Yoga is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to keep fit, with almost half a million regular practisers in the UK, according to the British Wheel of Yoga. It combines different postures, breathing methods and meditation and claims to have benefits for the body and for the mind.
Having braved the University gym (click here to read) I decided to give another form of exercise a
go. Team sports were still too daunting, but I wanted something with more of a structure and a
challenge than my sporadic cardio workouts.
Yoga is believed to relax the mind and the body, and as a busybody who can’t sit still for more than a
minute, I was willing to give it anything a try to get myself to pause and relax for a moment of the
day. And if I could give myself a workout at the same time, then even better.
I went to book myself into a class, and was immediately faced with a problem. Hatha yoga, Ashtanga
yoga, hot yoga, Vinyasa yoga – the list was endless, and I stared blankly at the names wondering
whether I was best sticking to my 10 minutes on the rowing machine.
But after a bit of research (I immediately ruled out hot yoga, 45 minutes of exercise in a boiling
room? No thank you.) I booked myself into a Hatha yoga class, which combines physical exercises
with a focus on the breath.
After a gentle routine of different stretches and postures led by a brilliant instructor, followed by a
time of relaxation, my muscles felt refreshed and energised. What I was most surprised by was the
sense of calm I felt following the session. As I stepped back into the busy city, everything seemed to
move so quickly around me, and I felt such a sense of peace in myself.
Content and pleasantly surprised, I booked another Hatha yoga session, this time with a different
instructor. I didn’t think twice about this, now having a set idea of what yoga was in my head.
I arrived at the class and the instructor bounded into the session asking us if we were ready to get
sweaty. Music was turned on, she started shouting into a mic, and I panicked and willed the ground
to swallow me up.
What followed was 45 minutes of intense exercise, and while I was horrified I also didn’t want to
look bad in front of the class. She had us doing routines at what felt like 100 miles an hour, standing
on our heads, moving our bodies into postures I didn’t think were humanly possible.
Amazingly, I survived the session, and although I was aching for days after, I still had that sense of
calm within following the last few minutes of meditation. For those who want a real workout and
have dismissed yoga as too gentle, find a trainer who will really challenge you and take the routines
to the next level.
Or if, like me, you’re new to exercise and need something less daunting, find an instructor who
focuses more on meditation than exercise. Back home from Uni, I went to a class at my local gym,
and instead of the super-toned, super-fit students in my last class, I found myself the youngest
person in the room by at least 30 years!
For once I was the most agile there, and the yoga routine consisted of gentle stretching followed by
30 minutes of meditation (which was lovely until the old man next to me started snoring…).
Yoga is thought to be over 10,000 years old, and with such a diverse range of classes and routines
you can see why it’s still so popular today. Whether you want an intense workout, a space to relax or
to really get in touch with your spirituality, do your research, speak to the trainer beforehand and
find a class that pushes you to a level you feel comfortable at.
Different Types of Yoga Explained
Combines physical exercises and postures with control over the breath.
Offers more dynamic sessions, with routines aimed to improve strength, balance and flexibility.
Performed in hot, humid conditions, designed to make you sweat.
Coordinates movements with breath to move from one posture to then next.
A more challenging and physical style of yoga, at a faster pace.