Updated: Jun 26, 2019
The intention of this blog is to look at all aspects of health and while I have until now focused mostly on food, an important aspect of health is about how we move our bodies because that is what we are meant to do.
Movement should not only keep you fit it should also be something you enjoy and love doing and that makes you feel great after you have done it. It may be dancing around you living room to ABBA, walking along the sea with friends, mountain biking or playing beach bat, the options for moving your beautiful body are endless.
As children we play and then we become adults and stop playing and so we have to slot ‘exercise’ into our already busy schedules. So sometimes just being spontaneous and playing a game of tag or footie with the kids or dogs can be more exhilarating than putting in those km’s on the road or sticking to the schedule.
And then they are forms of movement like yoga, which in fact are so much more than exercise. Yes it can be a good workout, yes it will help tone, strengthen and stretch your body. It can also assist with injures and chronic health issues. But more than this it can help improve your body awareness. It helps create neural pathways that allow your brain to talk to your body and get it to move with intention and purpose.
Deeper than this yoga is a way to focus the mind, it is a moving meditation. When you are having to focus on the poses (asanas) and get your body to move through a sequence or move in a way that is being instructed you have no space for your mind to wander. You are in the moment, moving your body for 60/90 minutes and keeping your mind focused. Let your mind wander and you are quickly brought back to the present moment.
And still deeper yoga is helps to prepare your body to be able to meditate. One of my first teachers said to me that in order to meditate, to be able to sit and still the mind you need a body that is strong enough not distract you with it’s own discomfort. Yoga also teaches you how to breathe (pranayama) and this in itself is a powerful practice for calming anxiety and reducing stress.
For some yoga is a spiritual practice but if you have your own spiritual practice you can still enjoy the benefits of the yoga poses (asanas) and the breathing (pranayama) without exploring the spiritual aspects of yoga.
Well for me yoga is all these things, and I love it. After practising for more than 20 years I keep coming back to it. Why because it feeds my body and my soul. My body is always so grateful for my practice and my soul sings for the calm energy my practice gives to me.
Over the last 20 years yoga has changed and there are a lot more options out there than when I started, oh the choices are endless and can seem overwhelming. My journey with yoga has changed and shifted. Some people stay with one type of yoga and a specific teacher. But the yoga I did 20 years ago is very different to where I am today. For me it is about finding a teacher, a studio and a schedule that works for you and a practice that is right for you at that stage in your life.
Don’t be afraid to try different types of yoga, like life yoga is a journey so make sure that you enjoy the experience and that what you are doing is right for you at this moment in your life.
Finding a studio
There are a lot of yoga studios in Cape Town so explore different options until you find one that works for you. For me there are three things I consider to be important: a good quality smooth wooden floor, lots of natural light and proper ventilation.
If you are new to yoga it is a good idea to try a beginners class or even do a beginners course. This is a good starting point and will give you an idea if you like yoga, the teacher and how your body is feeling. Most importantly don’t try and go to a class which is more advanced, chances are you may hurt yourself.
Some studios offer a two week trail period which is great if you have done yoga and want to try different teaches.
Then of course you can have private lessons which may be beneficial if you have an injury or health issue that you are trying to address or prefer the individual attention. I love going to classes as the energy from everyone can help you go further in your own practice.
Always remember yoga is about your own practice. You cannot do yoga with ego we are all different and have different bodies and no where do you see that more clearly than in yoga. So focus on your practice and your body. If you feel intimidated or are pushed to go further than is comfortable then that is not the class for you.
Make sure the teacher is properly qualified some of the yoga studios offer training to anyone who wants to do it. They don’t always screen the students for suitability to teach. So make sure the teacher has enough experience and that they can handle the class size and the needs of different students.
Types of yoga
There are many different types of yoga you can try. Below I have given a small summary of some of the more popular forms, which I hope helps explain some of the differences:
Hatha - this is a general term used for the physical asanas (poses) it is considered to be at a slower pace and a gentle way to practice. This can be a good place to begin a practice as it provides introduction to the yoga poses.
Iyengar - founded by BKS Iyengar often
considered to be one of the fathers of modern yoga. The practice starts with bringing the body into alignment by using props such as blankets, belts and blocks. The emphasis is on holding the poses. This can challenge the ego that may not like the discomfort but by correct breathing and alignment it allows you to explore the poses more deeply.
Kundalini - is called the Yoga of Awareness, it is an uplifting blend of spiritual and physical practices. Incorporating movement, dynamic breathing techniques, mediation and the chanting of mantras it brings balance to the body, mind and soul. The goal is to build physical vitality and increase consciousness.
Vinyasa - this style of yoga is very popular today as you are taken through a sequence of poses that flow. This keeps the muscles warm and challenges the ability of your mind to concentrate and stay calm.
Forrest - a more vigorous sequence of yoga poses that is intended to strengthen and purify the body and release pent up emotions and pain to encourage healing. The practice is founded on four pillars: breath, strength, integrity and spirit.
Acro Yoga - this is a combination of acrobatics
and yoga that uses gymnastic techniques to build strength, flexibility, trust and teamwork between partners. It is playful and safe, and inspires you to put your fears aside and soar.
Yin - a slow paced mediative style of yoga, the postures are held for longer in order to calm the mind and bring balance to the body and mind.
Sri Sri - created by Art of Living Yoga it is a lovely combination of slow and vigorous yoga sequences, breathing and mediation. It is followed by deep relaxation and yoga nidri (conscious sleep)
Synergy - a series of unique sequences that are founded on both Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga. It incorporates poses (asanas), movement (vinyasa) breathing (pranayama) and meditation. It is a dynamic moving meditation that links postures with breath.
Bikram - Twenty-six poses to systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to every part of your body, restoring all systems to healthy working order. You will gain muscle tone, vibrant good health and a sense of well being. A heated Bikram class is designed to warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Budokon - is a combination of martial arts, yoga, mobility, calisthentics and animal locomotion. It builds strength stamina and joint flexibility. It will also increase your mobility.
I hope this inspires you to go out there and explore yoga as a wonderful way to move the body and calm the mind. If you try it and you don’t like it don’t worry there are many others ways to move the body. Most importantly have fun and remember we are never to old to play!