What is Yoga?
There are six branches of Yoga but the one that is commonly practiced in the West is Asana which refers to the postures that we perform in Yoga class – Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga encompasses all the styles of Yoga that we typically see on timetables at gyms and in studios: Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Kundalini and so on, all fall under the umbrella ‘Hatha Yoga.’ The translation of Yoga in English is Union or “to yoke,” referring to the union of mind, body emotions and intellect. On a spiritual plane it is the union of the individual self with the universal self. Yoga is a moving meditation where we move in and out of postures in synchronisation with our breath. The poses are combined so that we follow a set of sequences that stretch, strengthen, twist, soften and challenge the muscles, internal organs and the mind.
What is Vinyasa Yoga?
Vinyasa Yoga is derived from the traditional practice of Ashtanga Yoga. It is a practice of continuous motion or 'flow', synchronising the breath with movement. Sequencing is built around sun salutations and continuously varied to create a unique combination of postures for each class. Typical sequences include sun salutations, lunges, balancing, twisting, stretching, back strengthening and bending, core strengthening, arm balances, inversions, relaxation and massage. Variations are offered throughout class to suit students of all levels with a focus on postures, alignment, breathing techniques and flow of movement. You will be guided through your yoga class with modifications and adaptations, helping you to develop fitness, flexibility, balance, and a mind-body connection.
What if I have never done Yoga before?
If you are new to Yoga be prepared for something very different to any other form of exercise. It can take a few sessions to get used to moving the body into unusual positions but in a short time the body begins to adjust. In Yoga we start to move away from the gym or workout mentality of pushing ourselves and trying to ‘get it done’ so that we can tick daily exercise off our to-do list. Instead, we aim to become present in the body and rather than push it through a ‘work out’ we introduce challenging poses and use the breath to gradually increase and withstand intensity to wherever our body can is at on the day. It isn’t about keeping up or getting ‘better’ at Yoga. We simply aim to work the body at our own pace in our own time. In being present and allowing ourselves to feel the bodies’ response to each pose we are introduced to a whole new way of feeling in the body, the mind and our entire being. Make sure you arrive ten minutes early to sign in and set up your mat. Most of all, try not to take the class or yourself too seriously. Have fun and find the joy in learning something new.
Do I need to book?
Please refer to the timetable to find out if your class requires a booking. On the timetable the class will either say that it is ‘casual’ which means just show up or ‘*bookings essential’ which means that you must complete the booking form.
What do I need to wear and bring to class?
If you have your own mat, bring it along but if you don’t, no problem. Communal mats are available to borrow. Wear comfortable, opaque clothing that won’t restrict you or expose you in twists and forward bends etc. You may like to bring a blanket to sit on or to rug up in during relaxation but the heating is turned on during winter. Blocks and straps are provided.
How many times per week should I practice Yoga?
For optimum benefits, it is recommended that Yoga be practiced 3-6 times per week however, even once weekly will produce noticeable benefits. Some experienced Yoga practitioners report that when they practice Yoga 6 times weekly they have felt and seen remarkable health and wellness benefits. When practiced regularly, the body can be healthy with little to no other form of exercise.
What should I eat before class?
It is recommended that you don’t eat anything for at least 90 minutes to two hours before class or longer if possible. Because we turn the body upside down and twist the torso it can be incredibly hindering and uncomfortable if the body is trying to digest a meal. To make your session even easier, try to eat light, easy to digest meals throughout the day or the night before you practice.
What if I am pregnant or trying to be?
Yoga is not recommended during the first trimester of pregnancy, particularly if you don’t have an existing regular practice and if it is your first pregnancy. If you are pregnant or trying to be, please inform your instructor so that they can offer you modifications for a gentler practice. If you have further concerns or queries please contact us to discuss your circumstances.
I’m not flexible – can I still do Yoga?
