Think you know yoga? (Well think again)
TODAY on Pouting In Heels, Friday Five returns and boy oh boy, is it a good one!
I am absolutely chuffed to bits, delighted, thrilled, excited (you get the picture) to have a dear friend of mine sharing some of her amazing knowledge with us all today which I think you are going to love.
Zaz who has a wonderful and heartwarming blog Mama and More! is an incredible lady and I’m very lucky to be able to call her a friend.
She’s a true inspiration to me (and many others) because she has a heart that is big and loving, wisdom that is far beyond her years and a joie de vivre that makes spending time with her such a pleasure.
She’s also incredible at yoga. And i mean INCREDIBLE. (Just check out her Instagram feed and you’ll see exactly what I mean!)
Many years ago I used to attend a yoga class and enjoyed it. But then one day an advanced teacher took over my beginner’s class, tried to get us all to do headstands which felt impossible and after feeling like a total fool, sadly I never went back.
However since meeting Zaz and following her yoga journey (she’s now training to be a yoga instructor, amazing huh?) I’ve slowly but surely come around to the thinking that I want to do it again. To take up yoga.
And so with that in mind I asked her to share her knowledge with us all and start right at the very beginning. To tell us what yoga is all about, what it isn’t and what it can do for us.
If you’re previously thought yoga is for others and not for you or haven’t the faintest what it’s about all, then I seriously urge you to read this guest post because I think it may just surprise you.
So settle down with me, grab a green tea (we’re talking about health after all) and prepare to be welcomed to the world of yoga. Zaz, my darling, it’s over to you….
Yoga – what you NEED to know
Yoga isn’t just for bendy super-flexible people
People are either drawn to yoga or intimidated by the postures or ‘asanas’, and the most common misconception that I hear is “no, I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”. Here’s a secret – if you can breathe in and out, you ARE doing yoga already!
Yoga is not solely about the postures, it is also about breathing (pranayama), meditation and practicing things like compassion and mindfulness or awareness. People with all sorts of body types, shapes and sizes practice yoga, there are no boundaries!
That said, you probably do want to know whether the physical aspect of yoga is for you, and any good yoga teacher will always be able to suggest different variations on a pose to suit your level and ability. There should never be any judgement or competitiveness in yoga – it is an incredibly personal practice.
It’s ok to bend your knees if the floor feels far away at first!
You may also surprise yourself! My husband who declares himself totally inflexible can easily fold himself into lotus cross legged position, while for me it feels like torture!
Every one’s body is different, and will also feel differently at different times of day or from one day to the next. While in some poses you will need to take a beginner option, maybe even forever, at other times you will be prepared to go a little further and you may just surprise yourself.
My two biggest tips are:
i) breathe – we naturally hold our breath when stressed or fearful, whether in a difficult pose or in life. When you are finding something hard, exhale – you may not even realise that you are holding your breath, and will be amazed at how your breath can help take you deeper. This goes for in life as well as on your yoga mat!
ii) be playful and just try – as I said before, yoga isn’t about judgement, and some things that seem impossible when you have a go you really may end up surprising yourself. And if you fall over in the middle of a packed class (as I have a few times in my practice!), smile, laugh, and get back on the mat. Take yourself lightly, you have nothing to lose.
Yoga isn’t an ‘easy option’
This is something that many people assume – and sorry to stereotype, but especially men. In reality, as with any form of physical practice, it can be as easy or as challenging as you make it.
Certain styles of yoga suit different tastes or needs – there are restorative yoga classes, or more challenging dynamic styles like Astanga or Vinyasa flow. I wrote a post on my blog a few weeks ago about some of the different styles of yoga which may be useful.
No, yoga is NOT a cult
When you go to a yoga class or watch a DVD you may hear the teacher telling you to do a Sun Salutation. This does not mean that you are actually worshipping a sun god or anything similar! It is simply the name given to a series of movements, traditionally done in the morning, but which form the basis for many beginning yoga sequences.
You may be asked to have your hands in a prayer pose, or to ‘set an intention’ or positive thoughts to dedicate your yoga practice to. Don’t worry! No-one is expecting you to change or even have religious beliefs in yoga.
Here’s the thing – yoga began in India many thousands of years ago, and originated as a spiritual practice. The physical positions are one part of yoga (along with breathing, meditation, behaving in compassionate ways, being good to your body in what you eat, and finding your true inner self). You can take from your yoga practice and yoga journey whatever is right for you, but yoga is truly for everyone.
You may hear some funny things in a yoga class
Heavy breathing – is the teacher or the person next to you making funny heavy breathing sounds?
Before you start wanting to give them some Vicks cream, this is a specific yogic style of breathing called the “Ujayi Breath”, or the breath of fire. It is a strong inhale and exhale done through the nose down into the chest and abdomen, so that you feel the rush of air going down the back of your throat.
The breath done in this way gives energy and focusses the mind, so that whenever you may find your mind wandering to think about things going on outside your yoga practice, you can bring your mind and focus back to the sound of the breath.
Funny words – As I mentioned earlier, yoga was born in India, and each of the yoga postures have their original Sanskrit names. A teacher may refer to a pose with it’s English Western translation or with the Sanskrit, or sometimes even both – so ‘Chaturanga’ means a low plank (or low pressup), ‘Adho Mukha Svasana’ means literally Downward Facing position, and is called in English Downward Facing Dog.
Depending on your teacher you may also hear them talking about Chakras, which are the key points in the body’s energy system. At the end of the practice, your teacher and the whole class will bow their heads and say ‘Namaste’, which means, to use a simple translation, ‘The spirit within me honours and respects the spirit within you.’
Chanting – this may not happen in all classes, and if it does, don’t panic, refer to point 3 above – yoga is not a cult!
Often in yoga it is common to take a moment at the beginning and end of the class to chant the sound OM as a group. What does it mean? The sound itself when chanted as a group creates a sound vibration, which yogic tradition believe creates energy. It also connects the group.
Going a bit deeper, OM represents the sound of divinity (without attaching that sound to a particular religion or being), and acknowledges that presence in all things past, present and future.
Yoga may possibly change your life!
However much you do yoga – whether once a week, or every day, I can promise that it is transformative.
The movements, combined with the breathing can have vast benefits for your blood pressure, your joints, your muscles, your flexibility, calming your mind, and more. Moving your body and discovering and being aware of what it can do is exciting and inspiring.
The more regularly you practice, and better yet with a teacher who can help guide and adjust you, the more you will see progress, and soon touching your toes will be a piece of cake. Even more so than your body, yoga also can have deep effects on your mind, helping you to have better sleep and to be able to be calmer and less stressed in daily life.
Try it, no-one has ever regretted it!
Huge thank you to Zaz for sharing her wisdom with us today, has she convinced you? She certainly has me, I’m loving the sound of all the benefits yoga can bring to my world for sure…now then, where is my old yoga mat? *ponders*
Want more? No problem, check out Zaz’s yoga videos as well on YouTube and make a start! x