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What is this thing called yoga?

Recently I was invited to talk to a local ladies group about yoga – what it is, why do it, benefits all that lovely stuff – as well as include a short practice so they could experience it too.

I thought it would be useful to write some of that up as we don’t really get chance in a class to discuss yoga beyond what relates to our practice in that moment. Yoga is a vast subject area so this article is really just a very brief introduction.

So, what is yoga?

Is it exercise? Therapy? Meditation? Movement? Fitness? Wellbeing?

It’s all of these and so much more. The word yoga means “union” and in the yoga that most of us know this is the connecting of body and mind through the breath whether that is in your weekly class or when you step on your mat and practice at home. You might even have experienced this with other activities - that moment when everything comes together, nothing else exists and you feel completely connected to yourself and your surroundings.

But the practice of Yoga goes much further than this and can extend into your everyday life so that it becomes more about a whole way of being rather than an individual practice. This might even be happening to you as a result of your physical practice, without you knowing. There lies a whole new blog post so I’ll leave it there for now!

A (very) brief history

Yoga started in India 2,500 years ago and initially it was a seated meditative practice. The purpose being to quieten the turnings of the mind and ultimately lead to a state of inner stillness, or enlightenment. It’s amazing to think that even 2,500 years ago there was a need to quieten the mind, we tend to think of a busy mind as more of a modern day occurrence.

However, even 2,500 years ago it proved difficult to take a seat and ask the mind to be quiet, so the physical practice that most of us would recognise as yoga developed. Those original yogis found that movement and postures (asana) would help get rid of excess energy and help the mind to settle:

  1. Asana - physical practice to open the body and mind and begin to move focus inwards;

  2. Pranayama - use of breath for connection and to bring you to the present moment;

  3. Samadhi - Inner stillness or enlightenment.

It’s only really in the last 150 years that yoga has been found in the western world, spread through the teaching of those who were taught by the original founders.

And from those first teachers in the western world a whole range of different yoga styles have been developed. All based on the foundation of Hatha, the original form of physical practice, and with the aim of bringing balance in the body. Yoga has become accessible to everyone and there’s a style for everyone whether you want something flowy and dynamic or more restful and restorative. We’re even starting to see yoga being taught in schools and used as by the NHS as a treatment for medical conditions which is making the practice even more accessible.

Why practice yoga?

Most people I see in class start yoga because of a physical need, most commonly:

  • To be more flexible / strong / mobile

  • To resolve a physical issue such as back pain

  • For relaxation

That’s the reason I started, I needed to balance out my constant adrenaline fuelled doing with something a little more relaxing and calming!

No matter what the reason for starting your yoga practice yoga can help in so many ways: flexibility, strength, mobility, sleep, stress, immune system, bones, posture, digestion, mental clarity, recovery from illness – the list is endless.

More and more research is being done to show the benefits that a regular yoga practice, in whatever form that might be, can have on us and our overall wellbeing. But if you are practicing yourself you already know that, right?

The beauty of yoga is that it can be for everyone – whatever type of yoga you practise you always start from where you are now and postures can always be modified. It just might take a bit of time for you to find the style that is right for you and it’s never too late to start 😊

If you’re reading this and haven’t started yoga yet, but would like to, then please get in touch. You’re welcome to come along to a class or maybe an individual lesson would be more suitable for you – find out more on my website.

07780 685083


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