* Because it makes me feel like a Warrior Goddess riding the Unicorn of Love….. and seriously, who doesn’t need more of that in their life?!
Why Do Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice which is becoming increasingly popular in the West. If you haven’t had much experience of it, you might think of it as something for the lithe and bendy; something for lycra-clad contortionists or people with hippy leanings. Whilst there are certainly some extraordinary looking postures out there, and some of us (ok, busted) have a fondness for incense, that is a tiny, tiny part of the whole story.
Yoga is for EVERYONE.
Not bendy? Saying you’re too stiff for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty for a bath! And improved flexibility is just one benefit.
What could yoga do for you?
Increase strength, stability – and yes, flexibility
In yoga we work with our own body weight to build strength. Some movements are repetitive and form a sequence, at other times we will hold a posture for a period of time. We work with the deep core muscles which improve stability, balance and posture, and we gently encourage the body’s muscles to stretch and become more mobile.
Give you a healthy spine and joints for life
In a yoga class we aim to move the spine in all directions (bending forwards and backwards, side to side, and twisting) and to move every joint in its full range of motion. You will feel a noticeable difference in the freedom of your body at the end of your very first class, and practised over time these movements result in greater freedom and comfort within the spine and joints for life.
Alleviate stress (both mental and physical)
The principal factor that makes yoga different from a stretching or fitness class is the way we use the breath. Each movement is performed in time with full, deep breathing; this provides a “body-mind-spirit” link and makes yoga a moving meditation. This way of breathing is medically proven to reduce mental stress, something very prevalent in our fast-paced society. The attention we pay to the movements, and the fact that we are utilising muscles which are neglected in everyday activities and workouts, means that physical stressors placed on the body are alleviated, and we begin to reverse the habitual patterns which modern life impacts on our bodies, such as being hunched over a computer or steering wheel.
Improve athletic performance
By strengthening the smaller accessory muscles and stabilising the core, as well as improving lung capacity, athletic performance is enhanced. For example, you are less likely to sprain an ankle whilst running, thanks to the balancing postures which stabilise and strengthen the support of that joint; your posture improves thanks to the core work, so whilst lifting weights you reduce the strain on your back; you breathe and utilise oxygen more fully and so have greater stamina in team sports.
Bring a sense of peacefulness, clarity and wellbeing
The primary mental purpose of yoga is to still the fluctuations of the mind. This comes about through the breathwork, and feels like giving your brain a blissful bath to wash away the monkey-mind chatter! The effects last beyond the duration of the class, and as your practice grows, so too will the sense of mental clarity and wellbeing.
Improve focus and concentration
We’ve already seen that yoga has a major focus on the breath, which stills the mind. The other things which we concentrate on are a fixed gaze-point, and the sensations within the body. When we listen to what our bodies are telling us, we learn to find our “edge” – the point at which we are applying ourselves, without pushing beyond what is safe or wise. By paying attention to this, as well as keeping our gaze fixed on a certain point, we develop a single-pointed awareness, training the brain to concentrate on the task at hand and not be so easily distracted – which is a very helpful skill in everyday life!
Improve your sleep
The reduction of stress hormones in the body which yoga facilitates has a deeply therapeutic effect on sleeping patterns. Over time, sleep becomes deeper and more restful; you fall asleep more easily and awaken feeling fully refreshed.
No special equipment
You can do yoga wherever suits you. In time you might like to have your own sticky mat, but these are inexpensive and you don’t need one to enjoy the benefits of a few mindful postures or stretches. All you really need for yoga is the breath – and we always have that with us!
Available to all
Yoga’s many benefits are for EVERYONE. It can be adapted to suit you no matter your age, whether you are fit and able-bodied, recovering from injury or living with reduced mobility.
If you can breathe – you can do yoga!