Saturday, 17 May 2014

What might surprise you about yoga - updated

Oh my goodness, I love yoga! Sorry to give the game away so early in the blog post, but really, I do! So I want to share the joy and bust a few myths (Scroll to the end for my caveat).
  •  You don't need to be flexible or fit or young or skinny. A good teacher will encourage everyone to work to their own level and will give different options for the poses. You can even do yoga with longstanding injuries or disabilities.
  •  Yoga is a real workout - with regular practice you gain balance, flexibility and strengthen muscles through you whole body.
  • Yoga doesn't usually involve spiritual or religious practice (again, it depends on the version you do, but the types I've done don't involve anything more alarming than a few easily ignorable references to chakras.)
I did my first yoga class for over two years last night. I was really tense and stressed - I woke up with a headache due to the tension in my neck and jaw. I toddled along to my gym and met the tiny perky young blonde woman who took the class. We sat and breathed for a bit, we went through various poses and stretches - mostly downward facing dog, lots and lots of downward facing dog.

Downward facing dog yoga pose
 Supposedly some of the benefits of this particular pose are that it:
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
Downward facing dog and the rest of the poses certainly did a wonderful job of relaxing the tension in my neck, jaw, shoulders and hamstrings. To end the class we did a brief relaxation exercise lying flat on our backs on the floor - bliss! Then I floated out, feeling a million times better than when I entered the room.

So basically, I'm enthusiastically recommending that you give it go (if you haven't already). I did Hatha yoga for a couple of years in New Zealand. My class yesterday was Ashtanga yoga which is supposed to be a lot more physically demanding, but actually it was very similar to my Hatha yoga class, just a touch faster in moving from pose to pose. This is a helpful article about the different styles of yoga.

What do you think - are you already a fan? Have you tried it and thought it's not for you?

I did my first (and last) class with a new yoga teacher last night and now I see why people can be apprehensive about it. It was Ashtanga yoga similar to the first class I did at this gym but the atmosphere was competitive with only one option given for each pose. The (male) instructor adjusted people to help them get into the right position. That's okay but one of my adjustments involved full body contact which isn't my cup of tea with someone I've just met!

We were asked to do quite difficult balancing poses and ended the class with a couple of inversions that were completely beyond me. I sat there feeling like a fool while people attempted to balance their whole body weight on the arms while upside down. Not a great experience.

So my summary is, find out as much as you can about classes you're thinking of taking, the teaching style, the difficulty level etc. I've experienced four or five yoga teachers and this is the first one that I couldn't be doing with, so I'm sure you'll be able to find one who suits.


  1. I am a huge fan! Yoga makes me feel better than any other body work. It's not a competitive activity and a conscious teacher removes all pressure to do it "right" or "better than someone else". Absolutely wonderful for stress, strength, flexibility and range of movement.

    1. I aim to be yoga-ing into my 60's and beyond! When I did it in New Zealand, there were some inspirational women who were staying fit, healthy and active with the help of yoga.


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