As the old saying goes different strokes, for different folks. Yoga is a fantastically useful toolbox of options that suit people at different points in their lives, with a variety of health conditions, different body shapes and types, and different intentions for practice.
Its frustrating that many people say to me they’ve never tried yoga because they feel like they can’t touch their toes. That statement represents the most tiny marginalised, and largely insignificant part of what yoga is. Yes we can use it to increase flexibility in our body, but also to improve flexibility of our mind. Or to work with our energy levels, emotions, mental clarity and focus. At the beginning of the summer I taught the Cardiff BWY summer school focused on connection because for me yoga is about both connecting inwards to yourself and connecting outwards to everything that is bigger than the ‘little world of me’.
As a beginner it can be confusing to find the right form or practice that suits what you want so its useful to get out there and sample the different wares on offer. I try to run holistic classes that give you a taster of lots of those elements. In September I’m pleased to say i’ll be starting to include simple meditations regularly.
Below I have run through a few elements you might see in my workshops, classes or teachings:
Asana / movement
This is what most people fundamentally think of as yoga. It has huge value – we tend to spend most of our time focused on the thoughts running through our mind – planning, worrying, dreaming, reminiscing, figuring out, thinking through etc. Sometimes we forget the demands placed on the body with posture, habits, carrying things. That is until we received a jolt of a reminder not to ignore the body, when it complains and we experience pain. In movement practice we focus on body sensation, moving through the body’s range of movement to help keep that healthy functional movement that allows us to go about our daily activities.
Pranayama / breath practice
Breath is life. Without it there is no life. It is often thought of as a doorway to working with emotions. But it can also be useful for increasing energy when sluggish or calming the nervous system when agitated. There is a huge plethora of breathing techniques but simplicity can be the key here – simply keeping the attention on the breath can have a powerful impact.
This comes in many different shapes and sizes too. Generally speaking this is the part at the end of the class where you are invited to lay down and come to rest. Sometimes its just coming into stillness and silence for a few moments. Other times you may be guided into a more systematic form of relaxation such as Yoga Nidra – a powerful technique for calming the body and helping us to work with intentions.
Meditation is the process of noticing the mind and working with what we find there. It is not about having no thoughts – that would be either deep sleep or being knocked unconscious. It’s about making a little bit of space so we are not completely controlled by the constant stream of thoughts rushing through the mind or even starting to change habits governed by the sub conscious. It takes time and work – but can be a powerful tool.
Mantra and kirtan
These parts of yoga often use sanskrit (the ancient indian language) phrases repeated over and over to yourself and/or sound to help tune the busy mind onto something specific. Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to work with mantra and kirtan because it is so unfamiliar. We want to dissect it, understand what it means, what its for before trying it. But actually like someone trying to describe the taste of a food you have never experienced, it will always be so much better to taste it for yourself. If you can relax enough to try it yourself – these can also be radical and beautiful practices.
I am really excited for this autumn term of classes – come join me from 3rd September at Parkminster United Reform Church Roath 6-7.30pm. The five week block costs £34 or drop in rate is £8.50. Or you can catch me before then in Roath Pleasure Gardens pop up park yoga and teaching at All Roots Yoga Festival, Pembrokeshire.