Saturday, 7 July 2012

We need to talk about... Yoga

A lot of people believe that yoga is a great way to keep fit and relieve stress. But there is a popular myth that it's not very active. To use the words of actor James Nesbitt, appearing in a TV commercial several years ago, yoga is "a bunch of ladies going 'ommm' - how hard can it be?"
A yoga class.
This pose is called Warrior 1, or Virabradrasana 1.
Photo: lululemon athletica

In the TV ad, James' character enrols in a yoga class to impress his new girlfriend. He ends up falling over on the floor in spectacular fashion, when he over-estimates his ability to balance on one leg! Which goes to show that yoga is more than just meditation, and definitely not restricted to women.

There are different forms of yoga: some have gentle stretching exercises, some have poses that need focus and concentration, and some types build stamina. Even then, the forms that concentrate on stretches and balance can make people out of breath (eg. hatha yoga, see picture for an example pose), and the more active forms (eg. ashtanga) share some similarities with an aerobics class. There are even fun classes designed specially for children (in fact, many children in India learn yoga).

For me, the most important part of yoga is at the end. You don't leave a class panting for breath and ready for a sit down - you have a sit down or lie down as part of the class at the end! This is the meditation part of yoga. As well as letting your body rest, it's wonderfully relaxing for your mind, too. You can leave a class feeling chilled out, or energised and raring to go.

And that's the real beauty of yoga. There is no competition, because everyone learns their own capabilities and limits. You're encouraged to improve over time, but never by forcing yourself. It's up to you what you get out of yoga, but you never leave a class feeling quite the same way as when you arrived.
Most instructors will hold classes for beginners - so don't be like James' TV character and try to jump straight into the intermediate level!

So if you're feeling stressed, or if you feel that you should be doing some exercise but don't like the gym, then look for a local yoga class and sign up for a taster session.

Photo credit: Derivative work based on "Tent of Warriors" by lululemon athletica, obtained under CC-BY licence, via .

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