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1) Yoga and You

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Article Originally Submitted 2003

As this issue is about fitness, I thought that I would write a little some thing about Yoga. Now, I am the world’s worst person to ask about any form of exercise, as I don’t do any on a regular basis… I am lazy, and spend far too much time on the Internet, talking to virtual people about all sorts of stuff! However, when I do get myself motivated, I do like to do a yoga session.

Yoga is marvellous for virtually everyone, and very accessible to almost all people. There are few people that cannot do any Yoga at all (People that have had major spinal injuries should not attempt Yoga without first consulting a teacher) and most styles of Yoga can be adapted to suit almost any body type.

Yoga is completely non-competitive. There are no comparisons made as to how much you can do as opposed to how much the person on the next mat to you in a class can do. Your body can only move so far and to force a posture in Yoga is wrong. Pain whilst performing postures is also wrong. That saying, the postures come to you with regular practise. Some, you will find easy right off of the bat, others, you will be wondering if you will ever get to the full posture, or sometimes, even anything approximating it!

Indeed, you may even never get the posture, but that doesn’t mean that where you are getting is not doing you any good! The very act of trying will improve your practise. It can take years for some people to get into some postures, and all the while you are trying, the better you are getting!

For me, Yoga is about four things:

Balance: Not just the physical ability to hold a posture, but that the action of performing and holding the postures promote balance in the body’s systems. Take, for instance the Shoulder stand, (Sarvanga-asana) This pose is a Thyroid Stimulator, and so of particular interest to us dieters, as well as easing out the back vertebrae and inducing release from fatigue.

Breathing: Pranayama, the breath of life. Oxygen is needed by every system and cell in the body, and the postures helps Blood and Lymph flow, so getting the oxygen to places that it might otherwise “bypass” in its daily sluggishness, and of course more oxygen helps to burn that fat and give you more energy! Most of us do not breathe properly, we use only the top half of our lungs, breathing with our ribcages, rather than with our diaphragm, This doesn’t fully get rid of carbon dioxde, which also means we are not bringing in fresh oxygen! So just the act of proper breathing is of tremendous benefit, if you never do anything more advanced that Mountain pose! (Tada-asana)

Flexibility: Basically, stiff joints mean you are “under stress”, in both Body and Spirit. In performing the postures, breathing correctly and doing the required wind up/wind down relaxation/meditation techniques that accompany most yoga sessions, you are getting your body to be “in tune” with itself, and its surroundings, which in turn promotes the ability to be flexible, and not just in body. There is a whole spiritual system that underlies Yoga, but you do not have to know any of it to feel the bodily benefit and clear mindedness that a good Yoga session gives to you!

Making a space in time to become yourself: Primarily through the meditations, you are allowing yourself to become “You-centric”, not having to worry about little Johnny’s nappy, or Little Helen’s Dinner money, how the stock-market is performing, or whether your boss thinks that your performance hasn’t been the best lately because you have other worries. Meditation is good for both mind and body, stilling the mind, relaxing the body. It allows healing to take place, and creates space for ‘you’ in the busy day. It is revitalising.

There are various ways to get at yoga. There are a myriad of Tapes, DVD’s, and Books on the market, and usually classes in your local area.

Most practitioners recommend that you start your yoga journey in a class, the teacher can help you to perform the postures correctly, so that you do not damage yourself, however, it is not essential. The other main reason for going to a class is about that 4th reason to do yoga, making space to be “you-centric”. The teacher usually talks to the class for 10 minutes or so when the class starts, whilst people are lying flat on their mat, to bring their minds into Focus, the class progresses and then they more soothing talk for about 5 minutes at the end before allowing at least 10 minutes of rest to a relaxing piece of music. These wind up/wind down meditations are very difficult to get from a book, and most DVD’s and videos just launch straight onto the postures, and it is very easy to not find time to pick up the book, or watch the DVD. If you make the commitment to the class, you are far more likely to actually do the Yoga that week, and then in turn be encouraged to do sessions at home.

A friend of mine Krysia said, “I am a yoga fan, I currently attend one class a week and practise at home once or twice more. The calming effect is fantastic and my flexibility and strength are improving too. My balance is now amazing. I have been doing it regularly since June and can see a difference in my posture, I don’t slouch nearly as much as I used to.” Whereas Juli told me, “I’ve started yoga this past year, and am still very much a beginner, but I absolutely LOVE the way it makes me feel. I do my yoga from a book, as the tapes go too fast for me (okay, the one tape I watched – too fast, not relaxing at all), and I’m not able to attend classes anywhere due to lack of them in my area!”

As for me, I have 2 Yoga videos, and no time to find a local class! However I do have a partner that has been doing Yoga for 10 years or so, and he encourages me to get a wiggle on and actually do the yoga! I met him last year, and he fully believes that yoga and a healthy diet (he is sort of LC, he doesn’t eat the refined starches, makes sure that he eats enough protein, and veggies… but he eats too much junk-chocolate for my liking!) are the keys to his health, as he has asthma, eczema and hereditary sideroblastic anaemia. The cards are very stacked against him health-wise, but his asthma and eczema are so under control, that he uses his inhaler maybe once a week, and his skin is very calm… I have other friends that use their inhalers once every 5 minutes!

It is he that got me thinking about this form of non-stressful exercise again. I can see the benefit it gives to him. My Mum did “Hatha Yoga” when I was younger, but I always backed away from going with her, thinking at the time that I would be embarrassed about my weight, and that I would not be able to do any of the postures. I really wish now that I had gone with her, but maybe I had to grow up a little in myself first…

Now, I really wish that I had more motivation to actually get home, put the tape in the machine and do it! When I do get on and do it, I feel better, relaxed, and more motivated. One of the tapes in particular is actually quite a hard cardiovascular workout, for all the fact that the moves seem deceptively simple.

So, would I recommend people to get out there and do some Yoga? Golly Gosh YES! Whatever your current weight, shape, disability or attitude, for 99% of people, Yoga will only improve your life, and your level of fitness!

So, what are you waiting for? Get your baggy tee shirt and your leggings on, and go and find a Yoga Class!

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