Thursday, 23 October 2014

Why yoga?? I'll tell you why....

Find your flow..

I am a devout yogi, but I'll admit that I was nervous going into my first few classes.

I wasn’t very flexible, I was worried that in that room full of gorgeous, stretchy people I wouldn't fit in or know any poses.  This fear of new exercise comes from the first time I tried an aerobics class at a big gym years ago. It was fast, upbeat and everybody else seemed to know each other and had the moves down pat. I couldn’t keep up, hated jumping around like a drunk cheerleader so I quickly bailed and vowed never to return.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been scared off group fitness like that!

I was dreading a similar feeling of un-coordination and exclusion for my first yoga class. How thankful I was to be wrong! Everybody was smiling and relaxed as I entered the room, the instructor told me a good spot to put my mat so I could follow the others in the class. There were women and men of all shapes, ages and fitness levels and an atmosphere of quiet peacefulness. I felt comfortable right away and even surprised myself by managing to do some more advanced postures (the instructor usually gives several variations to cater to all levels.) I left feeling relaxed and happy, but I’d still had a good workout as I could feel that familiar burn in my muscles.

 That was several years ago and I now practice several different styles of yoga and have  really reaped the benefits. So many positive aspects of yoga have spilled over into my life and it’s truly such a rewarding practice. You not only condition your body but you learn so much about yourself too.

Yoga has been around for thousands of years, in some form or another.  For centuries monks have been using it as a physical preparation for meditation. Yoga shares characteristics of the ancient practices of Hinduism and Buddhism in their earliest forms.  Rishis or dedicated Vedic Yogis used physical postures and meditation to teach their people how to live in divine harmony.

Yoga was introduced to the West in the early 19th Century. Yoga Guru Swami Sivananda was one of the founding gurus to bring yoga to Europe and America. He developed the Five Principles of Yoga which are still at the heart of most modern yoga styles.

  1. Savasana or proper relaxation;
  2. Asanas or proper exercise;
  3. Pranayama or proper breathing;
  4. Proper diet; and
  5. Dhyana or positive thinking and Meditation

Yoga develops strength and flexibility, while soothing your nerves and calming your mind.

The asanas affect the whole body, muscles and joints, skin and internal organs as well as improving your overall fitness.

Savasana is when you allow your body to completely relax and absorb the benefits of the practice. It's great for your mind as it releases any stress and allows you to just be in the moment.

Pranayama breathing is good for the lungs and respiratory system and can be used in everyday life to assist during other exercise, meditation or as a relaxation technique.

Because of its origins, yoga can be a very spiritual practice and most styles have an element of meditation. This doesn’t suddenly make you a zoned out hippie- it can just be sitting quietly and thinking positive thoughts for a few moments!

When we feel good after yoga practice we are more likely to make good decisions when it comes to the rest of our lifestyle. I can guarantee that after a class you will be more likely to crave fresh, healthy food or a green tea rather than a bag of chips or greasy meal! Being mindful in the practice of yoga makes you more mindful about your body overall, and what you are using to fuel it!

Everybody has different experiences with yoga, some are drawn to the fitness and weight loss benefits so prefer styles such as Vinasya Flow, Aerial Yoga and Bikram Yoga.

For those needing to unwind the Hatha and Restore styles are very uplifting and meditative.

There are now lots of modern fusion styles of yoga such as Barre (A mix of Yoga, Pilates and Ballet) and even Hip Hop yoga!

Don’t be scared to get started… roll out your mat and find your flow.