Why you should give yoga a try (especially if you’re not flexible)

Whenever I invite non-yogi friends to join me for a class, their usual response is ‘Oh but I’m not flexible enough’. It seems that many people believe that they already need to be flexible/slim/spiritual before they can even try yoga, but being ‘perfect’ at yoga is entirely the opposite of what yoga is all about. Even some of the best teachers still fall out of poses in their own practice.

Which is why I want to clear up some of the misconceptions about what yoga is and isn’t…

YOGA IS FOR GIRLS – wrong! Yoga was traditionally a male practice. Bikram Choudhury, B.K.S Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois are all male, and are all founders of three of the most commonly practiced forms of yoga in the West: Bikram, Iyengar and (my personal favourite), Ashtanga Vinyasa. So whilst when we think of a ‘yogi’ we might conjure up images of athletic young women in funky yoga shorts and cropped tops, the practice is a fantastic workout for both men and women.

If Wolverine can do yoga... Source: www.justjared.com
If Wolverine can do yoga…
Source: www.justjared.com


YOGA IS JUST STRETCHING AND BREATHING
 – Wrong! Whilst it’s true that ‘the breath’ is one of the most important aspects of the practice and stretching out those tired limbs is great for increasing your flexibility and cooling down effectively, yoga is a tough workout!

Where do you think all these yogis get toned arms and flat abs from? It isn’t from flexing down at the gym. No, yogis build their muscles slowly, transitioning from high plank to low plank to upward facing dog, working every core muscle as they flow. Add to that a 30-40 degree heated studio and you’ve got yourself quite a workout.

Source: www.yogatrail.com
Source: www.yogatrail.com


YOGA IS FOR SLIM, FLEXIBLE PEOPLE WITH DANCER-LIKE BODIES
 – Wrong again! Yoga is for men, women, tall people, short people, curvy bodies, slim bodies and everything in between. Whilst the physical benefits of yoga will no doubt help to slim you down and tone you up, it’s the psychological benefits that will really have an impact on your day to day life. As I mentioned in ‘my yoga journey’ post, it was yoga that helped me to change my attitude and turn me into a more positive and grateful person.

Source: www.zmescience.com
Source: www.zmescience.com


YOGA IS ALL ABOUT HEADSTANDS AND HOW FAR YOU CAN BEND
 – nope.

Now I myself have been known to be a little competitive, but I like to think this is in a positive sense. For example, along with my yoga practice, I attend a fitness bootcamp on Clapham Common. Initially, when I first joined the camp, I was one of the fastest runners, especially amongst the girls. So, in order to push myself I would often race with one of the boys. Now, the camp is fuller and many of my friends are faster and stronger than me. But rather than seeing this as a negative thing, I think it’s a brilliant opportunity to push myself to train harder and run faster. Sometimes my friends win the race, sometimes I do, but it doesn’t matter because we all get fitter in the process.

Source: @YogaVibes Twitter page

And it’s the same with yoga. I often practice with my friend Charlotte. She is super tall with legs up to her armpits whilst I’m a petite 5”3. So when it comes to our practice, what we can do is vastly different. Whilst she can get into a trikanasana (triangle)no problem, my short legs coupled with an ongoing lower back injury make it one of the most difficult postures for me. But, it’s much easier for me to walk my little legs up into a head stand whilst her long legs can sometimes get in the way. That’s the beauty of yoga though. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, how bendy or non-flexible you are, the practice is all about YOU. Improve yourself and let others work on themselves.

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So, whether you’ve never thought of practising yoga before or have secretly always wanted to give it a try, go for it! I promise you won’t regret it.

My yoga journey…

A new city, a new hobby

When I moved to London in 2010, I hardly knew a soul other than my then-boyfriend Rich. So, when a friend from college invited me to try a Bikram yoga class with her, I jumped at the chance, if only for the inevitable natter we’d have pre and post class.

I’d been warned that the studio would be hot (40 degrees in fact), but for a beach lover like me I wasn’t too fazed. 90 minutes later, 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises complete, I was red-faced, dripping in sweat and dying for some fresh air. What had everyone so hooked?

Then, after showering and cooling down, suddenly it hit me…the ‘yoga high’. Endorphins were flowing, toxins had been released and I felt leaner and taller than I had in a long time. I wanted more!

I bought my first 30 day pass, completed the month and then proceeded to dot around the various different studios in London taking advantage of their offers. You see, I love yoga, but it can sometimes be a little pricey.

Then in 2013, a new studio (BYCJ) opened up around the corner from my house. Before they’d even opened the doors to welcome in their first customer, I’d already contacted the owner to see if I could help out in the studio in exchange for free classes. Thankfully he agreed and my somewhat sporadic practice was suddenly a weekly routine.

It was after about 6 months that I started to notice a difference in myself. Not necessarily physically (I’ve always been active) but mentally. I was happier, less stressed and more positive than I had been in the 4 years since I’d moved to London. Give me more…

Deepening my practice

That summer, I decided that I needed a weekend away and as it was going to be a solo trip, I thought a yoga retreat would be ideal. It was there that I discovered a different style of yoga and vowed to learn more.

Source: Yogaholidayspain.com
Source: Yogaholidayspain.com

When I got back to London, I took my time dabbling in different styles and studios. Yoga Haven, Lindsay Jay Fitness and YogaLondon to name but a few, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across HPY (Hot Power Yoga), that I really found my niche.

Manifesting Dreams…

Fast forward a year and the summer of 2014 was fast approaching. Life was going well until all of a sudden I was made redundant from my job as an events manager. I didn’t want to dwell in a puddle of self pity so instead I filled my days with job hunting, sunbathing and regular trips to HPY. It was here that my dream of one day opening up my own studio really started to cement itself. I spent my holiday in Greece talking and thinking about it more, even drawing pictures of how I’d want the studio to look and what it would called.

Then I set my dreams into motion.

I saved hard for a year or so, giving up luxuries like new clothes and shoes, so I could save faster. Then in November 2014 I was finally ready to book onto the yoga teacher training course. I attended two open days, one at YogaLondon in Bermondsey and one at HPY in Clapham. Whilst they both offered similar programmes and methods of teaching, I felt more of a connection to HPY and so signed up on the dotted line that day.

There’s now less than 4 weeks to go until I begin my yoga teacher training journey. Wish me luck!

Poolside yoga in the south of France

In late 2013, I went on a weekend away to the Dordogne region in the South of France with some colleagues from work. We did little else but eat, drink and lie by the pool. But after a day of laziness, I needed to expend some excess energy and so roped a few people into joining me for a yoga class by the pool.

I’d been practising Bikram yoga for about 3 years at this point and knew the sequence fairly well and so I led the class with a made-up version of the dialogue and my own demonstrations of the poses.

It was then that I got my first taste of teaching and I was hooked! I went back to London and started a saving plan, trying out several studio open days around the city until I stumbled upon the one that suited me best – Hot Power Yoga. I loved the studio, the teachers, the atmosphere and so what better place to start my own teaching journey!