I guess you knew I’d start banging on about the benefits of yoga sooner or later. After all, we all know that wellness and yoga go together like cheese and toast.
Rest assured, though, you won’t be seeing any social media photos of me doing eye-watering poses while on a beach, surfboard, or mountain – or, in fact, anywhere. That’s because I’m not exactly what you’d called gifted when it comes to yoga poses (unless it’s the one that involves lying on the floor under a blanket at the end of the class).
Do you remember the girls at school who could do amazing cartwheels and handstands in the playground? Well, I wasn’t one of them. Never been able to master a handstand, headstand or anything else that required any level of flexibility or balance. Being possessed of hamstrings more akin to iron girders, I’ve never been able to touch my toes either.
It’s been five years since I started practising yoga and I still can’t touch my toes. And the point I want to make is that none of that matters. I’m blessed with a wonderful teacher, Kate (here she is after her class in a local church hall).
Kate is not only a yoga teacher but trained in Ayurveda so she often explains to us what is happening to our digestion or circulation when we’re doing a particular pose or breathing exercise. She doesn’t push her class to do ridiculously difficult poses and she’s very accommodating with adapting poses so that even people with iron girders for hamstrings can manage them.
Like me, she doesn’t like the way yoga has been dressed up as something only for skinny, ultra-photogenic people in designer yoga wear who can tie themselves in pretzel shapes. Her approach is much closer to the original ideals of this 5,000-year-old practice and is completely holistic, which fits in nicely with my own ethos as a health coach.
Those poses that (thanks to all those impossibly idealised images we’re fed) we associate with yoga are actually only a small part of this complex, ancient discipline. In fact, yoga encompasses the whole gamut of physical, mental and spiritual to bring about complete balance (something most of us are sorely lacking!).
The far-reaching benefits of yoga have been established scientifically the world over. So what can yoga do for you? Here are just a few of the proven benefits:
- Decrease the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
- Improve your circulation
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Help battle depression
- Strengthen your back muscles
- Help reduce respiratory-related health problems such as asthma.
So why not ditch those preconceptions about yoga and find a class that suits you? Good luck and feel free to share how you get on…