Our guide to yoga
Alistair Stafford

Our guide to yoga

First published date November 15 2013 Amended date January 15 2016

We’d all like to stay fit and healthy throughout our adult life, but what do you do to keep yourself in shape? Worryingly, only around one third of UK adults are doing the recommended two and a half hours of physical activity a week, which means the vast majority of you are missing out on all the great benefits that Yoga and other forms of exercise can bring to both your body and general fitness.

So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a complete exercise novice wanting to boost your appearance or you’re already a fitness freak looking to maintain your health regime, a yoga course could be just for you.


What is it?

For those unfamiliar with yoga, the exercise aims to provide you with a healthy body and mind, as you get in certain postures and positions to improve your strength and flexibility. Sound complicated? Well fear not, as people of all ages take part in yoga classes every week, with many new starters being pensioners looking to maintain their good health into retirement (don’t worry, there are lots of people who start taking up yoga much younger too).


How it all began

Since originating in ancient India thousands of years ago, numerous variations of Yoga have been developed and are being exercised on a regular basis across the globe. Although known as yoga in the Western world, the word comes from Sanskrit (the language of Hinduism) and is based on the verbs ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. While the pastime is believed to be up to 5,000 years old, there’s no written record of who actually invented yoga, with the first recognised yoga text published more than 2,000 years ago by Patanjali (which is still being referred to today). All those years later and yoga is more popular than ever.


What are the benefits?

As we’ve already told you, the health benefits of taking part in a yoga classes are massive. The flexing and stretching will reduce tension throughout your body, while mentally, the deep breathing is said to help relieve stress and improve your mental health. It can also benefit those who already suffer with conditions like high blood pressure and arthritis, as the stretching of muscles that is done through yoga can help strengthen the body and increase blood flow. That’s particularly useful for the older ones among you, as the increased mobility you’ll have from stronger knees and ankles will reduce the risk of suffering from falls.


The different styles

If you thought that yoga classes are all the same, then think again, as there are actually dozens of different disciplines used worldwide. Although the vast majority follow similar moves and practices, there are some styles more vigorous and physically demanding than others. To help you prepare for a yoga course, here’s a quick run through of some of the basic moves:

. Mountain Pose – Arguably the most basic yoga move, as you stand up with your feet together, take a deep breath and raise your hands up as high as possible.

. Tree Pose – A progression of the Mountain pose, as you bend one leg so that it’s rests on the inside of the opposite thigh. You again have your arms raised, so you look like a tree (well, that’s the idea anyway).

. Downward Dog – Not as rude as it sounds, the move sees you start on all fours and press your hips towards the ceiling, so your body looks like an upside-down V with your backside in the air.

. The Warrior – Starting with your legs apart, you turn your right knee 90 degrees and twist your upper body round, while having your arms stretched outwards.

Don’t worry if you think you won’t be flexible or as fit as the others in a yoga class, as there are courses available to suit a wide range of levels and abilities. Plus, the more involved you get, the better your physical condition will get.


What next

With weekend and part time yoga classes available for you to choose from, you’ll be able to find the right course for both your availability and your ability. If you don’t think you’re ready to exercise alongside others, then an online courses can allow you to learn from home at a time (and pace) to suit you. You never know, you may enjoy it so much that you end up wanting to become a yoga teacher yourself.


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