Yoga is more than just slipping into the latest lycra leggings and doing a downward dog. Instead, it’s become synonymous with mindfulness, building a strong mind and body, and developing clarity.
While modern yoga is seen as a session in which we expect to sweat for one hour, feel good and carry on with our day, ancient yoga focused more on discovering the internal self and develop concentration through breathing. It’s said that once this is achieved, the yogi emerges and we are able to move our body consciously.
So apart from not becoming so attached and involved in our shallow thoughts, what else can we expect to gain from yoga if it isn’t touching our toes? We speak to Kate Kendall, Yogi and Co-Founder of Flow Athletic and Flow After Dark who takes us through her reasons why everyone should give it a go.
It’ll Make You Slow Right Down
No matter what mood you’re in, walking out of a yoga class will always encourage you to shift into a lower gear than when you walked in. Recent studies have found that regular yoga practice can improve cognitive function, which specifically enhances mindfulness. Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word and we now have the knowledge of how to access that headspace such as listening to music, colouring-in and practising yoga. These actions are said to shift our brain waves to an alpha state where stress and anxiety levels are reduced. In yoga, this is largely achieved through tempered breathing.
In practising many styles of yoga including Vinyasa, Ashtanga and even Hatha, a large part of the practice is ‘strength’. It’s great for accessing a wide range of muscle groups and toning them. In one class, your legs are targeted with holding lunges, as well as your arms as you lower your body with control, and don’t forget the core which is always switched on. You will also notice that there is no one yoga body! Your ability is not limited to your shape as flexibility is so individual.
Yoga can be a place of comparison, but the moment we strive to be just as good as the person on the mat next to us is when we lose sight of yoga’s intention. If you think about when infants learn to walk, they fall, fall and fall again, but they always get up and try again. When you start out, yoga will put you in positions where you do fall, but so long as you fall with a smile and give it another go is when you begin to practice humility, which you can take with you outside of the studio.
In a study examining the perceived benefits of yoga, participants found they had improved sleep, better diet patterns and improved physical function. We also know that certain poses can help stimulate various physiological actions in the body. For example, vertebra twists can help promote GIT motility, which is beneficial for regulating bowel movements. There are also particular poses such as bridge and wheel that when practised in the morning can release energy from the heart which is favourable for the day ahead.
Get Some Quiet Time
It’s rare that we give ourselves the time to still our mind, especially when we are said to have at least 50,000 thoughts a day! Yoga encourages a different kind of thought process whereby we are challenged to hone our attention towards one movement at a time. You’ll notice the moment you’re not dedicating your mind to a pose because it’s likely you’ll lose your balance. The idea of yoga isn’t to control the mind but as the Monk, Shunryu Suzuki once said “leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea”.
7:00pm – 8:30pm