Summer Zen: How to fall in love with yoga and meditation
There are a multitude of reasons to fall in love with the ancient wellbeing practice. Here’s why yoga is one of the best exercises you can do - and how to get started.
You’ve probably heard of yoga - it’s been around for centuries, after all. But that doesn’t mean you’ve tried it. It’s not surprising, what with all the yoga-based pose names such as bakasana, downward-facing dog, and mountain - not to mention all the super-flexy #Yogis curved into sailor’s-knot-like shapes on Instagram.
There are also lots of different types of yoga, from hatha to bikram, vinyasa to ashtanga (more info about our mind & body classes here). It leaves the yoga newbie with a string of questions, that they might be uncomfortable asking. With that in mind, we’ve put together this starter guide to the ancient practice, so you can separate from your mantras from your mudras in no time.
Why get into yoga?
Regular yoga can dramatically improve both your mental and physical health. Here are just a few benefits of the practice:
1. You’ll get more flexible.
You may not be able to touch your toes, yet, but stick to a yoga routine and you’ll soon be on your way to those elusive pretzel-shaped poses. The more you practice, the more your body loosens up and aches and pains will start to melt away.
2. You’ll build muscle strength
Many yoga positions - such as handstands and crow poses - require incredible strength. You’ll build this over time with regular practice, using your own bodyweight as a workout tool. The muscle tone and definition you build with yoga doesn’t just look great aesthetically, it protects you from conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis and back pain.
3. Perfect your posture
From being slumped at the office to hunching over your steering wheel, the modern lifestyle has made it harder to maintain a solid posture. But yoga can stretch you out, take pressure off strained muscles and have you standing tall in no time. Tree pose, mountain pose, forward-fold, downward-facing dog and cat-cow pose are all posture-perfecting gold.
How to get started with yoga
Whether you’re looking for a new way to challenge your athletic abilities or want to reach out to your inner Zen, getting into yoga is different for everyone. Some people are more flexible, others find it near-impossible to switch off and meditate when they first start the practice.
The great thing about yoga and meditation is that it can be done anywhere, at any time, by anyone. All you need is a yoga mat and comfy, loose clothing. An open mind and a little patience will help, too.
Start off with a gentle workout to ease you into it. Master your breathing first (or pranayama, in Yogi speak) - taking a deep breaths in through the nose and filling out your belly - before moving on to basic poses such as cat-cow and downward-facing dog.
You can head to your local Holmes Place club for a Yoga class and ease yourself into it in a relaxed environment with likeminded people. Learning to stop thinking at 100 mph everyday - and simply learning to breathe - can be one of the kindest things you can do for your body.
Find a Club near you.