Gabrielle takes a yoga class on Wednesday evenings at the ACC from 6.30pm – 7.30pm. What follows is an explanation of what happens in class together with comment on some of the underlying concepts of yoga.
WHAT TYPE of YOGA CLASS IS IT?
My version of yoga is a Westernised form of Hatha yoga with the main emphasis on the physical, mental and emotional benefits. The esoteric, spiritual aspect is present implicitly without being in any way imposed.
A TYPICAL CLASS – WHAT TO EXPECT
A typical class would begin with some focussed breathing allowing awareness of the body and breath and to discover a still centre. The breath is used to help to control the mind: by focussing on the breath and being “in the body” we can allow the body to reach its full potential free from any negative input from the ego.
The warm-up consists of a series of Sun Salutations which are quite energetic and demanding as every muscle in the body is used in a full range of movement exercises which flow from one to another. For people who have a sedentary life-style, this part of the class can be off-putting as the movements may be unfamiliar and therefore difficult. It is advisable to rest whenever you need to a join in as and when. There is no competition in yoga and therefore no-one should feel inadequate: the body has to accustom itself to the new experience – so be patient!
After the warm-up we slow down a bit and go a little more deeply into poses but continue to move from one asana (pose) to another in a flowing sequence. This time, we hold several of the postures for 3 or 4 breaths. Typical asana are the Warriors, Triangle and Lunges with variations or modifications. The holding of postures for just a few breaths can be challenging if this is a new experience but suitable options are always available from beginners to seasoned yoginis. In any case, this is where it is essential to use the breath so that the body can get all the energy it needs. Also, the more you focus on the breath, the less tension is felt in the body.
We then do various balances; these are usually from a standing position but can include hand balances. It is important to attempt balances and not to worry if you fall out of them. Balancing helps focus and concentration and can help us to accept life in a balanced way.
TWISTS and DETOX
We then come to the floor for Twists which cleanse the body getting rid of unwanted toxins. Then we do forward folds, back extensions and inversions (e.g. shoulder-stand/headstand) together with counter poses. These poses can be held for several breaths and, in the case of inversions, for 2 minutes.
The class ends with a 5 minute relaxation, after which we come back to a seated position and say/chant 3 “ohms” together and address each other with “Namaste”.
* About OHMS
The “ohms” may deter some people but there is nothing scary about them. On a purely physical level, they can be regarded as a sort of ‘sound therapy’: everyone is aware of the benefits of singing but not all of us can sing. But by means of this simple chant we can benefit from the expansion of the lung capacity and enjoy the well-being induced by the reverberations in and around us.
* The word “Namaste” is a traditional Eastern greeting meaning “the sacred in me acknowledges the sacred in you”. This is not so very different from “Goodbye” which means “God be with you”.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES of YOGA
The guiding principles underlying the practice of yoga are principally kindness and compassion towards oneself as well as towards others and the natural world. Yoga philosophy is based on the Eastern idea of the underlying oneness in everything: the notion that we are in essence all part-takers of the Universal essence and consequently we are all part of each other and of Nature. This is not a religious concept so much as a scientific one based on the ancient understanding of physics (or Life, The Universe and Everything!) I see it as correlating to The Golden Rule that underpins much of our Western civilisation (the rule of reciprocity).
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF YOGA?
My understanding of yoga is that it is beneficial on many levels and is truly ‘holistic’. It improves our:
* physical state
* mental state
* emotional state
* spiritual states
For those who are interested in the spiritual aspect of yoga, it is good to dedicate your practice to a particular person or thing (e.g. child or partner or for the healing of a particular situation which might be personal or more general). The whole practice can then be used as a form of moving meditation for the benefit of the person or thing dedicated.
In any event, regular practice of yoga will improve your strength and flexibility and give you a more balanced outlook on life helping you to make better life choices. Anxiety levels should drop as you learn to inhabit the body, leaving the ego outside the door: focussing on calm regular breaths and living in the present moment. The more we can learn to live in the here and now the less we will regret past events and the less we will fear the future.
YOGA FOR STRESS REDUCTION and WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
Our current Wednesday evening yoga offering has the specific theme of stress reduction and weight management.
In our fast-paced society, stress and weight issues (or body dysmorphia) are inextricably linked. When we are stressed, we sleep little or our sleep is not sound and then our food choices simply cannot be good, leading to unhappiness with our energy levels, our weight or the way our body looks.
The solutions that are often proposed are:
* eat less
* exercise more
While we certainly need to eat appropriately (good, nourishing food in the right amounts) and we also need to move our bodies daily, starving ourselves while running marathons or training several hours a day is often not the answer (or at least not the easiest answer or a sustainable answer).
If, however, we use yoga to ground ourselves, calm down the nervous system and improve our focus, then everything from sleep, work, mood and nourishing food will fall into place, effortlessly leading to a calmer outlook on life, work and relationships in a balanced, strong body and mind!
This is the mind-body solution.
Both yoga and Pilates improve this awareness. Some people do better with one than the other at some point of their lives. Many find benefit from both. This is why PilatesFitness offers both.If you are unsure how to proceed or would like to discuss with us first, do contact us!