Cheltenham Pilates and Yoga expert insight: Picking the perfect yoga class

If you need some help telling your Ashtanga from your Vinyasa, the team at Cheltenham Pilates and Yoga is here to help, with expert tips on how to pick the perfect class.

Cheltenham Pilates and Yoga offers its top tips on picking the perfect yoga class
Cheltenham Pilates and Yoga offers its top tips on picking the perfect yoga class

Unless you’re an experienced yogi, terms like Bikram, Ashtanga and Restorative yoga can all seem a bit overwhelming.

But with an array of yoga classes on offer in Cheltenham and around Gloucestershire, there’s never been a better time to try and improve your mental and physical health.

Ian Davis is the owner of Cheltenham Pilates and Yoga. Speaking to SoGlos, Ian explains the differences between each class with the aim of helping both beginners and those looking to try something new, to pick the perfect class.

For more information, visit directly.

Why are there are so many different names for yoga classes? I imagine it can be quite confusing, especially for people new to yoga.

The names are really difficult because some of them are traditional, some are more modern, some are more descriptive names and some of them are just trademarked names, so it can be difficult to choose one from the next.

Where they vary a lot is around intensity. So, all of them include similar poses, similar ideas, same breathing, same philosophy. But what really varies between them is how intense each class is.

If someone is a complete beginner, what kind of class names should they be looking out for?

The Hatha classes are usually a slower, easier paced class. That doesn’t mean they’re not strong, but in all classes, you just work to your own level. So even as a beginner you can walk into an intense class, as long as you’re reasonably fit, you’re going to be just fine.

But if you’re a complete beginner, I’d recommend starting with a Hatha class that includes breathing work, strength and mobility work.

A bit stronger than that would be Vinyasa classes which are more flowing, more intense. There’re more standing poses, stronger poses, maybe longer holds and they’re a little bit more cardiovascular.

The other side would be to go a step further with an Ashtanga class, which is very cardiovascular. You’re definitely going to get sweaty in a class like that.

Can you talk us through some of the more advanced or unusual classes people might come across?

The Jivamukti class is one to consider, because it covers the more philosophical side of yoga – things like meditation, chanting and good music in the background.

Then to go the other way there are Scaravelli classes which we offer, they’re very detailed and soft in their movement. Yin classes are ones where you hold poses for a long time to get the most stretch, so if tightness is an issue, that’s a great one to try.

The other one to consider is Restorative yoga, so what you’re doing is basically lying down in different positions for half and hour.

You’ve got more than 18 years’ experience as a yoga teacher, what’s your favourite class to take part in, and your favourite to teach?

Personally, I love Ashtanga. I love doing that sequence, and I really enjoy Vinyasa. They’re very similar, but Ashtanga is a little more intense. I guess I like to feel like I’ve worked hard.

How can beginners overcome any worries about getting things wrong or not being good enough?

It’s difficult because people do get put off. One of the things I hear a lot when I tell people I’m a yoga teacher is ‘oh I couldn’t do yoga, I’m not very flexible’ or ‘I’m not strong enough’ and ‘I couldn’t sit still.’

But the thing is, those are not pre-requisites, they’re kind of what happens when you work at it a little bit. So as a beginner coming into class, it is difficult to do some of the moves, and it is hard to be as flexible as you need to be, but if you find a good teacher, they should be able to teach a class for people who’ve been doing yoga for 20 years, as well as people who’ve not exercised since they left school.

Starting either in a beginner’s class is always a good choice for people who want to build their confidence, and after a while they just let go and will learn to only do what you can do.

What do you think will be the next trend for yoga?

I’ve seen VOGA, which is yoga done to Madonna music, there’s been heavy rock yoga, and also hot yoga in recent years where they really turn up the heat!

But I think there’s a consistency through the last 4,000 years that yoga has been around, it’s still really popular, and there’s still this focus of really turning inwards and helping people to be happier and healthier.

I think that’s really at the heart of a good yoga practice – health and fitness, but also mental health and fitness as well.

Switching off, mindfulness and good mental health is something that’s much more on the agenda these days, is that bringing lots more people to yoga?

That’s what the original practice was designed for, it was so it could prepare people for meditation and get the body in perfect condition. The mind needs to be calm and settled, to get people ready to meditate.

We run quite a few meditation classes and they’re really well attended, but some people just find it too difficult to just come in and meditate.

That’s why yoga classes are a form of moving meditation. They give you a chance to quieten your mind and really focus, and let go of stress. They work just as well as a mindfulness class. It’s really good.

For more information, visit directly.

More from Outdoors