If you have never set foot on a yoga mat you may wonder what all the fuss is about and why friends say you must try it. Or perhaps you have been to a class or two and just thought it’s not for you. At the other end of the scale you may love yoga just as much as I do (fully paid up kool-aid drinking members over here!)
So why is yoga different from other forms of exercise and why should you try it? Firstly, it’s low impact. Gentle on your joints and body, brilliant if you are injured or pregnant as you can adapt the pose to work for you. Your yoga teacher is merely your guide and usually demonstrates or talks through easy or hard variations of the same poses.
Secondly, yoga is non-competitive. This is a hard pill to swallow as we all naturally compete, but it’s really not about executing the perfect pose. Sure it’s fun to try (and laugh while falling over) but more importantly is what is going on in your head. The combination of stretching, breathing and exertion provides space for your nervous system to relax. You may hear yoga referred to as a ‘moving meditation’ as you are allowing yourself to focus on one thing, your yoga flow.
Thirdly, yoga will complement your existing workout or training regime (it’s ok if you have none by increasing your strength and flexibility. People are often surprised at their first yoga class at how HARD it is! There may not be any equipment or weights involved but fast dynamic yoga is most definitely a cardio workout. Even the ubiquitous downward dog pose is not as easy as it looks (one of my male yogis renamed it ‘desperate dog’ – you may understand why after an hour’s yoga). As long muscle fibres are utilised more often in yoga than short muscle fibres, you will elongate the muscles attached to your skeleton, hence most yogis look long and lean not compact and muscly as (for example) sprinters or boxers appear.
The fourth reason yoga is amazing is because it connects you to your breath. The word yoga means ‘union’ or ‘to yoke’; the concept being that you are uniting your breath and body through your practice. Never underestimate how vital this is – we take approximately 26,000 breaths a day and notice about three of them. Breathing more deeply helps you to feel calmer, less anxious and worried. It slows your heart rate and prevents your adrenal glands from producing adrenaline (our ‘fight or flight’ hormone). If you are constantly producing adrenaline you will be exhausted, have a short attention span and feel permanently on edge. So whatever you are doing right now, take a big DEEP breath and let out a loud sigh. Feel better already? I hope so! Come join me on the yoga mat soon.