For me personally, I am not a Yogi. It was all like an alien language to me when I became curious about trying yoga. I saw all the pictures of people in astounding poses on Instagram and felt daunted, intimidated...how on earth could I ever do THAT?! I thought. What those images don't convey is that yoga is more than looking “cool” or “elegant” in various poses... it's about balancing how you feel in your mind and body.
And that means different things to different people.
Some (or maybe most) people think too much, especially in contemporary culture - we use our minds so much to plan, organise, and do all of our daily activities. We strive to meet targets and so on. It's a way of life. But it can wear us out if that's all we ever know. Yoga gives us a way to get in touch with how we feel in our body, and to take a break from thinking about everything so much. In doing so it allows us to just “be”, in the moment, without any plans, thoughts, or worries. Not that these will always completely disappear during practise, but it's hard to think about all the things you have to do tomorrow while you're in the downward dog position! Being more in touch with our bodies can ease stress, reduce anxiety, bring clarity on any problems we may be having, clear our minds and generally give us a sense of well-being. It can also allow us to be more authentic and communicate with people more from the heart rather than the head, or the “ego”. This has a knock on effect of improving our relationships with friends, family and our wider social circles in general, which surely has a beneficial effect on them too.
These are all things I learned as I began to practice yoga in my own life, going from a bewildered beginner to a curious participant. Yoga is not a magic cure but it is certainly an effective way of starting the process of finding some inner peace and living a healthier, more balanced life. By its very physical nature and focus on breathing, its impossible to not get more in touch with your body during practice. When I first went to a yoga class I personally felt very emotional, as things that had been bothering me for a while surfaced and I was able to get in touch with them for the first time. This felt very scary, but also liberating too. After some time, I came to enjoy the process, and I welcomed it; I looked forward to my next yoga class. I found that if I felt stuck, worried or got too much “in my head”, it became a way to get unstuck, create some space and feel more free...more “myself”.
Research backs up the benefits of yoga too...just a quick google will reveal many articles on the subject, from helping mental illness, stress related illness, physical tension, chronic health conditions, fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease...the list is ever growing! Just recently it was found helpful for lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s when combined with certain diet and lifestyle factors.
Nothing beats your own experience. If you're wondering if yoga would benefit you, there's only one way to know, pop along to a class! You may be surprised to leave feeling more balanced in mind, or energised and ready to take on the week. Whatever happens, it's always an experience, and we welcome you to share yours: how did you feel whilst following the yoga moves? How did you feel afterwards? Did you return for another class, or decide that it's not for you? Everyone experiences the benefits differently so we are curious what yoga means to you. There is no right or wrong answer, just different perspectives and experiences. Please feel free to leave a comment, share your thoughts or pop along to one of our classes. Shanti Bee always aims to be respectful of everyone's individual and collective needs, which is part of why I love the place so much, and became a volunteer in the first place.
Phil, Shanti Bee Volunteer and Social Media officer.
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