To be stuck on the idea that yoga is just for the body is to miss a world of experience and pleasure, an opportunity to purify unprocessed emotions, burn off mental anxiety, or to enjoy the freedom of mindless pleasure.
In my years of observing practitioners and seeing how they work and what classes they go to, I have come to this conclusion:
Alpha types, high achievers, the very fit, like to ram and cram and push and struggle and strain, and avoid any softer classes. Those are the classes you need occasionally to connect you with the parts of yourself you are out of touch with! If you keep on effort-ing this way you will become insensitive, angry, and hard, tire out your nervous system.
Lazy, unfit, weak people whose energy may be low, are attracted to easier softer classes, where they can carry on resting, not engaging their force, and not risk anything uncomfortable or confrontational. But they actually need to go into the uncomfortable challenging class to balance their male energy, strengthen their nervous system so it can conduct more force, and build muscle and intensity.
So go out of your comfort zone a little, and start getting balanced!
I was so alpha that any soft class, with breath or “going within” used to make me impatient and angry. If that’s you, get into what that actually is – isn’t it interesting?! Your fire is looking for things to burn, but it may just burn you if you aren’t mindful of it. Softer types find challenge upsetting and frightening, they close down, feel sick, get too hot, leave the room. Look at this refusal to accept the challenge of life. Life will not treat you gently so you may as well confront some difficulty and work on getting stronger in the safety of a yoga class.
So I devised Fierce Grace a 5-class hot yoga system, which is built around the same core poses and philosophy, but each class has a different emphasis. Designed to offer all the freedom to develop a yoga practice that can be tailored to taste and personal fitness, as well as energy levels and time available. These 5 classes try to catch a wide range of our human possibilities, neuroses and habits, and give us a chance to work on a wide aspect of qualities.
The Fierce Grace yoga system is a combination of Ashtanga Vinyasa, Bikram Yoga, Classical Indian Hatha Yoga, Power Yoga, Super Slow and Interval Training wisdom and core and arm strengthening sequences, to work every square inch of the body, from toes to brain, and develops breath awareness, peak fitness and meditation. The 5 classes are our opportunity to explore different ways to work in yoga and explore who we are. There is no one-way. We are too complex, our energy, moods and needs change every day.
During class, strength, flexibility, power, surrender, softness, effort, focus, oblivion, difficulty, pleasure, intensity and ease all play together, one coming to the fore, then receding. Some classes or days are more one aspect than another, like a piece of music with different instruments taking the lead while the others support. So to truly practice yoga, we need different opportunities and different emphases to experience these different aspects of ourselves and allow yoga to strengthen and balance us completely. Practiced this way yoga gives us to a tool for enormous growth, enjoyment and expression.
There are no rules. One day you might practice the Beast with softness and sensitivity, or the Core with the courage of a warrior. Our energy changes daily. But here is a guide to how one might approach the 5 classes.
Tips for the 5 classes
Core. Stay soft, an opportunity to stay in the moment and let go of ego. As floor poses are less “goal oriented” we can concentrate on how we feel. Deep stretches, skeletal alignment, and a chance to take attention within. If we only turn attention outwards, on the mirror, on the shape of the pose, with energetic effort, we will become imbalanced. Core is a chance to slow down, take stock, check alignment, re-charge the gas tank, check the ego at the door, be truly honest and accepting of where we are today. This is the “Grace” part of the practice, – flexibility, breath and relaxation.
Classic. This is a more male practice. It prevents us being lazy, builds muscle, power, strength and stamina. An opportunity to expand our energy and flush away limitations. Aligns the skeletal system. Enjoy building your force and power, but practicing staying calm within and not get crunched up and contracted or go further than will allow your breath to stay free and easy.
Fierce Grace. We work on blending female and male, – linear strength poses and stamina poses with flexibility poses, circular twists and relaxation. Music helps connect us to our feeling. Try to work on the enjoyment that using body, breath and feeling brings. Use the music to drop your thinking mind. Completely balancing, strengthening and uplifting, the journey the class takes us on ensures we get balanced within and without, so feel the play between the male and female in you.
The Fix. Energy. The short nature of this class allows us to work to our maximum, and develop our fitness, stamina and energy projection, via breath, intensity and focus. As it’s only 50-mins, you can afford to push yourself, and go out glowing.
The Beast. Stamina, endurance, energy, flexibility and patience! Take all you have learned and explore it. You have learned the alphabet, now sing. This class allows full expression of the body, attention, focus, breath and expansive energy. If you cant do some of the harder poses, practice non-judgment, patience and back off doing an easier version. If you can do them all, enjoy, but practice no ego!
The poses you hate are the ones you need, and are often male and confrontational, the poses you love are nurturing to your nervous system, and are often female. So everything that happens in the class is beneficial to us in some way, the parts we love, and even the parts we don’t like
Michele is a Yoga Alliance Accredited Senior Yoga Teacher; a Certified Bikram Teacher, with 17 years Bikram Yoga teaching experience; a Certified Ashtanga Vinyasa Teacher; a Black Belt Martial Artist with 8 years experience in Hapkido and Tae Kwon Do; and an ITEC Certified Massage Therapist.
Come along to Michele’s British Yoga Festival workshop ‘Fierce Grace’ on Saturday 6th of December from 4-5.30pm. Book tickets.
About the editor
Passionate about wellness, yoga, meditation, and raw food – Cheryl Slater heads up the social media team for Yoga Magazine and her business Soul Seed Media specialises in providing social media and PR support to holistic businesses.