Following on our #FitnessFun series where we’re going to be looking at different ways to get fit and keep fit we’re focusing on yoga.
Yoga comes in many different forms and is one of those fabulous fitness movements that really is for all shapes and sizes
And of course you will have seen or heard about the myriad of celebrities who swear by regular yoga classes – check out some of the famous faces over here.
Even with the vast array of promos, features, classes, celeb profiles and DVDs it is easy to be unclear about the practice of yoga, after all there are so many different types! But first let’s look at the basics and try to understand the fundamentals about the all-round workout for mind, body and soul.
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that concentrates on developing the body’s strength and flexibility through a series of postures whilst practicing controlled breathing with the aim of enhancing physical and mental wellbeing. The practice of yoga helps to co-ordinate the breath, mind and body to encourage balance, both internally and externally and promote feelings of relaxation and ease.
Yoga as a philosophy originated in India about 5,000 years ago, and the practice has since been adapted and embraced in other countries in a variety of ways as our hectic modern world sees more people taking ‘time out’ to practice yoga and work on themselves.
So why practice yoga?
There are many reasons people choose to take up yoga; as a form of exercise that accommodates all shapes, sizes, ages, genders it is no surprise that there is no one reason people decide to practice yoga!
You may be drawn to yoga simply to develop your overall health and fitness, or perhaps you are looking to try and improve a specific physical condition. There has been a lot of scientific studies on the effects of yoga and most suggest that yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. There is also some evidence that regular yoga practice can be beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
Benefits of yoga:
- Improved efficiency of lungs and cardio-vascular system
- Improved posture, flexibility and strength
- Improved concentration
- Enhanced feeling of well-being and calm
- Better quality sleep
- Reduction of anxiety and depression
Okay I’m convinced – what can I do now to give yoga a go?
It’s totally up to you – the easiest way to start is by hopping online and searching for local yoga classes near you. There you can find a beginner or general class which will give you a great opportunity to learn with guidance from a trained yogi. As you get to grips with the work from your classes it will be easier for you to correctly work through postures and sequences (such as sun salutations) on your own with more confidence too.
All classes are different but most will follow a similar format:
Opening with a short, basic relaxation that allows everybody some time to settle down and get centered.
Followed by a warm up session, using yoga movements working up to the main content of the yoga asanas (yoga postures) for that week.
The bulk of the class will be working on the asanas whilst including pranayama (yoga breathing exercises) and ends with yoga relaxation to wind down.
If there are no classes near you or you just don’t want to go to a class (for whatever reason) there are plenty of resources online to help you get going in the comfort of your own home!
There are thousands of yoga apps available, websites, tutorials and scores of yoga DVD workouts so you will always find something that suits you!
There are so many great programmes out there but personally I quite enjoy Roxy’s 15 minutes, Antonia Kidman yoga and MTV yoga at the moment – always good to mix things up!
Right I’m now officially hooked…
Well as many yogis will tell you, yoga is an ongoing practice where you are constantly learning, improving and working to better your life through it.
If you are looking to step up your yoga practice why not take an improvers or advanced class, or try a different style of yoga?
Some of the more popular styles of yoga include:
Hatha yoga – This is most likely what you are familiar with already, this covers all types of physical yoga and places the emphasis on postures, breathing and relaxation.
Viniyoga – This is a one-on-one yoga programme where a student works with a guru creating a personalisd programme and is ideal for people wanting a daily routine or to focus on helping a specific health concern or issue.
Iyengar yoga – This style of yoga focuses on posture, alignment of the body and asanas (aka poses) as a way of deepening relaxation. As you would imagine this is a much more physically demanding style of yoga.
Ashtanga yoga – Another celeb favourite ashtanga is a fast flowing class with a dynamic sequence of 75 poses, making it a longer class of one and a half to two hours! Even with the physically demanding asanas there is still the focus on breathing. This is a more athletic style of yoga to shake things up.
And before anyone pipes up with comments about being too curvy/too fat/too unfit/too whatever I want to share with you some fantastic yogis who will most definitely motivate you to at least give it a try!