That was a little over 6 months ago and since then yoga has become part of our regular activity. If diaries allow we have yoga twice a week and occasionally add in a de-stress session for good measure.
This post isn't to try and convince you to try yoga it is our guide to what we have got from yoga and if that inspires you to try it then great. If it just provides a bit of insight into what yoga is then that's all good and if you already yoga and you can think of any points to add by all means share them.
A year ago I didn't even think that I was a yoga type of person - I'm glad I didn't let that stop me trying it.
Put simply Yoga is: a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India (thanks wikipedia)
Or as I like to call it focused stretching.
Every session starts with us finding our breath, what this means in reality is actually focusing on breathing and slowing it to an equal inhale and exhale. Even if you aren't doing yoga this way of breathing can really calm you down. The theory being that if you are focusing on controlling your breathing you can focus on little else.
Once everyone in the class has found their breath it is then about focusing on being in the practice. I really like how our yoga teacher always starts with the same mantra - 'you can't change what as happened in your day or your week, you can't start on tomorrow and worrying about the future is wasted energy so focus on now' - or something like that, I tend to be too zen to take notes.
The classes can be big, small, mixed sexes, single sex, hot, relaxed, warm, intense, by candle light, beginner, intermediate or advance. They can wake you up, energise you or relax you. This is what I am really starting to love about yoga, it is so many things and often so many things in the same class.
Not only that but it is truly for everyone. (I read this post that I loved on the subject Fat girls do yoga too).
And you can do it anywhere - we even tried it at sea! Tried being the key word, see here.
In the three months we have been attending classes I have seen men and women in their 80's attending the same class as me and doing it just as well. That's the thing, almost every move has a 'version' based on your level. Sure if you can swing your leg above your head and casually hold it there then go for it but in most cases the easiest pose will start at a lower level - lift your leg for example. Our teacher always says 'yogi's' choice and lets us pick the level.
Here's where my stretching comment comes in, every move in yoga is about stretching. From the tips of your toes to your finger tips in a class you will work everything. The core will be a central focus as that's where the strength comes from but take last nights class we balanced, we twisted, we stretched backwards, bent forwards, we stretched our legs, our arms, our necks - in fact I'm not sure what we didn't stretch. And because it is just you working with your body it is all done within your capability range. I am astonished by what my body can do.
The other thing that never fails to surprise me is how one class I will pulling out new poses with ease and then when I try it again a few days later my body can't get there. This is what meant by 'go to where you are feeling it' and it is a phrase I focus on. Nothing in yoga is about failing, it is all about trying and if one day your body is feeling it and allows you to forward fold with a leg behind your back then go for it.
Looking around it is also interesting to see that some people are flexible in one pose and stiff in another. Everyone is different.
The breath is the key to success though and even if all you do in a session is breath and stretch a little you will still feel the benefit.
In any class the focus is always inwards too so while I was ready to be intimated by the pro's a few sessions in I realised by focusing on them I was actually losing focus on my practice. I still look around to ensure I'm doing it right but it's more to check I haven't misheard something. In our new yoga studio the teacher is easier to see as the classes are smaller but as the teacher often walks around helping people get the pose right they are never the main focus.
Since starting yoga I sit up straighter, I have core muscles that I forgot about and I feel fitter. The stretching is something I do at home after a session at my desk and it feels so good. Who knew that something that is ultimately simple could make such a difference.
I am also learning a new language. While even those who have no clue what yoga is can joke about the downward dog, I now complete my vinyasa with it. In our flow class we focus on going from a pose to high plank, dropping the knees, entering cobra then rising to downward dog and it all makes complete sense. After the initial cat, cow, happy baby poses we are now in eagle, reverse warrior, warrior III (that looks like a T), tree, half moon, and I enjoy ending in shavasana (or corpse pose = lying on your back) if you are interesting in checking out more poses see here. Kalimukti.com is an online yoga platform and has shared 78 beginner yoga poses (helpfully in alphabetical order if you remember a name but not a pose). There are also online classes available if you want to try yoga at home with guidance.
|A vinyasa or flow or moves|
The points I raised in the blog post after 3 sessions are still true but over time I have figured out why a yoga body is so rocking. It isn't necessarily skinny but it is strong - in mind and body. I hope with continued focus and work I can claim a yoga body too - as well as a healthy mind :)
If you want to try out a few simple poses before attending a class (you don't need to) but here's some to try: http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/beginner-yoga-poses-workout/ or check out Kalimukti for a free trial.