About yoga

 

So what is yoga?

Yoga is generally thought to have originated in India 3-5000 years ago. The term 'yoga' means 'union'. There are different interpretations as to what kind of union, but I think the idea that it's a union of the mind, body and breath can make sense to everyone.

Many people think yoga is just about physical poses, but actually, in its broadest sense, yoga is a belief system and whole way of life. Yoga practices can include physical exercise, breathing, meditation, study and more. You can take it as far as you choose. Most of the content on this site refers to the modern postural aspect of yoga.

Evidence suggests that modern yoga is pretty different to what was practised thousands of years ago in ancient India. Some say that what we practise today can only be traced back about a hundred years, as opposed to thousands. Regardless of origins, it’s obvious that, as decades have passed and yoga has spread to different cultures, it has picked up lots of different influences. Today, there is a huge array of yoga styles, schools of thought and opinions. If you’re interested in learning more about yoga, I encourage you to experiment and find what works for you. As I often say in my classes, we’re all different.

Our Parks class,  E20

What are the benefits?

Many people think that the physical aspect of yoga is only good for flexibility and relaxation. Not true! Yoga has a wider range of benefits than you may think. Having said that, it's not a miracle cure-all and there are some outdated, dubious claims made too. Here is my realistic take on why you may want to try it:

  • It makes you feel good! I think the main reason most yogis keep at it is because of how they feel after a yoga class. There’s a great quote (the Internet tells me it’s from the author Stephen R. Covey): 'We see the world, not as it is, but as we are.' When we feel good, everything seems good, and vice versa.
  • It can improve physical fitness, including strength, stamina, mobility and more.
  • It helps to reduce stress.
  • It can help you manage your emotions.
  • It can improve balance (falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75).
  • It can improve concentration and focus.
  • It can improve posture.
  • It can improve general health. Yoga increases awareness of what is going on in the body, which can lead to changes in lifestyle.
  • It can teach us useful life lessons. Many things we learn about ourselves and our bodies when practising yoga can be applied to life in general.
  • Evidence-based research suggests that yoga can help a wide range of health conditions, including: anxiety, back pain, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder. It has also been shown to help women who are getting uncomfortable symptoms related to menopause and pregnancy. Lots of people have stories about how yoga has helped them.

Who can do Yoga?

Yoga’s just for women, isn’t it? Especially white, skinny, hippy women, who like getting their toned, flawless legs behind their heads in front of impossibly stunning oceans and sunsets. Right?

Wrong! OK, I might be a white woman, but still, I’m really bored of seeing the same old images of yoga in the media. There's a reason I don't have flattering, Photoshopped pictures of me in advanced poses on this site! Anyone can do yoga; regardless of age, gender, race, class, body shape, religious/spiritual beliefs or anything else. As I’ve already said, there are so many styles out there; most people could probably find a class that suits them. Yoga is versatile. Poses can be modified to suit you no matter what level you’re at and also if you’re injured, have a health condition or are pregnant.

Similarly, you don't need to be 'flexible'. Who cares if you can't touch your toes or tie yourself in knots?! Is that really going to improve your life? Yoga is not a performance or about comparing yourself to other people (or those media images). It's not about straining and forcing (which is unhelpful and can lead to injury). It's about accepting who and where you are. It's about listening to your body and doing the best thing for you.

What happens in a yoga class?

In yoga, we generally use mats to give cushioning and prevent the hands and feet from slipping (although this isn't necessary when we're outdoors on grass). In one of my yoga classes, we start by establishing our breathing and getting relaxed and focused. Then we warm up (which often involves a flowing sequence of poses called 'sun salutations'). Following this, we do a range of different poses to strengthen and mobilise the body. At the end, there is a guided relaxation. You should hopefully leave feeling energised, but calm and positive!

How do I prepare for a yoga class?

  • Don’t eat for at least 90 minutes beforehand.
  • Wear comfortable clothes that you can move in easily (yoga is generally practised barefoot) and remove jewellery. You may want extra layers for the relaxation part of the class when your body cools down.
  • Tell the teacher about any health conditions or injuries you have, or if you're pregnant.
  • You may want to bring some drinking water.

 

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