People who come to my Body Combat and Body Balance classes know that I am also a yoga teacher and often ask,“Should I try yoga?”. My answer is always a resounding yes. Of course you should. But many then qualify their question with, “But I really don’t fancy all that chanting and mystical mumbo jumbo.”
I am often saddened by this because people obviously have the wrong impression of yoga. Some think that it is some sort of religion. Others fear that they will be instructed in an obscure ancient language. Or that they will have to contort their body into impossible bendy shapes. Or that it is too easy and that a good session pumping weights will do them more good. It’s true that these perceptions have been created to an extent by the reality. But let’s consider the truth.
Yoga is definitely not a religion. Admittedly, for some practitioners, it is a way of life, and it can be quite a spiritual one at that. But modern styles of yoga have evolved to focus on just three elements of the so called “8 limbs of yoga”; The asanas or poses (exercises between you and me), breathing (well more like controlling the breath and integrating it into the exercise), and meditation (and if that still sounds too “mystical” you can change this to simple relaxation if you want to).
People who do like more traditional spiritual styles might be critical of these modern approaches and they are entitled to their opinion and to practice what they like. The truth is if you want a yoga class that is just about the exercise you can find one.
Certainly the language used probably hasn’t helped either. If you are asked to move into Prasarita Padottanasana it genuinely sounds almost frightening. In English all you are being asked to do is to perform a wide leg forward bend. Or in even simpler terms a very intense hamstring stretch.
It’s true that very advanced Yoga poses need high degrees of skill and flexibility but no one is going to shoe-horn you into something your body can’t cope with. But the same is true in any sport. A novice skier would never tackle the most challenging run without years on the nursery slopes or easier descents.
There are many levels to suit all ages, skills and body shapes. For those who think it will be too easy, I have seen men who can pump weights for hours on end reduced to gasping in pools of sweat in a power yoga session. Whilst in gentler classes not a bead of sweat will break onto the skin. The bottom line is that everyone can be catered for, you just need to find a class that suites your needs, desires and goals.
So what’s available?
Hatha Yoga – a calmer class, less energetic style, more emphasis on breath and less complex exercises.
Ashtanga Yoga – very traditional, quite physically challenging, the same exercises every class always in the same order
Power Yoga – a more modern version of Ashtanga, less traditional, still challenging, but the exercises will change from class to class. (Often called Dynamic Yoga, Freestyle Fitness Yoga, Baptiste Yoga or Vinyasa Yoga)
Bikram Yoga – the same 26 exercises every class, performed in a hot room to encourage sweating and cleansing.
Hot Yoga – same as Bikram but without the adherence to the 26 pose class structure.
Body Balance – yes I’m going to include this as it is Yoga based. Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates moves choreographed to music.
Should you try yoga? Absolutely of course you should. There is a style out there for you just waiting to be discovered.
Over to you: Do you want to try yoga but haven’t tried it yet? What more could I do to convince you? Have you recently taken it up? What do you think? I would love it if you would post your thoughts and experiences in the comments box.