Never done yoga before, not sure what to expect?

There is much, much more to yoga than meets the eye: yoga isn’t just for super fit, bendy people who can tie themselves up in knots! No matter what your ability you can always get multiple benefits from doing yoga.

 The postures, which are perhaps yoga’s most easily identifiable feature, work on the physical body, stretching to release tension and improve flexibility. They also strengthen and tone the body and improve general posture.

Breathing exercises are also a fundamental part of yoga. These help to improve lung capacity and increase oxygen intake. They also encourage the mind to focus upon the breath which helps to calm the mind and create a feeling of tranquillity.

Most yoga sessions finish with a guided relaxation or visualisation. This allows your body and mind to completely relax and let go. When in a true state of relaxation such as this the body is more able to repair and heal itself.

Yoga is non-competitive. What is important in yoga is to listen to how your body is feeling at any given moment and not to worry about what other people in the class are doing. This can be difficult at first and you might initially feel self conscious but you’ll soon realise that everyone else in the class is focusing on their own practise and not paying any attention to anyone else.

How to find a suitable class

Classes are widely available. You can often find classes at local leisure centres, in church halls, community centres and at gyms. Some are pay as you go per session whilst others require you to sign up for a block number of sessions.

There are many different styles of yoga; some yoga classes are very gentle whilst others (especially Ashtanga/Power Yoga) are far more physically demanding. It is obviously worth checking out the general style of the class before going along. If you go to a class and do not enjoy it or find it doesn’t suit you please do not be put off. Every yoga teacher is different; it is a matter of finding one that works for you.

If you have an illness/injury/disability then please inform the teacher before the class starts. The teacher will then be able to advise you of adaptations that can be made to any postures that you find difficult in order to make them more comfortable. This may involve doing the posture in a slightly different way or ‘props’ such as a cushion might be used. Don’t be afraid to speak up, yoga teachers are used to this and in 99% of classes at least one person will require an adaptation to one pose or another. 

If you are really worried about going into a class, many yoga teachers offer one to one sessions. A good way of easing yourself into yoga is to have a few individual sessions first. That way the teacher can familiarise themselves with your abilities and you can learn some of the basic techniques and postures.

What equipment/clothing is needed?

You need to wear comfortable clothing that allows for freedom of movement. Some parts of the class may be quite gentle or slow, or as with relaxation involve no movement at all, so you will need a warm top layer. However, during other parts of the class you might get quite warm so you will need a thin layer underneath. Yoga is mostly practised barefoot.

The only essential equipment needed is a yoga mat. Mats are often provided but best to check this out beforehand.

How can yoga help with chronic pain?

Yoga can be very beneficial for anyone suffering from chronic pain as it has many benefits, such as:

·         It improves flexibility and range of motion in all the joints in the body

·         It gently strengthens the body

·         It relieves both physical and mental tension.

·         It has a calming effect upon the mind

·         It helps you to escape from the outside world; for a short while at least!

·         It can improve sleep quality/quantity

·         It promotes a sense of inner peace

·         It has a positive effect upon mental health; helping to relieve depression and anxiety.

Golden Rules

1.       Be honest with yourself.

2.       Listen to your body. Work at your own level.

3.       Release from a pose if it is painful. Seek an adaptation or an alternative.

4.       Be patient with yourself. Focus on enjoying what you can do.

H. Simpson

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