Yoga is a practical series of steps towards leading a more healthy and joyful way of living. It consists of firstly lots of both gentle and vigorous physical exercises linked to the breath – known in yoga as postures or asanas. This leads to an increase of dhyana, sanskrit for concentration, along with a whole host of physical benefits. One such benefit is the ability to sit still for a period of time, without pain or discomfort. At this point we can begin to delve into the art of breathing fully and deeply, known in yoga as pranayama. This leads us to mindfulness or meditation, the art of being present, quietly observing the self and our thoughts. You may even glimpse a sense of one-ness with the universe. Every session ends with a short relaxation, a chance to pause and recharge.
Some of the many benefits of yoga:
- Stretch out achey shoulders, computer neck, rounded backs, and tight hips from long hours of desk-based sitting
- You get a dedicated time to pay attention to your body and move (big, joyful movements so unlike sitting very still in front of a screen!) It will bring your body relief and some balance to a day that may be otherwise largely sedentary.
- Feel freer and more supple. It isn’t about being able to get your leg behind your head but it does feel good to be able to touch your toes.
- Feel stronger all over. Gain stamina and more control.
- Improve your posture – walk taller, feel more grounded in your feet and legs, more lifted in your spine and relaxed in your shoulders.
- Increase your concentration skills – there is nothing like standing on one leg and remembering to breathe to improve your focus! The good news is studies have shown yoga can increase your cognition and concentration in mental work carried out post-yoga, so if you have an important project going on then your practice will help you do your best.
- Learn how to consciously relax. We all feel better around relaxed people, while stressed people make us more anxious. So learning the art of relaxation is not just being kind to yourself, it’s making everybody’s life that little bit better. And it’s simple to learn, it just takes patience and practice.
- Boost your immune system – inversions are particularly good for this. You may find you need to take less time off work for illness once you have established a regular, consistent yoga practice.
- Feel better about yourself and the way your body looks and feels; yoga is infused by an attitude of compassion – and when we feel good about ourselves, we tend to be more empathic towards others too.
- Practising mindfulness skills allows us to feel more in the moment, more connected to our life as it is right now. As we become more aware of the connection between our heart, our mind and our breath, more conscious of the connections between ourselves and all living things, this beautiful mindset leads us eventually towards making positive changes in any area of our lives that needs it.
About Hatha Yoga
There are many styles of yoga. You may have heard of Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini or more modern styles like Power Yoga, Bikram, Hot Yoga or Jivamukti. It can be confusing! I’ve been trained in Hatha Yoga through the British Wheel of Yoga’s comprehensive three-year diploma.
Hatha can be defined in two ways. Firstly, the Sanskrit word ‘hatha’ formally means ‘physical’ – so in reality and in a literal sense, hatha yoga encompasses all the styles of yoga that include asana work. However, in the west, Hatha Yoga has become it’s own particular style. It’s a little faster in pace than Iyengar, which typically includes long holds of postures and an emphasis on alignment. It’s a little slower than ashtanga, which is comprised of a set of vigorous asanas repeated in a series until they can be performed quickly in what can be a meditation of movement. Hatha lies somewhere in the middle, with postures held for an average of three to five breaths. Interestingly, the word Hatha is made of two sanskrit words, ‘ha’ and ‘tha’. Ha means sun and tha means moon. Hatha yoga uses a combination of quiet, gentle and strong, dynamic postures to work through all the major ranges of movement – a balanced practice to restore balance to the body and mind.
As a Hatha practitioner I enjoy teaching a wide range of postures, and varying my sessions. Because the class is not too fast paced I have time to help you adapt any postures that are not appropriate for you (I believe the posture should fit around you, not that you should try to force yourself to fit in a pose). You will also learn how to intensify any poses that you are enjoying, moving into them deeper for a satisfying challenge. In addition to the physical element, a hatha class will always include a short relaxation as well as breathing techniques and in longer classes, some meditation.
A summary of the benefits of a hatha yoga class:
- There is always a warm-up element to the class; we don’t just jump straight into intense poses
- You will experience a balance of asanas that work all the major ranges of movement of the spine
- There is time to work with adaptations to make your practice suit your needs
- You may also receive physical adjustments to help you improve your practice
- I’m not too serious, or strict, so you can have fun and be playful in certain poses and balances.
- You don’t hold the postures for too long, which can be uncomfortable particularly when you are first starting out with yoga
- Each session will emphasise the benefits of breathing well and give you some pointers for how to improve your breathing
- You will learn aspects of the philosophy behind yoga
- You will get to try different mindfulness techniques and see which work best for you
- There is always a chance to practice relaxation in savasana, our classic relaxation pose
- The atmosphere is calm and non-competitive, welcoming all different types of people.