Published January 2016 in ‘Female First’ Magazine.
Why should YOU take up Yoga in 2016?
Yoga has been growing in popularity in the West since the 1980’s as a form of exercise, but Yoga offers so much more than just a tight bottom and a flatter stomach. Here are 10 reasons why Yoga is suitable for ALL.
- Improve your flexibility
If I had a pound for every time someone told me they couldn’t do Yoga because they were ‘not flexible’ I’d be living in the South of France on a vineyard. Yoga is not ‘for’ the flexible and it is not just about ‘becoming flexible’, Yoga is about finding peace in a busy and stressful world. Ok, flexibility is a great physical benefit of Yoga, but the right class can teach you how to find a moment of calm in your hectic schedule, both inside and outside of the group class environment. A gentle Hatha-based beginners’ class should include the teaching of meditation and relaxation along with stretches and poses designed to settle the busy mind and toxic body.
- Learn how to breathe fully.
In every-day life we probably use only 20-25% of our breathing capabilities, therefore limiting the amount of oxygen that can be delivered to the blood, muscles, organs, skin, teeth and hair. Learning to breathe more deeply and more efficiently will encourage a better delivery of nutrients to cells, shinier skin and hair, stronger teeth and greater mobilisation of the ribcage, which leads to increased flexibility in the back and sides of the body.
- Learn to respect your body.
We push ourselves too hard; women in particular spend their lives trying to be the ‘perfect mother’, the best they can be at work, a considerate wife or partner whilst trying to maintain a healthy physique on top of that! When fatigued, I find that the gym is either the first to go, or it’s yet another place for women to push themselves relentlessly in order to achieve the perfectly toned sculptures depicted on the front of fashion glossies and ‘health’ magazines. Yoga is about respecting your body and learning to work with it, not against it.
- Find freedom within your body.
In a traditional yoga class the postures gently flow from one to the other, holding for a moment allowing the body to settle and relax before changing position. This allows the muscles to release quietly without strain, leaving you light, fluid and free, as if every part of your anatomy has had some attention.
- Sleep better.
The combination of postures, breath work, mediation and relaxation will allow you to clear your mind and feel calm when you go to bed at night. Reduced muscular tension, efficient oxygen delivery and carbon dioxide removal will lead to less tension and less toxicity leading to restful sleep.
- Improved digestion.
The breath work and muscle activity works to stimulate the peristalsis of the gut by increasing the mobility of the diaphragm, and squeezing the abdominal muscles against the intestines during Pranayama (breathing techniques) or in certain postures. This encourages a more efficient action of the bowel, reducing trapped wind and calming Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Increase your strength.
Yoga postures, whilst releasing the tension in some muscles, will be strengthening the muscles elsewhere. Yoga can help to develop long, lean muscles without accumulating lactic acid, which leads to a burning sensation in the muscles and then soreness a few days later. You may ache a little, but it’s a ‘good ache’ rather than a painful one.
- Find inner/outer peace.
You may have heard people reference Yoga in terms of finding ‘inner peace’ I like to think of it in terms of ‘outer peace’ as well. During the yoga class, your teacher will guide you through the more relaxing aspects and the sensation of calm will infuse every cell of your very being. But, that calm travels into your peripheral self – projecting that sensation onto others around you and gently simmering down any toxic energy in your home, your office and your social circle. Positivity and calm is as catching as stress and anxiety.
- Improve your balance.
Some Yoga postures require balance, which when used in conjunction with hand mudras (gestures) leads to balance in the mind. Mudras symbolise balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Balance in the mind can help with manging difficult decisions and volatile environments.
- Improve your concentration.
The world we inhabit is noisy, not just through actual noise but because of the constant stimulation we receive from our phones, tablets, laptops, co-workers, family, friends and so on. It makes it hard to focus on work or an enjoyable hobby or just on what it is you want out of life. To figure out the great questions in your life, you need to concentrate on what they mean to you. Are you happy? Are you truly happy? The practise of Yoga can help you find the quietness in your mind that is necessary to focus and find the true meaning of our existence….or just finish a spreadsheet for your manager by Monday!
Marie-Claire Prettyman a.k.a ‘The Movement Specialist’
& Director of Fitness Inspired Teacher Training