Shanti Yoga and Ayurveda FAQ

I’m new to yoga.  Can I come to an open levels class?

Yes. While we do recommend attending a beginners class or series to fine tune your practice and learn the basics so you can practice safely, our All Levels Vinyasa classes are just that for all levels. Variations for every level of practitioner will be offered. Click here for our All Levels Vinyasa class description.

Can I borrow a mat? 

Yes. We offer rental mats for $2 each

Should I bring water to class?

No. We, of course, encourage you to drink water before and after class to stay hydrated. In yoga, though, we’re working with the pranic body, not just the musculoskeletal system. The problem is that water cools the system down and puts out the subtle fires. There is also the problem of mental distraction, because whenever one feels uncomfortable, instead of simply observing that feeling, one tends to want to get rid of it.

Should I eat before class?

No. If you are going for a Yoga asana practice – it is recommended that you don’t eat at least 2 (better 3) hours in advance. That greatly depends on the size of your meal. – It’s OK to have a few almonds even 1 hour before practice. On the other hand, if your meal was very heavy – even 3 hours may not be enough.

If your practice pranayama (breathing techniques) – it is recommended not to eat at least 5-6 hours in advance. Well, this is for advanced pranayama practitioners. 2-3 hours of gap for short and not very intense pranayama practice is OK. (You will know the answer fast if you keeping awareness of your body.)

Drink instead. If you feel really hungry – drink tea with milk and some sugar. Drink by very small sips. You will satisfy your stomach and your hungry mind this way.

I’ve never practiced before, which class should I take?

For beginners we encourage you to start with one of our Beginner Vinyasa or Intro to Ashtanga classes. Click here for class descriptions.

Do I need to preregister for class?

We do not require preregistration for classes but we do recommend it to guarantee your spot especially in evening and weekend classes that tend to be very full.

Is the studio heated?

We keep to studio “warm” to encourage your body to warm up and stay safe. During winter months we keep the heat around 78 degrees. During the warmer months we maintain “warmth” by keeping the windows closed during class and we do not run the AC during classes.

How many days a week am I required to practice?

This is a very personal question. The more you practice the more you will experience the benefits in your body and mind. We suggest at least 3 times a week but you need to listen to your body and do what works and feels right to you.

What do “om” and “namaste” mean?

OM: Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. It is said to be the sound of the universe. What does that mean?Somehow the ancient yogis knew what scientists today are telling us—that the entire universe is moving. Nothing is ever solid or still. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. We may not always be aware of this sound in our daily lives, but we can hear it in the rustling of the autumn leaves, the waves on the shore, the inside of a seashell.Chanting Om allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves—the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.

Namaste: (Aadil Palkhivala’s reply) The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. “Nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te” means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”

To perform Namaste, we place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is an especially deep form of respect. Although in the West the word “Namaste” is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture, in India, it is understood that the gesture itself signifies Namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing.

We bring the hands together at the heart chakra to increase the flow of Divine love. Bowing the head and closing the eyes helps the mind surrender to the Divine in the heart. One can do Namaste to oneself as a meditation technique to go deeper inside the heart chakra; when done with someone else, it is also a beautiful, albeit quick, meditation.

For a teacher and student, Namaste allows two individuals to come together energetically to a place of connection and timelessness, free from the bonds of ego-connection. If it is done with deep feeling in the heart and with the mind surrendered, a deep union of spirits can blossom.

Ideally, Namaste should be done both at the beginning and at the end of class. Usually, it is done at the end of class because the mind is less active and the energy in the room is more peaceful. The teacher initiates Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect toward her students and her own teachers and in return invites the students to connect with their lineage, thereby allowing the truth to flow—the truth that we are all one when we live from the heart. (Recognized as one of the world’s top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally renowned Yoga Centers™ in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is also a federally certified Naturopath, a certified Ayurvedic Health Science Practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified Shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.)

Should women practice yoga normally when menstruating?

First of all, there is no consensus on whether to avoid inversions during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The two opinions are basically divided between those who think that no women should practice inversions during menstruation and those who feel the choice varies from woman to woman.

Those who encourage a ban on inversions cite fears that certain physical problems may arise. Until recently, increased risk of endometriosis was considered the most common risk. But since more is known now about that disease, the idea has been debunked. There is also a theory that inversions may cause “vascular congestion” in the uterus resulting in excessive menstrual flow. If true, this risk is probably most relevant for women who hold inversions a long time. Some teachers say that since a woman’s energy is low during menstruation, high-energy poses such as inversions should be avoided. This makes sense, yet not all women experience low energy during menstruation; indeed, many feel quite energized.

Philosophically speaking, menstruation is considered to be apana, meaning that energetically, its vitality is downward-flowing. The argument against inversions during menstruation maintains that inversions will disturb this natural energetic flow. However, inversions are recommended in some systems of yoga as therapy to improve elimination of excess apana. In Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar recommends practicing inversions to alleviate menstrual problems such as heavy flow and irregular periods.

Since there are no known studies or research that makes a compelling argument to avoid inversions during menstruation, and since menstruation affects each woman differently and can vary from cycle to cycle, I am of the opinion that each woman is responsible for making her own decision. Pay attention to how you respond to inversions (indeed, ALL asanas) during your period. A short Headstand may be fine while a longer one isn’t; maybe you will find that backbends or twists adversely affect your period. If your energy is very low, restorative poses may be just the ticket, though you may find a more active sequence of standing poses alleviates cramps and the blues. You really won’t know what works and what doesn’t until you feel it in your own body.

The contradictions don’t stop there. Some teachers recommend avoidance of inversions such asSirsasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) while suggesting no such caution with other poses that invert the uterus, such as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Downward-Facing Dog.

The bottom line is that hatha yoga is full of contradictions and varied opinions, leaving each of us ultimately responsible for our own choices. Pay attention to your body and discover what works and what doesn’t—not just during your period but every day.

What does “vinyasa” mean?

Vinyasa means to like movement with breath and intention and or to arrange and place in a special way.

I’m not flexible. Can I do yoga?

Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that’s a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Come as you are and you will find that yoga practice will help you become more flexible.

This newfound agility will be balanced by strength, coordination, and enhanced cardiovascular health, as well as a sense of physical confidence and overall well-being.

All you really need to begin practicing yoga is your body, your mind, and a bit of curiosity. But it is also helpful to have a pair of sweat pants, leggings, or shorts, and a t-shirt that’s not too baggy. No special footgear is required because you will be barefoot. It’s nice to bring a towel to class with you. As your practice develops you might want to buy your own yoga mat, but most studios will have mats and other props available for you.

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