I thought it might be helpful for those who are attending the forthcoming 8 week beginners yoga course or are thinking of doing the course to write a blog piece about what happens in class. The prospect of a 90 minute class can be quite daunting one but more so a very enjoyable one. It offers the time and the opportunity to explore yoga, delve a little deeper within ourselves and most importantly relax.
Have you ever taken the time to observe the body following a long working day at the office, perhaps you have been sat at your desk all day, or you have been on your feet for hours, some of you may have been driving for a long period of time in the car or perhaps just moving from one meeting to another with very little movement in between? If we take a moment to notice we can feel a series of aches and pains running through our bodies, tightness in our joints, stiffness in the neck and heavy tired eyes from hours of concentration. We can alleviate these symptoms by engaging in yoga practice but for it to be effective we need to combine both movement and breath.
Yoga classes consist of an 8 part sequence, connecting the mind, body and breath that creates a sense of balance. For most classes (apart from class 1 and possibly class 2) on arrival we will sign in, move to the mat area and settle into Savasana also known as Corpse posture. As we settle and relax you may still be aware of the aches and pains that have been accumulating throughout the day but in yoga practice the smallest of movements can make a difference to how we feel. As we close our eyes and begin to move inwards (part 1) we immediately remove ourselves from our working day and we begin to prepare for the here and now, our yoga practice. As we begin to focus on our inward and outward breathing our bodies begin to respond and start to relax, we will start to feel the tension in our bodies that we have been holding in our bodies disappear and we begin to forget that the tension ever existed.
As we venture from relaxation into conscious yogic breathing (part 2) we become energized preparing for our intention setting through solar salutation (part 3). When we begin to move our bodies no muscles or pair of muscles or joint works in isolation, they work together. It is usually tension that causes restricted movement but by focusing inwards on our bodies and continuation of our conscious yogic breathing the tension releases and we can move more easily.As asana practice (part 4) deepens through exploration of postures (part 5) it provides further opportunity to observe the body, what tension is left can be released by focusing the breath on these areas. Asana practice impacts on the health and wellbeing of the spinal cord, allowing are energy to flow more easily.
As we return to stillness (part 6) our bodies are free from tension a result of the combined movement and yogic breathing. We are present, removed from the past that was just a few hours ago. We will recognise/know that a change has occurred, and have created an absolute balance of wellbeing on the physical, mental, emotional on spiritual levels (part 7). Following our yoga blessings we will leave our yoga session behind with a sense of peace, harmony and wellbeing just as we were meant to be (part 8).
Om Nema Sivaya
Prior to 2007 I had taken part in a handful of Yoga classes at the local gym. The classes were an hour long and the sessions were busy with about 25-30 people in them if not more. The classes were okay but it was difficult to remove myself from the constant thud of the beat of the music in the main gym area next door. At that point in time I didn’t feel yoga was for me. Fast forwarding a few years I was a member of a different gym and it was more geared up towards spa and relaxation, they had 90 minute yoga classes on offer but at that time again, I didn’t feel that yoga was for me.
In 2006 I sold my house and gave up my job and travelled for 8 months. I was unsettled at home and I was in a job that I had stopped enjoying. I had gone from School, Sixth form college, University and then continued with Postgraduate study. I was 31 and still had not left the education system. I was burnt out, exhausted and felt like I needed something more. Around the same time I started to have panic attacks and even though I would get up each day and do what I needed to do my anxiety was taking its toll. I was struggling to find something else that I wanted to do and one day it was suggested that I take some time out and go travelling. It seemed such a ludicrous idea at first but once I had thought about it seemed like a perfect solution.
I travelled to Thailand part way through my journey and as part of a cultural experience I had stayed in a Buddhist Temple. It was here that practiced meditation 3 times a day. It was a truly enjoyable experience and far different from any meditation experience I had had from the yoga classes in the gym all those years before. The experience stayed with me for quite some time. Unfortunately, on returning to the UK, resuming study and going back to work the panic attacks returned and I was back to square one. This time I did take advantage of the longer yoga classes at the gym, I finally felt ready for Yoga.
The class was small, intimate and away from the main gym, it was quieter, you could hear noise but it wasn’t so off putting. That first class was memorable for a few different reasons, firstly I was in a high state of anxiety at the thought of going to a class I had never been before, my anxiety continued for the majority of the class. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it through, but it was most memorable because at the end of the 90 minutes my anxiety was gone, I had survived. The connection I had made in my mind that if I practice yoga my anxiety would go stayed with me and I never looked back. As the months and years passed I am relatively anxiety free. I say not totally because I am human and sometimes as humans we let work and worry take over, the constant news feed from mainstream media and social media alike cause anxiety. They play on our fears and concerns, we pick up so much negativity from these sources we often don’t even realise it, yet what we see and read stays with us affecting our thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts are rarely present and seem to ricochet between the past and the future causing confusion of where we are and what we are meant to be doing.
There are so many benefits to Yoga but for myself it has so much more meaning. Yoga has taught me how to be calm, how to deal with stress, how to remove myself from drama and cope with challenges. Sometimes I forget and my thoughts will flit from past to future and from future to past but Yoga is a constant gentle and kind reminder that there is no past or future and takes me back to where I am meant to be, in the present.