Yoga has been around for millennia, and there is a very good reason why it has endured for so long. If you have found yourself reluctant to have a go, then you are not alone! Unfortunately, although the many benefits of yoga are well-established, it still has something of a reputation of being slightly mystical, not to mention extremely challenging. This is hardly surprising when the most common images you see in the media are of very lithe young people, contorted into seemingly impossible positions; or flower people and mystics chanting in a cloud of incense. Modern yoga could not be further from these stereotypes and is, in fact, one of the best things you can do for a healthy mind and body.
Yoga is for everyone
Like any other form of physical or mental endeavour, there will be amateurs enjoying the activity at its most basic level, while at the other end, there will be masters of the art. Take football for example. Just because at the top end of the sport it is filled with highly-paid, extremely talented professionals playing to audiences of millions, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in your backyard with your boots and a ball and a couple of friends. Yoga is just the same; it doesn’t matter that there are people who excel at it and devote their lives to it, you are as able to benefit from trying it out at whatever level suits you. Maybe you thought it might be worth trying, but having seen the ads for online courses, you have been put off by the apparent physical perfection of the tutors. Maybe you don’t like the idea of being involved in the spiritual side of yoga, which you get the impression is an essential component of the practice. Either way, what you need to do is stop worrying about these things because neither are barriers to enjoying yoga. The best way to get started is to find a good yoga teacher near you.
Why classes are best
When you first start with yoga, you will find the experience more satisfying and enjoyable if you enrol in a local class. There are several reasons why this works best:
- Your teacher will be able to work with you as an individual, tailoring the poses to suit you, and helping you overcome any specific difficulties you may have. They can guide you at exactly the right level for your own needs and abilities.
- Your teacher will be able to ensure you are holding the poses correctly and safely and will be able to advise you on making any adjustments or trying alternative versions of poses that may suit you better.
- You will be in the company of many other people who are as far from your notion of physical perfection as you believe yourself to be. You are probably far more capable under the correct tuition than you imagine, and having a group of people who can support each other and provide encouragement can be a real help.
The critical thing to do is to find a teacher who you can connect with, and who understands your motivations and limits. Some teachers do like to explore the mystical elements, but many focus on the physical and mental elements, so make sure you find someone who is on your wavelength.
You will find plenty of information and clinical evidence online and in books concerning the physical benefits of yoga. All the evidence supports the claim that yoga is highly beneficial for flexibility, suppleness, good posture, strength and overall muscle tone. This is true at whatever level you practice, so the benefits are achievable by all. In fact, yoga is used extensively in the field of physical rehabilitation, helping those with chronic pain and disabilities to manage their conditions and improve their health. All the stretches are safe and effective ways of exercising and conditioning all the muscles in the body. There are varying styles of yoga as well with some being more active and others focusing more on relaxation. There truly is a form of yoga to suit everyone.
In addition to the physical workout in your yoga class, you will probably be asked to participate in a session of meditation. It has nothing to do with anything spiritual unless you wish to embrace it as such. The meditation is a form of whole-body relaxation where the teacher will guide you at the end of the session using music and their voice into a deeply relaxed state. Physical exercise of all kinds is good for your mental health, and yoga no less so, but the relaxation session provides an opportunity to achieve a level of stress and tension reduction that is hard to find anywhere else. Once you have experienced a well-guided relaxation session, and the wonderful peace and restorative powers of this simple and pleasurable activity, you will be wondering why you didn’t get into yoga before.
What do you need to be able to do yoga?
The answer is, not a great deal! There is no need to spend vast amounts of money on special outfits because simple, comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely is all you will require. Yoga is usually performed barefoot, but if you need or want anything special, always get the highest quality items you can, for example, get the best yoga shoes you can afford. Having your own mat is useful because you can then practise your poses at home. You may wish to purchase your own blocks, straps or bolsters if your teacher has shown you how to use them and you find that they help. As you become more confident, you may decide that you would like to try an online or DVD course and if you have learnt the basics in your class, you should find it much easier to follow a course at home.
Yoga is not just for mystics, gurus, and perfect physical specimens. No matter how old or young, or physically or mentally challenged you may be, yoga is an amazing, proven way of helping you to lead a happier and healthier life, so take the plunge and try it for yourself.