In this 9-part series we will look at all the aspects that make Pranakriya Yoga a unique practice in the world of Western Yoga.
Traditionally, a student would learn yoga by studying one-on-one with a teacher, who would offer the student individualized techniques and sequences specific to their body and understanding. The customized and personalized practice was intended to help the student progress towards their goals for liberation and universal oneness. Contemporary yoga students have many lineages, styles, and intensities from which to choose. New yoga studios and styles appear often, creating a changing and sometimes complex environment for students to navigate. Today, most students learn and practice yoga in group classes, where the teacher simultaneously offers the same sequence of body and breath activities to all students, perhaps offering modifications and variations to support an individual’s abilities and needs.
Elements of a Pranakriya Yoga Class
While the actual content of a yoga class can vary among traditions, many yoga classes follow a similar arc from beginning to end. In Pranakriya Yoga classes, we use the following model for organizing the components of a class:
- Opening Centering
- Opening Pranayama
- Asana Sequence
- Closing Pranayama
- Closing Centering
- Facilitation or Reflection
The Pranakriya Class Spectrum: Pranakriya yoga has three categories of classes, which we can think of as three points on a spectrum, with many gradations between. Each class is oriented toward students with different capacities and interests and each class has a different intention. By learning to recognize students’ capacities and interests and cultivating the skills necessary to lead these three classes, we develop the ability to bring yoga to a great variety of students, meet students where they are, and guide them into authentic yoga.
Gentle Yoga Class:The focus of this class is stress release and gentle stretching and muscle strengthening. The class consists of simple breathing exercises (Dirgha and Ujjayi), with warmups, kriyas, and simple postures. This class is appropriate for students new to yoga as well as elderly folks and those with injuries. The class is intended to be very internal and the teacher is predominantly in a nurturing role.
Meditative Yoga Class:This class is led with a balance of stretching and strengthening and is intended to have an internal focus. All pranayamas may be used, and warmups and kriyas are followed by postures. Postures may be led with long holding times and a focus on deep breathing. This class is most appropriate for students who have learned the basic postures and are comfortable doing them with their eyes closed. Students in these classes will be safe if they can listen to their bodies and are able to make adjustments to go deeper into stretches or, if their bodies start to strain, can back off or come out of the posture. The teacher is in both the nurturing and coaching role.
Yoga Workout Class:This class is predominantly athletic and is usually a Vinyasa flow (Surya Namaskara). It begins with pranayama and quickly moves to asanas. Postures are held for three to seven breaths and there is little or no rest time between asanas. Postures are sequenced so they are the warmups and preparation for the ones to follow. Poses can also be arranged so that the muscles worked in one posture are resting in the next. The teacher is mostly in the role of coach.