feeling unwell, or resuming classes after a long gap, or (for women) menstruating, inform the teacher before the class so they can keep it in mind while instructing.
If a longer discussion is warranted, or if we need to spend some time working with you individually, it is best to make an appointment for one of the self practice sessions.
If you are going through emotional/ psychological disturbance, you can certainly discuss any symptoms that are causing you discomfort (e.g. sleeplessness, anxiety etc.), but avoid discussing the details of your personal situation with the teachers. We are not trained in counseling on emotional/ psychological conditions. There are asana/ pranayama protocols that have proven to be efficacious in dealing with such issues, and we will certainly take the time to explain them to you - we do not need to know the details of your personal situation for these asana/ pranayama protocols to work for you.
We can only speak for ourselves, the answer to both is NO.
Although the word ‘guru’ is loosely used these days to denote expertise in any particular field of knowledge (marketing guru, fitness guru etc.), a ‘guru’ is a very lofty concept: that rare entity who can guide an individual from ‘darkness’ (gu) to ‘light’ (ru). It is certainly not an epithet that applies to us.
Specifically in our tradition, there is only one Guru - we refer to him as Guruji. Everyone else is a student, maybe at slightly different hierarchies. Considering the vastness of this subject, and the time it takes to master it, this difference in hierarchies between the so-called ‘teachers’ and ‘students’ is negligible. Yes, we started practicing asana and pranayama a few years before you did, and in a class we have to maintain the decorum of a teacher-student relationship in order to effectively communicate, but we are not equipped to take on a larger role in your life.
We might have to take on the role of mentoring some students who are interested in pursuing a path of teaching. This is a specific engagement agreed upon by both parties.
With everyone else, we enjoy having a lively discussion about the many fascinating aspects of yoga, the intricacies of its philosophy, but we cannot answer life’s big questions for you, we cannot advise you on your personal problems, and we do not expect you to ascribe any special wisdom to us.
We recommend all beginner students read this note