Starting yoga this new year? Confused by the myriad choices on offer? We spoke to some Stafford instructors to help you to decide which type is the right one for you.
Sue Tupling - Satyananda yoga
Satyananda yoga – also known as Bihar yoga comes from a school of very ancient lineage. Satyananda Saraswati founded it in the 1950s in India after being inspired by Sivananda – a spiritual guru of the early 20th Century.
My long term interest has been in psychotherapy and this is a very spiritual, mental and physical type of yoga. I started with Buddhist meditation around 20 years ago and I have found this to be the most spiritual and psychological type of yoga I’ve come across – although all yoga should be spiritual. I think for a lot of people there is a fear of the word spiritual. It is not anything to do with religion; spirituality is about achieving a really deep seated comfort with ourselves, evolving our level of consciousness and removing negative influences from the past to move towards a more positive future.
That is achieved firstly through postures; a lot of our negative emotions are stored in our bodies and the mind and body are intimately linked. However, this is only a very small part of a large process. Another element is ‘pranayama’ or breathing work. People don’t realise how magical breathing is and how much it affects our mind and our nervous system.
Many people nowadays are very wound up, which leads to ill health, so we use deep relaxation techniques and meditation techniques to reduce fluctuations of the mind and restore it back to stillness.
It is also a strong practice physically – I’ve had people who’ve had back problems for years saying that they’ve gone, people saying for the first time in years their doctors have taken them off high blood pressure tablets – and all because of yoga. I even had a couple come to classes who were having problems with trying for a baby for years and then falling pregnant- and they put it down to the yoga.
If you’re thinking about taking up yoga in 2014- just do it. Yoga is a lifelong commitment and if you do it regularly it’s the best life insurance you could ever take out.
Sue teaches Satyananda Yoga Mondays at 7 to 8.30pm in Hayes Green Community Centre, Cannock , Thursdays 8pm in Chase Golf, Health Club and Spa, Stafford and regular workshops in Stafford and Cannock throughout the year. In addition, Sue offers one to one yoga psychotherapy from her comfortable consulting room on St Albans Road, Stafford. 01785 227588/07908 730726. Sue's website.
Clare Evans - Hatha Yoga
Yoga is an ancient discipline that recognises that we must nurture the body, mind and spirit rather than just the physical body. Hatha yoga is the main type of yoga taught in the West. This yoga focuses on three of the eight limbs of yoga: asana (the physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and pratyahara (focusing inwards – relaxation techniques).
The asana strengthen weak muscles and lengthen tight muscles to improve posture, which can help reduce minor aches and pains and reduce wear and tear on the joints. The practice also eases physical tension in the body and works on the nervous system to encourage the body and mind to relax. A lot of students notice they sleep better after yoga.
During class the student is encouraged to focus on what they are doing. This focus helps us to let go of all the ‘chatter’ that normally crowds our mind allowing the mind to relax. Learning to let go of this chatter is a useful skill – how many times have you been lying in bed feeling tired, but unable to sleep because your mind is still active?
Although there are plenty of books and DVDs available, they show the final postures which you may achieve one day, but are probably too difficult to begin with. If you are thinking about taking up yoga I would find a qualified teacher who will help you to work with your body safely.
There are different schools of yoga which teach in their own style. There is a range of classes ranging from very gentle to very strong. It is best to speak to teachers and try their classes to see what suits you.
Yoga is not advised in the first 3 months of pregnancy. If you have had surgery, serious illness or have a chronic illness you should check with your doctor that it is safe to practice. Let your teacher know about any injury or condition you have and they will show you how to practice safely. The British Wheel of Yoga website (bwy.org.uk) shows local teachers.
Clare teaches beginner and intermediate Hatha Yoga on Mondays 19:30-21:00 at Sir Graham Balfour High School. 01785 258438.
Tony Wilmot - Ashtanga Vinyasa
Ashtanga Vinyasa is a more dynamic form of Hath yoga. It is best suited to those who like their exercise on the more active side.
The practice involves the intertwining of yoga postures with breath and movement synchronisation. This is call 'vinyasa' .
The uniqueness of this yoga lies in its Vinyasa (breath movement system). Each movement is guided by the breath.
This practice of yoga also involves Surya namaskara - or 'sun salutations'. This yakes into account standing postures, sitting postures and inverted postures followed by a short sitting and relaxation.
The Vinyasa allows yoga poses (asana) to flow one after another in a steady sequence using the ‘Ujjayi’ breath. Each pose is held for 5 breaths before transitioning through a specific series of movements to the next pose. After some practice, this flowing sequence begins to culminate into a moving meditation.
In Ashtanga yoga the body moves, continuously swirls, while the mind and the breathing remain irremovable - in a deep and constant rhythm. This dual situation of movement and immobility is what creates the sense of 'flow'. A situation where the mind becomes the 'observer', and thus extends its limits and potential. This practice has many benefits, including:
-Reduces the impact of stress
- Increases coping skills
- Increases vitality
- Improves the health of your joints
- Improves strength and flexibility
- Improves immune system function
- Can reduce the symptoms of many chronic diseases
- Strengthens the cardiovascular system
- Improves digestion, metabolism, hormone production
- Alleviates depression and anxiety
- Increases feelings of health and wellbeing
- Promotes weight loss and weight regulation.
- Improves athletic performance in all endeavors
- Greater sense of clarity and concentration
To practice Ashtanga Vinyasa, you will need a yoga mat and loose clothing allowing good freedom of movement. Try not to eat at least 90 mins before a class, and make sure to let your teacher know of current ailments or weak areas.
This yoga is unsuitable for pregnant women, people with injury or those who like their activity on the less energetic side.
Tony teaches Hatha Yoga on Mondays 18:00-19:30 and Ashtanga Vinyasa 19:30-21:00 in Oddfellows Hall. Tony's website.
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