General Yoga Class Structure

A yoga class structure is dependent on several factors, including the type of yoga it is, the benefits it has in terms of healing and the importance the teacher puts on that kind of yoga's spiritual effects.

The majority of yoga classes have a specific framework which can commence with breathing exercises, followed by physical movements, ending with a relaxation period.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Yogic philosophy comprises eight limbs, or aspects. They were specified by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

The eight limbs of yoga are:

  • Ethical discipline, self restraint, postures, control of breath, sensory control, concentration, meditation and, finally, transcendence.
  • Samadhi, the final limb, is the final objective of yoga: to transcend the self and untie with Universal Consciousness.
  • In the West, yoga classes often focus on the third limb, that is, physical positions, called asanas. Just the practice of asanas brings about various health benefits, like reducing stress levels, cholesterol and blood pressure as well as improving sleeping patterns, aiding digestion and providing relief from chronic back pain.
  • Yoga classes in the west usually focus on the physical benefits of yoga. If you are seeking a type of yoga that incorporates more of yoga's spiritual roots, you may wish to go to classes at a yoga studio, which normally incorporate breath work and meditation.
  • The fourth limb of yoga, breath control, is known as pranayama. In classes which incorporate pranayama the pranayama is often undertaken at the beginning of class to get the body ready for asana and this is then repeated at the end to ensure that your body is fully relaxed.
  • After the initial breathing exercises, yoga postures form the bulk of the class. Yoga classes often end with a relaxation period when savasana, or corpse pose, is maintained for quite a while to soothe the mind and relax the body.
  • The Yoga Journal advocates holding corpse pose for 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of yoga practice. Certain classes can incorporate meditation or chanting in Sanskrit or Gurmantra, mantras from the Sikh Scriptures.

Types of Yoga

A yoga class structure is greatly dependent on the kind of yoga you are practising.

Bikram yoga utilizes a set series of 26 postures, which are all done twice.

The class starts and finishes with certain breathing exercises.

Bikram yoga does not involve any chanting or meditation.

This kind of class structure can appeal to students who are disposed to order and discipline.

Ashtanga yoga also involves a set series of poses which are linked in a flowing sequence of the breath.

Ashtanga classes often put a great deal of emphasis on breath work and can begin and finish with chanting.

Vinyasa yoga classes are quite like Ashtanga yoga classes. However, they are less structured and usually do not place as much importance on breath work or chanting.

Order of Postures

The order in which the postures are conducted is equally important as the postures themselves. The same poses can be undertaken in a varied order to produce a different therapeutic effect.

Precautions

Which ever kind of yoga class you are attending, it is important to go at your own pace.

It is important never to strain your breath; it should always be smooth and even. Should you find that your breathing is strained, have a rest.

Learn the correct body alignment and build up to advanced postures. Should you execute a pose incorrectly you can cause yourself a serious injury.

A period of meditation often closes most yoga classes.