By Jenny Haydon
Modern yoga comes from an ancient system of knowledge. It is a collection of practices that bring balance and strength to the physical, mental, energetic, emotional and spiritual aspects of one's person. These practices include physical and breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation.
Many people begin yoga with an interest in the outermost aspect of the personality, the body, and often hope to fix a bit that doesn't work as well as it should. They may want flexibility, strength or endurance; or to lose weight; or to tone their body and feel less flabby.
They may have realised they need to do something to help them relax and cope better with the demands of life. They may have health problems such as high blood pressure or depression. Yoga practices are not a substitute for medicine but they can be helpful in a variety of conditions. Yoga works with how you are right now and over time can help you get to how you want to be.
Some classes are more like gymnastics. Others are aimed at people in wheelchairs. Yoga has something for everyone.
It is important to find a teacher who has appropriate experience and training in yoga, and that you feel comfortable and safe with. If possible, try several different classes before committing to a regular class. There are many different styles.
At first, you may find it hard to relax during a yoga class. You will be concentrating quite hard to follow the teacher's instructions and work out what to do. A good class should include at least 10-15 minutes of directed relaxation. This will help the nervous system respond to the effects of the physical activity.
Yoga is very much about balancing two opposing tendencies, the busy-busy daily outward aspect of personality and the lethargic "leave me alone" aspect. A good class should put you into a state that could be described as relaxation with awareness, where one is not harassed by thoughts. That is a nice place to be. It's far from going to sleep or "spacing out."
As you practice yoga you become more able to choose to be in that state and face everyday life from a better perspective.
A teacher can only give so many useful practices to a student. Attending a class once a week will get you started, but the real benefits of Yoga come with regular practice. Some of them are:
- Increased flexibility and strength – fewer aches and pains.
- More efficient, conscious breathing habits which can increase energy levels.
- Better coping mechanisms – lower general base rate of stress.
- Better night's sleep.
- Better posture.
I have been doing yoga for nearly 40 years and have been teaching for over 30 years. I recently completed a 3-year course to update my yoga teaching qualification. I love to share my knowledge and enthusiasm. If you would like to know more about yoga please contact Jenny Haydon at firstname.lastname@example.org.