Yoga in Barcelona: a beginner's guide
Don't know your asana from your elbow? Here's a short introduction to yoga by Julie Knight, plus Explorer Publishing’s listing of yoga classes and teachers in Barcelona.
To many people, the word yoga conjures up the image of a long-haired, bearded Indian man sitting in the lotus position and chanting. It has been increasingly in the public eye, helped by celebrities such as Madonna, Geri Halliwell and Gwyneth Paltrow singing its praises.
Reported improvements such as toned upper arms, trim stomach and firm thighs and bums have encouraged them to take up yoga, but for the uninitiated and uninformed, what is it all about? Yoga originated in India around 6,000 years ago. The practice sometimes seems to have an air of mystery about it, which perhaps prevents many people from trying a class. It can be seen as new-age, 'alternative' or a bit of a fad in the exercise world. In reality it is a holistic practice that benefits body, mind and spirit.
People take up yoga for a surprisingly wide range of reasons: to gain flexibility, to tone-up or lose weight, to improve their ability to relax or to prepare their body for a physical event such as childbirth. Regular practice of yoga will improve your general fitness and body shape, make you stronger, calmer and more able to cope with the stresses and strains of life. Types of Hatha (or physical) yoga is broken down into eight stages or limbs.
Traditionally these are followed progressively to reach Samadhi, the last stage, where the spirit is liberated and becomes 'at one' with the universe. Yoga practised in the west mainly encapsulates stages three and four. Stage three (Asana) is the practise of the postures or poses and stage four (Pranayama) is rhythmic control of the breath.
There are many styles of Hatha yoga currently being taught, all of which have slightly different emphases.
• Astanga yoga is the form of yoga currently enjoying the most attention. Also known as power yoga, the moves or transitions between asanas are performed at a higher speed than usual, thus providing an aerobic workout, missing in the alternative yoga forms.
• Iyengar yoga, based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar from Pune, India, concentrates on the postural alignment of the body and limbs. The practice makes use of ropes, blocks and belts to aid in the attainment of the asanas.
• Sivananda yoga focuses on the flow of energy in the spine. This style is built around a specific sequence of twelve postures or poses.
What to look for in a yoga class
Yoga includes elements such as stretching, balancing and posturing - the combination of which can seem like a contortionist act to the newcomer. However, a good yoga teacher will tailor the postures to suit the different abilities within a class. Some classes will focus heavily on meditation and visualisation, but for others, meditation simply refers to the period of cool-down or relaxation at the end of the session. Controlled breathing is a hugely important part of the practice.
Yoga is suitable for both men and women and can be enjoyed by the full range of fitness abilities. Even if you have trouble touching your toes, yoga can still be open to you. Classes can be found by looking in the telephone book or by recommendation from friends or work colleagues.
There are numerous teachers in Bareclona and a few are listed below. Try out one or two sessions before committing yourself to a lengthy course, as your relationship with your yoga teacher is one of the most important factors in your enjoyment and progress of yoga.
Yoga in Barcelona: Great for beginners
Barcelona is a great place to learn as a beginner because it is still relatively new here. Many of the studios offer one free taster class. Most centres require you to wear white clothing. If you are content with simply one weekly session of yoga, try your local community centre (www.bcn.es/centrescivics) for trimester-long courses, as they remain the most reasonably priced group classes in town.
C/ Muntaner, 22
93 451 28 00
Carlos Claramunt is an extremely professional yoga institute, with over 25 years of teaching experience in Barcelona (Instituto Sundari) and Sant Cugat (Instituto Ganesha). Hatha yoga is the main discipline covered, with occasional meditation and belly dancing (danza oriental) sessions, each running for 75 minutes. Prices become more reasonable (and worthwhile) once you opt for the higher monthly tariffs; EUR 70 for three classes per week, EUR 85 for four. As a final tip; ayurvedic, Thai and holistic massages are highly recommended.
Escola Yoga Vida
C/ Sant Guillem
27, entlo 1ª
93 209 33 98
This school has been providing an introduction to yoga since 2000, under the direction of Habib Ba. Group classes cost a monthly fee of EUR 56 (two 75-minute classes per week, at any time). The limited classes are scheduled to suit working hours, starting at 07:15, 14:30 and 18:00. This is ideal for professionals but if you would rather practise yoga during the day to avoid the post-work rush, this may not be the place for you.
93 318 11 07
Happy Yoga have the most extensive number of classes in the city and do have a happy vibe. The yoga-only centre has five branches in the city specialising in Kundalini, Hatha and Tibetan yoga; the most central of these is in Plaça Universitat. All levels are welcome, from beginners to advanced. The first trial class is free, but do try to wear white cotton clothing if possible. Monthly membership costs about EUR 50, depending on the number of monthly classes that you take. Classes in meditation, tai chi, Pilates and specially compiled children’s classes are also available.
Nectar Kundalini Yoga
C/ de Sicilia, 236
93 265 89 26
Nectar Kundalini is for those who are looking to practice a more spiritual form of yoga, incorporating mantras, music and active and passive meditation techniques. This intimate setting, complete with floor cushions and incense, may not be to everyone’s taste but it certainly awakens the senses. If you want to maintain good habits at home, courses in healthy eating and vegetarian cooking run throughout the year.
Pl Universitat, 4,
93 451 29 28
Hatha yoga and Ashtanga vinyasa are the two variants that Yoga Studio work with. Beginner, intermediate and teacher-training classes are given. One of the advantages of this school is the flexibility over prices and when you can attend. Monthly payments of EUR 80 cover an unlimited number of lessons, at any time except Sunday. If you would rather take part in yoga classes sporadically, there are cards available in blocks of four, eight or 12 two-hour lessons (EUR 52, EUR 96, EUR 120 respectively). A one-off two hour class costs EUR 14.
Sala de yoga
Calle Ferran, 6,
93 304 24 04
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