What Do You Prefer In a Group Class?

A couple of weeks back I was asked if I did a “harder” Yoga class; I am guessing of the kind that includes this kind of stuff – tricky and fun arm balances. I keep thinking about that question so thought I would address it here and get your thoughts. Over the past 20 or so years of actually teaching and continuing to learn, what I teach now, has been pared back considerably, but, yet, I know it’s actually way more useful for the most amount of people. Many of us are managing injuries and conditions and so what we do is also practical and therapeutic and still challenging enough for the majority.

So, yeah, this kind of stuff is lots of fun – but is it Yoga? I would argue that for most people it’s just a bit of a struggle and generally impossible, so would there be a point to putting these things in a general class or is this stuff better as a fun, weekend workshop and not described as Yoga at all?

Lately, I’ve started to include many more useful flowing moves that are accessible, sustainable and doable as well as pretty easy to follow. This, as opposed to lots of instructions regarding form and alignment. Of course instructions about form are incredibly important, but they also create brain stress when most of us just need to relax. Truly, if we have been thinking all day, it’s lovely to be able to switch off a bit and just follow some incredibly powerful spinal flow. Awesome for your brain and your body!

Following though can only be done with moves and poses that arn’t dodgy. Those that don’t require lots of instruction (which isn’t many – as most are way more complex than you might imagine). Hence why I have begun to incorporate more leg balances and Qi Gong moves. In terms of strength, balances are a force to be reckoned with. They also lengthen your muscles actively and are great for focus and concentration. In other words, these days I try to include lots of movements that are dynamic and meditative at the same time. It’s not Yoga AND meditation after all. Yoga is meditation and vice versa.

I hope that this way people find themselves suddenly stronger, more flexible and more mobile, but don’t remember having to make a considerable amount of effort towards that result.

What do you think? 🕉🙏❤️


  1. Geoff on 20 July 2020 at 2:43 am

    Hi Niki,
    This really means something to me, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing my thoughts.
    Offer it for those who can. A separate class for your high achievers and experienced students who physically want more. Yes, let them have that hard class and see if they’ll love you for it afterwards. I bet they’ll be sore.
    It may be a workshop you could charge a separate fee for if you think it appropriate. Its your time and experience they want as well as the bonus of achieving a new level of ability. But it seems to me the question was only related to the physical aspect of the practice.
    I’m 53 and just getting started. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my journey into the Yoga practice so far and expect it to be a fulfilling career move in the future. The entire practice and its underpinning theories are in some cases, quite daunting. The physical postures can be challenging to achieve perfect form. But from this, reading your words here I’m encouraged by the fact that with all your experience and expertise, you’ve come to a belief that over complicating and incorporating higher levels of physical difficulty in a general class is actually overwhelming for both the teacher and the student. It undermines the enjoyment and is not really conducive to overall wellness. I feel I get more from myself when my teacher keeps it relatively simple. It allows time for deeper connection and concentration without the constant verbal distractions to lift, twist, hold, move, adjust, look and breath. They’ll add the extra if the class is up for it and this is evaluated as we go along. But the idea is to ensure its not a fight with yourself to achieve something outside of your ability in a short space of time. When I started I was tense, I pushed hard, I sweated,,,and these where just the foundation postures. Rabbit pose (Sasangasana) nearly suffocated me at first until I learnt the correct techniques. My teacher would come to me and quietly say, soften your face, smile and enjoy the pose. This meant, take it back a step and progress with ease rather than brute force. Perfection will come over time.
    So for me as a new student I’m very aware of what it feels like if you think you have to physically keep up with the A+ class, pushing through barriers of pain and inflexible muscles to achieve that final ideal shape. It’s a battle and it can be a reason to quit. And that’s not what Yoga is. If someone wants to do something complex, harder and possibly associated with more risk of injury, great, !! that’s what “they” want, most likely because they can. But I bet the majority of a general class are not on that page. I believe more people are doing Yoga now who are just like me. They are people from all walks of life, with differing body shapes, physical abilities and purpose. The one thing we have in common is we are all doing a “hard” class because each of us is doing our “own” Yoga. They will go to their own edge, whatever that is for them and their teacher will guide them, support their journey and offer a new challenge along the way. I love Yoga and i think you’ve definitely tapped into the true essence of it. All we have to do is ensure everyone else does to. Nameste.🕉🙏

    • Nikki on 3 November 2020 at 11:00 am

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful commentary Geoff. You are absolutely spot on. I am sorry for such a tardy response! I have actually only just realised I had a reply – all these go on to the website dashboard for my approval but I had no email to let me know (which is what has happened in the past!). It is lovely to know that some things I think about do resonate and to know that yogis like you are actually reading my musings! Thank you again for taking the time to respond. Nikki.

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