Yoga For Beginners

By: Yogacharya

Whenever I see a class advertised as yoga for beginners, well, let’s just say, I’m not really keen on presenting yoga in this way. I understand what the teachers are after here. They’re trying to take some of the intimidation out of yoga for the newcomers.

But I think that carving yoga up into so-called levels like beginner, intermediate, and advanced really is not painting a very clear picture of what yoga is really all about … especially because mostly what we’re talking about when we use these terms is how physically challenging the class will be … and certainly not really how advanced in the science of yoga anyone in the class necessarily is.

In fact, I rarely meet anyone who is not a yoga beginner … and that goes for most teachers and high-flying yoga personalities on the yoga scene today too.

Ok, I know a lot of you already think I’m a bit nuts ;o), but before you start thinking that now I’ve definitely gone off the deep end, let me ask you this …

What makes someone advanced in yoga? Is it how flexible their body is? Is it how graceful they move through a sequence of asanas, and how perfectly aligned and firmly stable they can hold difficult body positions?

Well, if it is then there are hundreds of world-class gymnasts, ballet dancers, and circus performers who must be borderline yoga masters too, even if they’ve never heard the word asana before.

No, my friends, perfection in the physicalities of yoga alone doesn’t mean didly squat! I continually meet folks who can do amazing things with their bodies, yet can’t seem to control their cravings and desires to save their life. I watch people demonstrating their physical expertise and then in the next frame see them mucking up their personal relationships like hormone raging adolescents. I’ve seen contestants in a “yoga competition” argue and nearly come to blows!

Yoga for beginners needs to start, not just with some basic physical practices, but also with some basic introduction to just what yoga really is all about … and I’ll let you in on a little secret. It doesn’t have anything to do with how far you can bend your spine backwards.

What do you think yoga for beginners means? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below …

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Yogacharya is Director of International Yogalayam and Editor of “The Yoga News

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6 Comments so far

  1. Melissa on September 21st, 2009

    I agree with the sentiment of this post-we all need that beginner’s mind when practicing yoga or anything really. However, it makes you cringe to hear “yoga for beginnners?” Really? Of all the things wrong in the world that are worthy of complaint, this should not even be a blip on the radar. When a class is advertised as “for beginners,” it is called so for the benefit of those who will read the advertisement. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” If a class is labeled “for beginners” it is for those who are new to yoga and consider themselves beginners, AND for those experienced yogis who understand the benefit of having the beginner’s mind and getting back to basics. I teach a beginners’ class and have a pretty mixed group of the experienced and not-so-experienced yogis, all there to get the foundation of yoga right. It never occurred to me until reading this article that someone might interpret “yoga for beginners” as somehow implying that yoga is purely physical.

  2. sally on September 21st, 2009

    maybe it should be yoga classes for people new to yoga then rather that yoga classes for beginners.
    As someone who has just started a class advertised as yoga classes for beginners I think its a great way to get introduced to yoga… I was always a little scared of going to a class which was too advanced for me, this way i get taught the basic moves with others new to yoga too so we are all at the same level.

  3. International Yogalayam on September 21st, 2009

    I like the “introduction to yoga” class idea :O)

  4. manjula on September 24th, 2009

    I would like to be a beginner to yoga from yogalayam.Though i know a little about yoga,iam not satisfied with my knowledge,iwould like to update myself.

  5. Atamjeet on September 26th, 2009

    I agree that everytime we step on our mat, or sit to contemplate we should try to do so with ‘beginner’s eyes’ as do you, but I think advertising as ‘Yoga for beginners’ merely implies that it is OK to not have any experience – you won’t be faced with complicated asana or pranayama practices and talk of subtle body stuff that you are assumed to have prior knowledge of but be gradually introduced and have things explained fully to you and if you have some experience then it will be a ‘refresher’ or consolidation of your existing knowledge.

    Yoga inspires me because there is always a new discovery to be made and just when I think I know or understand a facet of it, something comes along and changes my opinion so I have to start again. The day I do not make a new discovery will not be when I have mastered yoga but when I have failed ;-)

  6. Anna on October 3rd, 2009

    I think what you are saying is true in one-on-one classes. But when you get 5, 10 or 20 people in the room, knowing which class to attend makes a difference for students as well as for teachers.