Why practice yoga?
People try yoga for a myriad of different reasons. To become fit, flexible, to relieve pain, to manage stress, following a friend or Doctor’s advice. But the reason people continue with yoga, changes as the practice and benefits felt following a class continuingly evolve. Sure, it’s rewarding and if you practice regularly you will see remarkable changes in your physical body, you will become more toned, stronger and flexible. Perhaps you are touching your toes again, or feeling exhilarated by coming into a handstand, for the first time in years. Evidence has shown that yoga is beneficial for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and lower back pain to name but a few. As we age yoga helps to strengthen the lower body and works on balance, all beneficial to help prevent harmful falls in later life.
But there is something else besides the above. After all, a lot of the physical benefits can also be found in other activities, in the gym, in a HIIT class. There is something that becomes more apparent the longer you practice. Something that keeps you going, class after class, and if you stop, for a week, a month, perhaps longer, something pulls you back in. Its sounds intriguing doesn’t it, mystical, and it is. Yoga touches us individually so much more than just physically. There is a realisation and a transformation that occurs. An inner peace that can be tapped into on your yoga mat. It allows us to be truly present for perhaps the first time in that day. An invisible blanket of calmness that settles around you as you settle on to your mat and guide your thoughts and mind onto the breath. It’s a subtle process, its organic. As you become more present and mindful on the mat, slowly these benefits seep into other areas of your life.
As — B.K.S. Iyengar said “Yoga is a light, which once lit will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter your flame.”
Types of Yoga
There are many styles of yoga out there for you to try, its a question of finding the style that resonates with you personally. I have tried many in my 20+ years of practice and nowadays in my personal practice I will do a style that feels right to me on a particular day. If I am feeling a bit stressed or tired at the end of a day I may head for a more hatha, restorative or yin type class. If I feel a bit sleepy and would like to increase my energy then I will probably head for a more vinyasa type class. Now that I am in midlife and experiencing symptoms of peri-menopause I may choose to practice a yoga class that incorporates postures that I know will help manage a particular menopausal symptoms,such as calming anxiety or releasing irritability. Or perhaps choosing a class that will strengthen my bones, with lots of weight bearing poses to help ward off osteoporosis.
Vinyasa yoga is often considered the most athletic style of yoga. Practitioners flow from one pose to the next with the breath, either to an inhale or an exhale. It can be slow or dynamic, and classes can be accompanied by music. Can be very mediative in nature, due to the following of the breath throughout and depending on the sequencing can leave you feeling calm or energetic. Good for those who like movement.
This style of yoga is adapted from Ashtanga yoga, which is a highly structured vinyasa class that was introduced to the west by Pattabi Jois in the 1970’s.
It can be beneficial to have practised some Hatha classes first, to get to grips and learn the proper alignment of the major yoga poses.
Hatha yoga actually refers to any type of yoga that incorporates physical postures or asanas. But if you go to a Hatha Yoga class you can generally expect a well rounded practice, that incorporates a short meditation, well rounded sequence of yoga asanas (forward and backward folds, twists, inversions, core and balance work), some breath work (pranayama), short meditation and perhaps some chanting.
Suitable for practitioners of all levels. Will have the time in each pose to work on correct and safe alignment.
You are unlikely to work up much of a sweat, but you will leave feeling longer, relaxed, and stretched.
Menopause Yoga is devised as a sequence of postures that can help women in midlife support and bring relief to menopausal symptoms. Arounds 65% of women say that menopausal symptoms severely disrupt their normal life. Besides symptoms such as hot flushes, brain fog, anxiety, joint pain and stiffness, lack of concentration and weight gain, going through the menopause also brings with it an increased likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Menopausal yoga can help alleviate and prevent these. The classes may incorporate different styles of yoga depending on the particular symptom or group of symptoms being addressed. Many group menopausal yoga classes, also include a women’s circle, where women get to discuss and share their symptoms in a safe and supportive environment.
Yin being the opposite of yang (a vinyasa class would be considered a yang class) is a slower style of yoga, where poses are held for between 3 - 5 minutes.
Yin works to release fascia (connective tissue), helping to increase mobility and range of movement. Yin Yoga can be a very meditative experience as you reach for stillness in the poses, helping to cultivate balance and inner peace. Practising Yin Yoga can help to increase circulation, improve sleep, reducing stress and supporting relaxation. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), works along the meridian lines that run through our body, an acupuncturist stimulates these pathways, as can Yin Yoga, helping to balance our energy or chi (prana/lifeforce).