Yoga, is it really for me?
I can’t do yoga can I? I’m not flexible!
Uhm, sorry to state the obvious, but isn’t that just the point! Would you expected someone who had only ever run 2 miles in their life to suddenly run a marathon? Likewise as a yoga teacher I would never expect someone who had just started yoga to suddenly be throwing their leg behind their head. Actually I would never expect that of someone full stop!
Yoga is about your own practice. That means wherever you’re at with your own body is enough for today. Like running a marathon you will take thousands of small baby steps along your yogic journey. However the difference with this analogy to a race is that in yoga there is no final destination, it really is all about the journey. No winners, no losers, just you on a challenging but beautiful journey of self-discovery.
Do I need my own yoga mat?
It is common practice in yoga for you to bring your own yoga mat. This can range from a basic rubber mat that you can pick up cheap from just about any supermarket or sports chain nowadays, to something a little bit more professional looking. There are some great comfortable and durable Eco rubber mats on the market, which are topped with heat reactive soft suede like top layers and come in a range of eye catching designs.
Whatever you pipe for, remember that your yoga mat is your own personal space where you will be moving from standing to sitting positions, lying on it on your front and back, resting your head on it. Do you really want to do that where a whole load of other people’s feet have gone? And remember those slippery padded gym mats that I often see yoga newbies show up with, just won’t offer you the grip you need when trying to hold a standing pose such as warrior 2.
And what on earth are things like blocks and bolsters used for?
No these are not instruments of mass torture as one might first assume! But actually props to help you get into postures more comfortably, safely and deeply. For example a belt may be used to help you open up your hamstrings even more in a supine (lying down on your back) hamstring stretch.
A block can be used to give you extra height when your fingers don’t touch the floor in standing postures such half moon pose, or forward bends such as prasarita padottanasana (this is the Sanskrit name for wide legged forward bend. And don’t worry you’re not expected to know Sanskrit! It’s just fun to learn some of the original names).
Lastly a bolster or cushion may be used to give your hip extra height in order to bring them into even alignment in poses such as pigeon pose, or used to prop under your knees to make them more comfortable in seated forward bends.
Isn’t yoga for girls?
Modern yoga is far from just a bit of gentle exercise for women as it is often misconceived as being. In actual fact many guys respond really well to some of the more challenging strength based poses such as arm balances and core work that you will find in the more dynamic styles of yoga. Men Zen is now a phenomenon that is taking yoga studios by storm, with many of the main studios the world over now citing higher numbers of men to women in classes such as power yoga, Vinyasa flow and Ashtanga yoga.
As women and men we both have very different strengths and weaknesses and participating in a mixed sex class can bring an exciting dynamic to the class whereby we can learn from and inspire one other. The wonderful thing about yoga is that it is all-inclusive in nature and can help everyone from a stressed out housewife who needs some “her” time, to an office bound executive with a desk hunch posture, to an overworked builder with tight hamstrings and hips.
What is this Namaste business all about?
Namaste is a traditional Indian greeting. The gesture of Namaste is said to represent the idea that there is a divine spark in each of us. By carrying out the gesture of Namaste with your palms together at heart centre and coming into a slight bow, we are acknowledging the soul in one by the soul in another.
Traditionally we close a class with this gesture to thank each other and ourselves for the practice. Personally as a teacher, I do not ask anyone to use this gesture if they are not comfortable with it. However the idea behind it is humbling and heart warming, reminding us that we exist outside of our own ego as part of something greater, so I for one am a fan!
I thought yoga was all about relaxation; it doesn’t really get you fit does it?
The traditional purpose of yoga is to prepare your body for meditation, where you would sit still for a sustained period of time without discomfort in your body. In Modern life sustained periods of meditation may not be practical so instead we can use yoga as a form of moving meditation, using the breath to bring our body into a calmer and more controlled sense of being.
That isn’t to say that yoga won’t give you a good workout. Yoga builds a strong core and posture and builds overall strength and flexibility. Anyone who’s done a few rounds of Sun Salutations will be able to tell you that, yes you work up a sweat and, yes you feel your heart rate increasing! And stronger exercises such as Plank, Crow, Boat or Wheel are amazingly fortifying and empowering for the body and mind.
Isn’t Savasana (Corpse pose) just an excuse to have a sleep at the end of class?
Yep, this is the bit where you all get to have a lie down and close your eyes at the end of class. But why do we do this? Is it really just an excuse for a quick nap?
Savasana is an essential way to finish any yoga practice; fitting in even a few minutes at the end of class will bring huge benefits to your body. Corpse pose is a time for us to quieten the physical body and the mind. It’s the time in class whereby we can allow our body to regenerate after all the hard work that we have been doing in our practice, lowering blood pressure and allowing the body to come back into neutral alignment. It’s sometimes the only part of the day where we can completely let go of everything else around us and for a few moments just focus on being present.