Saying you are too inflexible for Yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a bath! We practice Yoga so that we can become more flexible; it is not a pre-requisite. When you go to class you may see that others in the class can do the moves and you may feel a little out of your depth but remember that they were once a beginner and they have some part of the practice that they can’t do easily. Some people are flexible, some are strong; some can sit still for a long time or balance well on one foot, happily get upside down or align themselves meticulously. There is always at least one aspect of the practice that comes more easily than the other areas and usually there is one area that is the most challenging. Many of us are not naturally flexible, strong, able to balance etc so relax and try not to take it too seriously.
What if I am over weight?
Yoga can be intimidating for new people, especially anyone who is less comfortable in their skin. Some of the movements can be especially awkward and challenging for a bigger body, however it isn’t always the case. Modifications and props will be offered to anyone who requires extra support in the practice and if there are injuries or health risks, please notify your instructor so that they can ensure you are guided through a safe practice. Anyone feeling self-conscious about group exercise is free to practice in the back row and take it as slowly as they need. Everyone is treated with sensitivity, please notify your instructor of your preferences.
I am a beginner and not “very good” at Yoga
Yoga is unlike other forms of physical activity because we are not training to “become good” at it or to get to a certain level. In a way, Yoga doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. There is always more to do in a pose to go deeper or stronger or to the next level and the more we practice, the more we work towards higher intensity in the pose. Our bodies fluctuate from day to day with energy levels, flexibility and strength but each time you practice, no matter how challenging or how long for, you nourish the body in some way. Come to class with no expectations of what the body should be able to do or not do and just enjoy being in the body and discovering what it can do. Anyone feeling self-conscious about group exercise is free to practice in the back row and take it as slowly as they need. Everyone is treated with sensitivity - please notify your instructor of your preferences.
What if I am middle aged and have never done Yoga?
It’s never too late to start something new, especially Yoga! Yoga is very popular amongst the 40-60 year (and beyond) age bracket. Beginners and injuries will be catered for in class. Please discuss any concerns with the instructor before class.
Do many men come to Yoga?
Yes! The most recent statistics on gender and Yoga in the USA in 2006 reported that about 75% of a Yoga class is women with men making up about 25%. At Flow Through Yoga the ratio is very similar with anywhere between 20% and 40% males in class and increasing. Yoga is a 5000 year old practice that originally only men undertook – women weren’t allowed. In particular, Vinyasa Yoga attracts men because it can be quite a strong practice.
The benefits of Yoga:
Health benefits of yoga include:
- Cardiovascular system (heart and arteries) – asana (the postures) rely on holding muscle tension for short periods of time which improves cardiovascular fitness and circulation. Studies show that regular yoga practice may help equalise blood pressure.
- Digestive system – improved blood circulation and the massaging effect of surrounding muscles speeds up a sluggish digestion. In particular our twisting postures massage the internal organs and squeeze them, encouraging movement and stimulation for waste elimination.
- Musculoskeletal – joints are moved through their full range of motion, which encourages mobility and eases pressure. The gentle stretching releases muscle and joint tension, and stiffness, and also increases flexibility. Holding postures encourages strength and endurance while weight-bearing asana may help prevent osteoporosis, and potentially manage the symptoms of osteoporosis (if practiced with care under the supervision of a qualified practitioner). Long-term benefits include reduced back pain and improved posture.
- Nervous system – improved blood circulation, ease of muscle tension and the act of focusing the mind on the breath all combine to soothe the nervous system. Long-term benefits include reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue, better concentration and energy levels, and increased feelings of calm and wellbeing.
- Stress management - Yoga is a powerful tool for managing stress. In Yoga practice we adopt skills that can be easily applied to our daily lives, in particular how we respond to conflict and other stressful circumstances. The breath work assists us to quieten the mind and settle any physical tension associated with stress. In our Yoga practice we learn to observe our thoughts and feelings and resist reacting to them as we become increasingly challenged during the Yoga sequence. This activity gives us great insight into our habitual behavioral patterns and how we react to challenges or stress that we may not necessarily be aware of. Once we become more aware of how we react to the challenges of the asana and most likely the challenges we are faced with in life, we can work on changing those reactions into well thought out responses that accurately represent who we are. It's not that we learn to no longer feel stress, although our threshold does become higher, but we learn how to remain cool, calm and collected whilst moving through stressful circumstances.