Calling all yogis – seasoned or amateur. Today is International Yoga Day, the UN’s official day of celebrating the art of yoga and promoting global health, harmony, and peace. This year focuses on ‘yoga for well-being’ and how its practice can promote the holistic health of every individual – especially as the pandemic steamrollers on. With more and more people around the world embracing yoga to stay healthy and rejuvenated during the pandemic in order to fight social isolation and depression, it is also playing a significant role in the psycho-social care and rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients in quarantine and isolation, in particular to help allay fears and anxiety.
But yoga is so much more than a physical activity. In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late B. K. S. Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.” And considering the tornado of crazy we’re living in, anything that helps to deal with our new normal is something we all could do with, right? Right!
Never tried it? Today’s the day to give yoga a go-ga
There are billions of yoga devotees all over the world, and for good reason. An ancient physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in India, the word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolising the union of body and consciousness. And while you may believe yourself to be the least bendy person on the planet, have no clue whether or not you’ll enjoy it, and not be able to differentiate a sun salutation from a downward dog, there’s probably no better time to introduce yourself to the 5,000-year-old practice than today.
What Are the Benefits of Yoga?
For most people, the immediate benefits of yoga are thought to be an improvement in balance and flexibility, but its benefits stretch well beyond that. Research has proven that consistent yoga practice can increase muscular strength and both cardiovascular and respiratory function, as well as reduce stress, anxiety, chronic pain, and depression. It can also help improve sleep quality and overall well-being, which makes it not only a brilliant way to stay in shape, but also a sensational way to look after your mental health – just ask the impossibly hot-bodied Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gisele Bündchen, Jessica Biel, and Kate Hudson.
What Body Parts Does Yoga Target?
Prepare to be dazzled. One of the greatest benefits of yoga is that it provides a low-impact, total-body workout, with poses that help increase the strength and flexibility of your arms, shoulders, back, abdominals and core, hips, glutes, and legs. And since you’re using your body weight to build strength, tone muscles, and increase your flexibility, yoga is brilliant for building core strength – something that improves posture and reduces the chance of injury.
Do I Need to Be Fit to Start Doing Yoga?
In one word: no. You just have to be ready to start. You don’t need to be ‘in shape’ or have a certain level of flexibility because you can always modify each movement (known as an asana.) Anyone can do yoga, whatever their age or fitness level, making it a practice for everybody and every body.
What Are the Different Yoga Types?
There are many different styles of yoga – from Ashtanga, Bikram, and Hatha to Iyengar, Vinyasa, Yin, and countless others. If you’ve never tried yoga before, it’s worth avoiding the more intensive styles like Power, Ashtanga, or Bikram until you’ve worked out what your body likes. Chatting with a yoga instructor before you begin your yoga journey pays dividends. You can then try as many styles and as many different instructors as you wish until you find the one that works best for you. There’s something for everyone.
Watch The Video: Why It’s Time To Roll Out Your Yoga Mat
Want to Know More? Meet Yogini Stephanie Millman…
“Yoga is for everybody because it’s not just the physical poses or about being flexible. It’s about finding that awareness inside yourself, opening up, letting go, or maybe the need to find strength in yourself’, says Yoga instructor Stephanie Millman – AKA Tranquil Steph. ‘There’s different types of yoga for everyone – Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Hatha yoga… and then there’s more unusual styles like like hip-hop yoga or goat yoga. There are so many different forms of yoga that everybody can try out a different one and practise what feels good for them.”
So if you’re considering making today the day you begin your love affair with yoga, and joining the billions of others for whom yoga is a way of life, not just a workout, here’s a few tips from Steph on how to get started…
Wear Comfortable Clothing
“Nothing either too tight or too baggy that restricts your movement. Practising in bare feet will help you connect with the ground, balance better, and avoid slipping.”
Talk to Your Teacher
“If you’re new, introduce yourself to the instructor before the class so they can help to point out specific modifications and give you a little extra help to make poses less complicated or hard to follow.”
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
“Everyone had their first experience of yoga once, too! Your class could be full of yogis of every different level, so don’t look at others and compare yourself to them – this is your journey, not anyone else’s.”
If It Hurts, Stop!
“Don’t push through the pain. If a particular pose genuinely hurts you, stop immediately. Ask your instructor or consult your physician if you’re worried that something is stopping you from practising.”
Be Kind to Yourself
“Be nice to yourself as you start learning yoga. Be open-minded, try not to judge yourself, listen to your body, and listen to your thoughts. Negative thoughts can have a strong influence on how your body responds.”
“You’re not going to be amazing at yoga on day one. No one learned to fly a plane during their first 30 minutes in the air. No one learned a foreign language the second they started classes. It takes between six to eight sessions to figure out how your body feels, so just give it time. You’ll get there.”
Make It a Part of Your Everyday Life
“Your yoga practice can have profound effects on your body and mind. Yoga can change your life in more ways than one – not only through the physical practice, but also understanding how it makes you feel both mentally and spiritually.”