What is Classic Yoga?
What is Classic Yoga?
In the current series of posts, we are focusing on IAM Yoga’s signature class styles: Flow, Core Flow, Detox Flow, Detox Core Flow, and Classic Yoga. We’re also going to do a primer on Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga. In the past, we have covered Hatha and Ashtanga – check out their respective posts for more. The intention of these articles is to help you choose the right class for you at the right time – every day is different, so you will need different styles on different days.
Understanding each style of yoga can also help you choose an intention for each practice that is best supported by the class style. For example, ending up in a fast-moving Flow class in the hot studio when you’re feeling ungrounded or anxious can be counterproductive if you weren’t sure what to expect or aren’t familiar with the sequence. However, knowing what to expect in the class can help you set an intention and a focus that can help you get grounded even when the class moves quickly.
Classic Yoga came out of a need for a class that was suitable for beginner yogis but would still appeal to a whole range of practitioners to reorient themselves with the essentials of their yoga practice. It is typically held in one of our non-heated rooms and consists of a slower practice and simple sequences of poses without complex transitions from pose to pose. The idea of this class is for students to get familiar with the poses that typically are taught in a class and focus on learning proper alignment.
So, where does the “classic” come from? Why not just call it “beginner” yoga? There were a couple of reasons for this. In particular, we wanted to evoke the understanding that we wouldn’t just be focusing on the physical practice of asanas or yoga poses. Asanas are a fairly recent addition to the tradition of yoga, coming from the teachings of Krishnamacharya, who taught most of the famous yoga teachers who brought the physical practice to the western world.
Krishnamacharya is known as the “father of modern yoga,” and he focused on always teaching what is appropriate to the individual. A focus on the needs of your individual body is an important aspect of your practice, and in a Classic Yoga class, we are looking to teach you to listen to your body and not just go along with what the teacher is saying just because they’re saying it. We all need different things on different days, and the slower pace of a Classic Yoga class allows you to breathe and sink into your body to figure out what it is that you really need.
Going even further back in history, the word yoga means “yoke” or “bind.” It is also commonly translated as “union.” As we explored in our previous series on the eight limbs of yoga, the purpose of physical poses is to make us comfortable in seated meditation and savasana (corpse pose); meditation teaches us one-pointed concentration; and eventually, we learn to identify or unite with the Divine/God/Universe, or however you see the power beyond yourself. This is a wild simplification and misses all of the nuances of this journey, but it’s the basic idea.
Classic Yoga starts you on this journey by bringing in a renewed focus on the breath. Whether you’re new to yoga or comfortable with your practice, it can help to slow down, focus on alignment, and learn how to breathe with your movement to enhance your own experience. This focus on the breath can be much more challenging in a faster or higher-temperature class, where the demand is for your heart rate to be much faster for a longer period of time.
Your Classic Yoga teacher may also bring in basic philosophical concepts throughout the practice and may open and close with a simple repetition of “OM,” which you can join them in chanting but is always optional.
A Classic Yoga practice will typically start with a seated or supine (lying on your back) meditation. The class may chant “OM” one to three times to open the practice. The teacher will gradually work up into a set of 3-5 vinyasas or flows, to help warm up your body. These will be followed by 2-3 standing sequences made up of 2-5 poses each. A “sequence” usually means that standing poses will be linked together – for example, a Warrior 2 pose will move straight into a Reverse Warrior pose rather than come back to standing or lying down in between.
A Classic Yoga class will have a longer seated sequence than some of our Core-based classes; this gives you a chance to mindfully stretch and safely work through forward- and back-bending as well as some twisting movements. The class will close with at least five minutes of Savasana to allow you to fully integrate the benefits of the practice into your body. Finally, the teacher may close with another repetition of “OM.”
Classic Yoga can be as simple or as physically challenging as you want it to be depending on how much you choose to focus and engage your muscles throughout the practice. It is a perfect chance to slow down and teach (or remind) yourself of the basics of the practice and the reasons why yoga is so beneficial in the first place.