Just what is it about yoga that makes it so popular? Julie Simpson speaks to three experts in the field about the mind and body benefits of practicing this ancient discipline...
Is yoga a religious practice?
To me, no. If people want it to be religious, then it can be. Yoga is movement with intent and if people want that intention to be directed towards spiritual awakening of whatever religion, then that’s great. I practice yoga with the intent of listening and being present, to myself, to others. This is something that I try to do both on and off the mat. Yoga has its background in the Hindu tradition, but it can be moulded to suit modern lives.
What are the health benefits of yoga?
So many! Being ‘present’ takes the awareness into the present moment which reduces stress. Taking deep breaths also reduces stress and is beneficial for the lungs and cells of the body. Keeping the body moving is so good, when most of us spend our days sitting in front of a screen. I see yoga as moving consciously and breathing deeply, both helpful when dealing with tricky everyday situations.
Why has a practice from ancient Indian become so popular in the modern world?
Because it is a series of practices which really work! In times when we are expected to be multi-tasking and always ready to answer calls and emails, it’s great to have a practice which can give you peace of mind. And in a society where we sit a lot, it’s lovely to be able to move more in all directions, even when there’s not much time.
Kat is founder of Movement for Modern Life, an online yoga company which brings together the very best teachers from the UK and internationally. This is yoga Anytime. Any where. Any wear. Accessed from laptops, smart phones or by plugging the computer into the TV, the best teachers will come to you. Classes range from 5 minutes to 90 minutes of challenging yoga. www.movementformodernlife.com
Do you have to be flexible to join a yoga class?
Yoga is about so much more than flexibility and the flexible people can be the most vulnerable to injury, especially if they are competitive! Flexibility is a reward of practicing yoga and so too is increased strength, stamina, body awareness and mental clarity. Even more importantly Yoga teaches us to breathe well, to calm the mind and to find more balance in our daily lives.
How do I find a yoga class that suits my needs?
Do your research into teachers and studios, ask around and visit a class with an open mind, if you don’t like it try another teacher, no one will be offended. It is so important to find a teacher you connect with and trust remembering that not everyone practices Yoga for the same reasons. You need
to feel confident that the teacher will help you to explore your own body and mind in a safe and welcoming atmosphere. No ego, just a deep-seated desire to help you on your journey, with Yoga and your teacher as a guide.
How often do I need to practice yoga to see the benefits?
Once a week is not enough, although better than nothing at all! The body forgets easily and so, 2 well–spaced classes a week is a great way to feel the advantages quite quickly. If your schedule allows, try for 3 classes a week. Be realistic, no-one needs to be getting stressed out trying to fit in a yoga class! Perhaps, take in a live class twice a week to be sure you are on the right track with alignment and understanding and supplement with on-line videos.
Lucy McNeill is a yoga teacher and founder of Flow, a new yoga studio and treatment room in Tunbridge Wells for yoga, osteopathy, acupuncture, Shiatsu, massage, therapies and health. www.flowtunbridgewells.com
Yoga therapist and Auyervedic practitioner
What is Yoga Therapy?
It’s not unusual for us to feel out of sorts occasionally. Commonly our bodies find ways to
rebalance when the disturbances are shortlived. But at other times, particularly in the case of stress-induced conditions, we live with chronic dis-ease of the body, mind and heart. Yoga therapy works with the whole person: it takes account of bodily sensations, emotions, mental patterning and spiritual life. It draws upon the ancient practices of yoga and Ayurveda as well as mindfulness using postures, breathwork and various skills to restore well being.
Is it only suitable for experienced yogis?
Everyone is able to benefit from yoga therapy. A good yoga therapist designs programmes suitable to the needs of an individual; it is patient-centred rather than disease-oriented. Through a process of interaction (some discussion and short practices), the ‘client’ usually leaves with guidelines and/or a ‘practice’ to implement to foster symptomatic relief while working to dislodge root cause.
What kind of conditions benefit from Yoga therapy?
It’s tempting to say that all conditions can be improved through yoga therapy as healing resides on the rapport between the ‘client’ and therapist rather than the condition itself. That said, there is a growing evidence base showing improvement in conditions like asthma, diabetes, arthritis, depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, cardio-vascular and trauma-related disorders.
Cathy-Mae will be joining us at Wealden Times Midsummer Fair. Alongside her role training yoga teachers and yoga therapists as well as teaching Ayurveda, mindfulness and mindfulness trainers, Cathy-Mae has a Wellness Practice offering various consultations. She is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster and is currently studying for PhD at the School of African and Oriental studies based around meditation and mindfulness. Visit www. cathymae.com or www.clearmindinstitute.com
Wealden Times Midsummer Fair & Priceless People Wellbeing Festival sponsored by Benenden Hospital & Benenden Health runs from 4-6 June at Hole Park, Rolvenden. To book your tickets visit www.wealdentimes.co.uk/events