Frequently Asked Questions...

There are so many different styles of Yoga and so many mixed messages in the media about what Yoga is and is not, that it is easy for a new student to feel overwhelmed. I hope the following will answer a few of the questions that you might have as a beginner. 

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj which means to yoke or bind and so it is often translated as “union”. In this way, it may be said that Yoga is the union of our body, mind and spirit.

The so-called father of classical Yoga, Patanjali, is believed to have collated all the wisdom from the ancient Yoga texts bringing it together in his Yoga Sutras an estimated 2,000 years ago. This collection of 196 statements serves as a philosophical guide for most of the Yoga that is practised today. It also outlines what is called the eight limbs of Yoga, ie. the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (physical poses), pranayama (breathing practices), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we learn to control our body and mind and then gradually begin to take our focus to our inner world, a place of beauty, deep peace and calm.

Today, most people practising Yoga in the West are engaged in the third limb of Yoga ie asana, which is a programme of physical postures designed to purify the body and allow the body to sit comfortably and steadily for meditation. And so, whatever style of Yoga you are practising, be it Sivananda, Iyengar, Viniyoga or any other, all will encourage an opening of the body and then, later, an opening of the mind and emotions to create a profound sense of well-being and joy.

There are so many benefits of Yoga. The following are just a few to get you started.

  • Increases flexibility
  • Strengthens muscles
  • Improves balance and co-ordination
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves the function of the immune system
  • Helps develop good postural habits
  • Improves the health of the joints
  • Improves lung function
  • Strengthens bones
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Improves brain function
  • Offers pain relief
  • Improves mental health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Relaxes the nervous system

No, definitely not. In fact, it took me several years of practice before I could comfortably touch my toes. Yoga is for EVERY BODY whatever their level of strength and flexibility. In time and with practice, even a very tight body can become more flexible and a lot stronger.

And, until you get there, each Yoga pose has many ways (often using simple props) of being modified to suit your individual body.

No, it is so much more than this and I am committed to sharing with my students every element of the practice. This includes mindfulness and meditation, breath awareness and control, an exploration of the therapeutic benefits of the postures, a little Yoga philosophy and wonderfully effective relaxation techniques.
But, even if we consider just the physical part of Yoga, the practice is quite different from other physical practices in that we connect the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. This connection helps us to direct our attention inward, to become present of our moment to moment experiences which, in time and if we choose, can provide a framework for our spiritual growth.

If you attend my classes, expect to enjoy a quiet period of centring before moving into gentle warm-ups, progressing to sun salutations and other flowing sequences and then, when the body is sufficiently warmed up, moving into static poses, some simple others more challenging, before quietening the energy with breath work, mindfulness and a blissful relaxation at the end of every class.

It really helps if you wear leggings so that I can observe your alignment as you practise. Then wear anything that feels comfortable and allows you to have a full range of movement. Also don’t forget to bring an extra layer or blanket for the start and beginning of the class. Finally, we practise yoga in bare feet so please take off you trainers or socks.

During Yoga practice, we twist, invert, bend forward and back and if you have not digested your meal before you take your class, you will, in all likelihood, feel very uncomfortable and your movements will be inhibited.

If you are concerned you might get hungry or feel weak during class, then have a piece of fruit an hour before class.

Yoga is not a religion but rather a philosophy that began in India approximately 5,000 years ago. The father of classical Yoga was a sage called Patanjali who wrote the classical text, The Yoga Sutras (for which more please see above). This text can provide a framework for spiritual growth as we learn to develop mastery over the physical and mental body. However, it is not necessary to become religious to practise Yoga or to surrender your own religious beliefs to practise Yoga.

Om is a mantra that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of Yoga classes. It is said to be the sound of the universe, produced as everything within the universe vibrates together. The ancient Yogis knew what science teaches us today, that the entire universe is in constant motion, that nothing is ever solid or still and that everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration.

It may be said that chanting Om allows us to connect to this universal energy and recognise that we are one and a part of it. Chanting Om will have different effects for different people - some may find it uplifting, others energising or soothing or reassuring or calming. Everyone’s experience will be different.

Even if you only have time to practise for one hour a week, you will experience the benefits of the practice so if that is all you can do, then that’s a wonderful start. However, if possible, I would suggest 2/3 times a week for an hour each time (less if that’s all the time you have). In time, you will probably find that you derive so much from the practice that you find yourself doing more and more (eventually becoming a Yoga geek like me and practising every single day!)

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