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Gentle Yoga, Yoga for Beginners....What's the Difference?
9 April 2017

Gentle Yoga, Yoga for Beginners....What's the Difference?
9 April 2017

 Gentle Yoga, Yoga for Beginners....What's the Difference?

I've been getting this question a lot lately from students who practice regularly at UVY and from people who've never taken a yoga class in their life, calling to ask which class is best for a newcomer. While the website does offer brief descriptions of both classes, I thought I'd flesh it out a little here. I also put the question to my staff instructors, to get a fuller perspective. There is some common ground for both these classes, but Yoga for Beginners is designed to take someone who has had little or no experience with yoga, and....begin! I see a beginner’s class as a place to explore foundations for growth and progression. The beginner class is moving students toward (should they choose) more challenging postures, classes and styles. The caveat is that many students are perfectly happy to stay in beginners classes. They find their bodies are happier with a less intensive physical practice, or they have limitations that contraindicate harder classes (illness, age, chronic injury). Beginner classes embrace the goal of preparing a student—and giving them a working vocabulary—to be ok in a level 1 class. We explore lots of standing work using props: the wall, blocks, straps. I will always demonstrate a pose, and use basic alignment cues and preparatory work to approach poses like down dog, uttanasana, balance, warrior, etc. We play with some very easy breath work and often sprinkle in a dash of theory/philosophy to help contextualize the physical practice. Sue Howard puts it nicely when she says a beginner's class is "....preparing the students to move on. We explore classes of poses, general class structure (what to expect), simple pranayama, quiet reflection and building strength." Deb Heimann, in teaching beginning Forrest Yoga describes it this way: "In a beginner Forrest class, I do more demonstrating and pre-pose work to have students feel what the poses are meant to feel like inside their bodies before they get into the poses. I give more cues—there’s less silence." In Gentle classes I have no agenda. I meet students where they are, which in my group could be a combination of limitation due to age, illness, or emotional fragility/trauma. Sometimes a gentle practice is a “cross training” practice for endurance athletes who need their yoga to help gently relax and stretch them so they hold up better with the rigorous training of their sport(s). And for some seasoned students, a gentle yoga practice is counter balance to other more rigorous yoga classes that they also regularly attend. It’s a mixed bag, but in general, in a gentle class I will teach a lot more supine and seated poses, a couple of restorative poses, lots of props and lots of modifications depending on the person/body/age/issue and overall needs of the group. It’s as much about the emotional/mental component of putting the body in a place of support and cultivating “softening” as anything else, but in general, I am not, in my gentle class, prepping students to move into harder classes. Cathy Vansant says it eloquently: "....Chairs and bolsters and even sand bags can help students both modify a pose and then relax deeply into it allowing for that elusive softening and receptivity that is the lingering aftertaste and gift of our work." If you have thoughts and/or experiences you'd like to contribute to this discussion on the difference between the two, I'd love to hear from you. Good weekend, all Love Leslie


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The building itself was renovated to be energy efficient, and the room is moderately heated in cooler seasons to promote a good, healthy sweat, but not heated to an excessive or wasteful degree. There are cubbies in our large office to store your personal belongings, a spacious changing room, a comfy sofa and a water cooler (please bring a water bottle to fill, to cut down on paper cup usage). Two nice, clean bathrooms are located just down the hall. There are also cubbies in the studio itself for valuables, which students are welcome to use. We have a full lending library of yoga books, and encourage students to borrow freely. Gift certificates are available for purchase in any amount.

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Please do not wear perfume or any strong scent

People with allergies can be very sensitive to scent. Also, lots of people sweating in a closed space is less stinky than lots of people all wearing different brands of perfume or deodorant.

Wear comfortable clothing

Not so tight it binds, not so loose it gets in your way. And please do not wear clothes that “gap” and are inappropriately revealing.

Practice on an empty stomach

If possible, don’t eat at least three hours before practice. If you know that this isn’t possible for you, eat easily digested food one hour before class.

No food or outside beverages inside the studio

If necessary, bottled water is okay, but remember we are trying to generate internal heat; constant sipping cools the body. After practice, drink plenty of pure water.

Bring your own mat

Shared mats are not hygienic; you may borrow one from us if one is available, until you are able to purchase your own, but please clean it afterward with the mat wipes provided. Please understand mats may be borrowed on a first come basis….we have only a few to borrow, and do occasionally run out of them.

Keep your eyes on your own practice

The practice is richer when it happens from the inside out. It’s not about comparing yourself with the person next to you. Be present with your own experience.

Be kind and loving to yourself

Rest when you need to. Honor where you are in your practice. Use the energy of those around to inspire, not diminish, you. Remember: you are perfect just as you are now, and yoga is meant to enhance that understanding and let that perfection shine. Have fun!

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Newcomers! 3 for $30

If you are new to Upper Valley Yoga, you can purchase a 3-class pass for $30! (For our first-time guests only, package expires 15 days after purchase)

Single Class, $18

Drop in to any regular weekly class

Single Class, Student or Senior* Rate, $15

*Full time high school and college students, Seniors 60+

10-Class Pass, $145

Expires after one year

10-Class Pass, Student or Senior* Rate, $130

Expires after one year

*Full time high school and college students, Seniors 60+

5-Class Pass, $80

Expires after 6 months

5-Class Pass, Student or Senior* Rate, $70

Expires after 6 months.

*Full time high school and college students, Seniors 60+

Unlimited Yoga Passes

Monthly, Auto-Renew with credit card, $99/mo

Unlimited yoga. 6-month commitment is required; early cancellation fee of $50 applies if the auto renew is canceled before 6 months. This is the best value if you plan to attend at least 2 classes per week.

One month, unlimited, $150

Unlimited yoga with no commitment required.

One month, Student or Senior* rate, $140

Unlimited yoga with no commitment required.

*Full time high school and college students, Seniors 60+

3-Month Unlimited, $390

Unlimited yoga, 3 months

If you don’t yet have a mat, borrow one from us and please clean it afterward with the mat wipes.

We have a limited, need-based scholarship fund available for those who are struggling to pay for classes; please email or call us to inquire. We also gratefully accept donations for that fund in any amount. In addition, there are occasional work/study opportunities. If you are interested in being on the work/study list, please let us know!

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