Your old local pub has re-opened as a yoga studio, your colleagues are coming in to work at 8am wearing garish yoga gear and you can’t read a paper without hearing about the next yoga pop-up event involving gin/goats/hugging.
After some persuasion, you’ve done some research into modern yoga and suddenly you’ve entered a world that resembles a lads mag, full of bikinis, flesh and contortion. You were indifferent to yoga before this and now you’ve been put off for life. Lets reign in the hype, see through the faff and answer some of your questions:
Yoga is just about stretching and making pretty shapes?
Ok, let’s look at yoga from a completely physical perspective. The asanas (poses) and the transition between them are as much about strength as flexibility. Strong and tight people often need to focus more on the flexibility side and super flexible people generally need to focus on getting stronger and more stable. We’re trying to find the balance between these two poles, whilst focusing on sensations rather than aesthetics.
Yoga classes mainly involve lying around and gently stretching don’t they?
In the world of modern yoga there are all sorts of styles; you’ve got alignment focused Iyengar yoga, sweaty Ashtanga yoga, relaxing restorative yoga, cardiovascular rocket yoga, spiritual Kundalini yoga and deep Yin yoga. Within some styles, there’s huge variety based on who’s teaching. For instance, a Vinyasa class could be fast and led by pop music, or silent with deep holds and controlled movement. In short, your physical yoga practice can be as hard as you want it to be.
Yoga classes are full of hippies, grannies or lycra clad females; I’d probably stand out?
Yes, you’ll probably see lots of lycra, male beads and chakra tattoos, but depending on teacher/style you’ll see; tight older city workers, MMA fighters, big people, small people, men, women, etc etc. You get the point.
Will it make any difference to my life?
Starting off with the physical again, if you spend lots of your life creating a certain shape with your body, it’s worth spending some time doing the opposite. If your work involves hanging over the desk, let yoga help you extend your spine. If you’re a boxer, yoga will help you open those overdeveloped shoulders. If you run to work every day, you’ll appreciate how yoga can help loosen hips and hamstrings. Beyond the physical, the psychological benefits of spending 60-90 minutes taking part in some physical self-enquiry and controlling your breath are huge, especially in our modern cities.
Do you need lycra?
You can if you want. Go wild. Whatever gets you in the mood. Typical gym shorts and a tee will do too.
Whats the next step?
Head to your local studio and they’ll probably have some kind of introductory offer. Chat to the staff team and find out the more basic (doesn’t mean easier) classes to start with and then work your way on to try as many styles/teachers as you can until you find some that resonate with you. If your studio’s options are limited, try online yoga like Udaya and bring the good teachers (and me!) to your lounge.
Bottom line, ignore the hype, don’t get involved in the drama and let your yoga practice be a personal experience.