I am, by no means, a yoga expert and I can't even say that I regularly attend yoga classes. I always do when I can - last summer was a major success with 2/3 classes every week - but I have yet to make the time for it since starting work in London.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Yoga at The View at The Shard with my sister, and it was the most incredible (if not slightly terrifying) experience. Imagine doing downward dog, looking out over London upside down...slightly disorientating, but completely amazing! This was my first class in a couple of months, and it reminded me exactly why I love it, and why you might too...
I started yoga when I was 16, when my Dad took my sister and I to a class. To this day, I wish I'd started younger. One of my favourite yoga teachers, Fiona, is one of the most flexible and graceful teachers I have ever witnessed! She moves so effortlessly from one position to another, and I find her really inspiring. I have terribly tight hamstrings, and am constantly wishing I was as flexible as her!
When I said this to Fiona, she said "It doesn't matter when you start - you've started now and you still have plenty of time to improve and develop." In other words, that's not an excuse for not improving, even little by little. You just need to keep it up, and make the time for it. I think this is such a perfect piece of advice for anyone starting or continuing to do yoga.
I've never been one for exercise - trust me on this, you should have seen me in Year 7 P.E. I will not be told to crawl through the mud by an angry games teacher, and this seriously put me off any form of exercise. I don't have to make that much effort with my weight, so I never saw the need to do anything physical once it stopped being compulsory, but yoga made me realise exercise isn't just about losing weight.
Here are 8 reasons why I love practising yoga, and why you might love it too...
One of the biggest challenges that I have in yoga is sitting completely still, shutting out unwanted thoughts, and just focusing on breathing in and out. It is way more difficult than it sounds. My mind completely races, especially if I'm feeling stressed or angry about something.
The more I do yoga, though, the more I'm able to sit and purely focus on breathing in, and breathing out. Even if it's only for a few minutes. Just with the breath. It sounds cliché (I'm really trying to avoid yoga-clichés here) but I feel that focusing on breath in this way has helped my anxious thoughts in life. Whenever I feel anxious, a few deep breaths can take me back to a moment of calm in a yoga class.
2. A Technology
Phones are, of course, a no in a yoga class, which is refreshingly peaceful. I always love the moment after finishing a class, and I go and get my phone back, but realise that I wasn't in so much of a rush to have it back after all.
If I practice yoga at home, by watching a YouTube video, I find it almost impossible to enjoy a phone-free moment. My texts pop up on my screen and I cannot escape it. However, in a yoga class, in a proper studio, you can completely shut your phone away and escape the blue light.
3. You See
I don't want to slam other sports, but yoga is one of the only forms of exercise I have done where I can physically see and feel where I'm improving. Each week, I find myself a bit more flexible, more toned, and a bit stronger than the last. I'm suddenly able to stretch a bit deeper into a pose, or hold it for longer, and it's so exciting!
As I mentioned earlier, my hamstrings are a disaster area - which is why so many of my yoga teachers are convinced that I'm a runner or a cyclist - but I feel so proud every time I bend over and reach my fingertips closer to the floor!
I also feel so proud when there are positions that I can do really easily - my hips seem to be a pretty good area and slipping into 'pigeon' comes without too much difficulty!
4. All The
...All the idea. You can wear THE BEST workout wear, and actually get away with it without having to go the gym. Lululemon are easily my favourite brand for yoga wear. I'm obsessed with their leggings, and their sports bras are so pretty!
One yoga teacher used to begin each of her classes talking about the position of the moon at the time of the class, and how it would link in with our feelings and our practice that day. I found it really interesting, and peaceful listening to her talk. It also made me understand that yoga extends beyond the studio and that it ties in with other elements. Some yoga classes can be very to-the-point, which I also enjoy, but a bit of spiritual chit chat can be such a nice bonus!
Yoga is the perfect, non-judgmental, non-competitive 'sport'. If you can't get into a position, you don't have to. I constantly find myself in a class half-expecting the teacher to come and tell me off for falling out of a position, but it never happens because I'm not in a Year 7 P.E. class... If you're struggling, you're encouraged to sit and breathe until you feel ready to join back with the flow of the class.
You really begin to learn to trust your body after practising yoga. I still have yet to trust myself enough to throw my legs up into a headstand. However, I have begun to trust myself enough to do 'crow'. Crow is an arm balance position, where you have to balance your whole weight on your forearms. Initially, it was far too daunting and I didn't trust my own strength whatsoever. I attempted it at home ontop of a very large number of my fluffiest pillows, and even then I was scared. I'm not good at this position at all, but I can now attempt it without too much fear!
For the final 5-10 minutes of a yoga class, you lie down in savasana, and quite literally just lie and breathe. I have come incredibly close to falling asleep during this stage, which can make for a very awkward awakening... The teacher then brings your awareness back to the practice slowly, and I always have such a euphoric, natural high when I sit back up.
It's like that 10 minutes of absolute calm seals in everything you've been doing for the last hour and it's such a good feeling - one that I've not experienced after leaving the gym before.
Whether it's a kickboxing class, or a yoga practice, you have to do what you enjoy and what feels right for you. For me, yoga is the only workout that I truly enjoy, and that I can see and feel the benefits from.
What is your workout of choice?