"Action is movement with intelligence." ~B.K.S. Iyengar
FAQs What is yoga (in a nutshell, please)? This is a big question, with lots of answers;
The short one goes something like this: modern yoga is a sometimes very vigorous, sometimes very gentle physical practice, that develops strength, flexibility and balance in a non-competitive, non-egoistic environment, while also encouraging a sense of harmony between physical and mental experience (usually achieved through a conscious focus on breath) …. Cue sensations of increased mental and physical well-being.
And the slightly longer answer: The term “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which mean “to bind” or to “to yoke”. In this sense, yoga means “union”, which in the earliest yogic texts is something like union between individual and divine or universal consciousness. While ancient yogic practices are not primarily physical, today (and especially in the West) the term yoga most often does refer to a physical practice that involves moving the body through a series of sometimes strenuous and demanding postures, or asanas.
But this modern yoga can still be interpreted through the much older principle of union. The name for all physical forms of yoga is Hatha, which comes from combining the terms “ha” (meaning sun) and “tha” (meaning moon). So Hatha yoga is about bringing very different elements together and balancing them in a whole, which is why in the physical yoga practice we continue to try to balance strength and flexibility, for example, and to integrate physical movement with mental sensations by tying these to the breath.
The idea here is that when we find this kind of balance, we are able to be in the moment, in the actual here and now, without concerning ourselves with all the narratives we're given (by "society", by the media, by our parents, our employers, ourselves .... ) about how we, and things in general, are supposed to be.
I’ve heard that yoga instructors use a different language when they’re teaching …? The language of ancient yoga is Sanskrit, but contemporary yoga practitioners have translated yoga terminology into modern languages from all over the world. So in yoga classes in the West today it’s common to hear poses called by two names one after the other. At ESY, we like to use both English and Sanskrit: English makes things easy to remember and understand, and Sanskrit reminds us of the long tradition that makes yoga much more than just physical exercise.
I’m not flexible … at all! To quote a much-shared yoga meme: Saying you’re not flexible enough for yoga is kind of like saying you’re too dirty to take a shower. Coming to yoga classes regularly will help you to improve your flexibility. And if you're skeptical of our sources here (let's face it, you have a point) then B. K. S. Iyengar will be more convincing: 'Yoga is for everyone. No one is too old, too stiff, too fat, to thin or tired'.
If you’re still worried, it’ll be reassuring to know that yoga poses are not black and white positions that you either can or can’t get into. Every posture is a spectrum that can be done with more and less intensity to suit the body doing it. And (and this is the best bit) part of what makes yoga yoga – and not, say, gymnastics – is that no one level of intensity is better than the other. Touch your toes with straight knees: great. Bend your knees: brilliant. Bend your knees a lot and rest your hands on your shins: amazing.
In one sense, having limited flexibility just means that you get to the productive place in your posture quicker and more efficiently.
Will yoga help me to get fit and/or lose weight? This is a very popular question, and the answer depends mainly on two things: 1. what style of yoga you practice, and 2. how often you show up on your mat. While passive yoga styles (such as Yin for example) are designed to release and relax the body, dynamic practices like vinyasa-, power-, or Ashtanga yoga can be (very) physically demanding. Vigorous dynamic yoga will raise the heart rate --sometimes considerably -- for a sustained period of time, and pretty much all dynamic practices will help you to build strength, develop long, lean muscle, and hone core stability.
Like all exercise, yoga’s ability to create genuine changes in your body relies in part on choices you make off your mat, but it also depends heavily on how regularly you do it. Lucky, then, that yoga is a pretty easy habit to form. You may find it easier than you’d expect to come back to your practice with enthusiasm day after day.
What should I wear to class? The best yoga gear is comfortable and easy to move in. So wear what you’d wear to the gym. We’d advise avoiding very loose-fitting tops and trousers, since these can make it difficult for a teacher to check your alignment, and – especially in a dynamic class – can also become distracting by riding up (every seasoned yogini is familiar with the “Down Dog Flash”).
Do I need to bring a mat … or anything else? Our studio provides beautiful, grippy Manduka Mats for you to practice on free of charge. But if you have your own mat that you know and love, and you’d prefer to practice that (totally understandable!), that’s absolutely fine too. You might want to bring a (yoga) towel along, if you prefer to practice with something underneath your hands.
When should I arrive at the studio? Please arrive ten to fifteen minutes before your class is due to start. This will give us time to check you in, and you time to swing by the changing room and settle onto your mat.
Will there be somewhere safe for me to keep my stuff while I’m in class? We have lockers in our changing room, and you can grab a key at reception.
Are there shower facilities? We have two brand new, piping hot showers, each with their own changing cubicle so you’ll have privacy while you freshen up.
… and hairdryers? We do have hairdryers, and a nice big mirror.
I’ve heard I’m not supposed to eat before a yoga class … The standard advice is not to eat a big meal within the three hours before your class begins, because this can lead to discomfort during your practice. This doesn’t mean you should deny yourself completely though: if your energy levels are low, do snack on small, high-value nibbles in preparation for class.
Are there any unspoken yoga-studio rules I should know about? At the studio, you’ll be asked to take off your shoes, and you’ll also be asked to keep the practice space itself quiet and meditative before class begins – but please do feel free to catch up with friends and chat everywhere else in the studio.
We like to observe Saucha, which is one of the yoga niyamas (or "positive duties" ), and broadly means “cleanliness”. Saucha asks that we come to our mat with a clean body, out of respect for our teachers, for others around us, and – in a sense – for ourselves. Essentially, no one likes to smell the person on the mat next to them, and adhering to Saucha means each practitioner taking it on themselves not to be that smelly person!
What temperature is the studio? Our main studio is heated by infrared panels to a base-line temperature between 22 and 25 degrees.
I have an injury: can I still practice? Maybe, depending on the injury. If you are injured, you should always let your teacher know before the class begins, and you should never practice if you have been advised not to by a medical practitioner.
I’m pregnant: what should I do? Amazing, congratulations.
You will not be able to do any yoga at ESY -- including pregnancy yoga -- unless you are more than 12 weeks pregnant.
Once you are more than 12 weeks pregnant, you should check out our schedule for pregnancy classes.
If you are more than 12 weeks pregnant, have an established yoga practice, and a relationship with your teacher(s) at ESY, you may be able to participate in select group classes outside our pregnancy programme (this excludes all Power, Yoga Conditioning and Intermediate Vinyasa classes). If you are beyond your first trimester, and you would like to participate in a group class on our general schedule, please note that it is your responsibility to make your teacher aware of your pregnancy before every class you plan to attend (even if you have mentioned your pregnancy to that same teacher previously). Please be aware, too, that your teacher may refuse to admit you to the class if s/he thinks that the planned sequence is not appropriate for pregnancy
Do I have to book my class or can I just arrive? It’s safest to book your spot using our app. But if there is space in the class, you can absolutely drop by and practice.