Today’s guest blog is brought to you by Breeze Robertson, Ara staff member and experienced yoga instructor.
Yoga goes back some 5,000 years, maybe even longer! There are many branches and brands of yoga that have developed as modern yoga has moved beyond the Indian subcontinent via the United States and Europe. The original yoga looked a bit different to what we think of as yoga today. Some people say that all these different approaches to yoga are good and some say that modern yoga styles lose the essence and power of yoga. See what you think!
- It’s not about the poses
Asanas, the postures or poses of yoga, are just one of the eight limbs of classical yoga. When we focus on the poses alone we leave out lots of other very effective yoga tools such as the codes for living (being kind and telling the truth for example), breathing techniques, focusing on the senses and mindfulness. Recognising this, some teachers will incorporate other limbs of yoga into their classes.
- It’s not a gym workout
For starters, yoga is not about pushing yourself further. It is about listening to your body and finding a balance between exertion and acceptance of where you are at (called “relaxed effort”). If you find yourself grunting or straining, you are no longer doing yoga but some sort of other workout. A traditional yoga teacher will encourage students to rest when they need to and ease off if they experience pain or discomfit. This sums up the yogic philosophy: “You don’t have to touch your toes to touch your heart” (Shanti Gowans).
- It’s not gentle either
Traditional or hatha yoga is a training for the body and mind, with a lot of core strength and discovering intelligent, integrated ways of moving that are coordinated with the breath. Maybe you could say it is sometimes gentle, but it’s not easy! Awareness is key.
- The benefits go beyond the physical
Most people come to yoga to gain more flexibility and strength, to improve the look of their body or perhaps to heal an injury or illness. Yoga has all those benefits, as well as deeper physical effects such as balancing and strengthening the systems of the body. But research suggests it can also have help people to be calmer, happier and more productive. These are just a few of the benefits that have been studied. It all does depend on the type of class you do though!
- Yoga is vast!
Yoga is essentially a devotional practice, “a whole body prayer to life” according to Mark Whitwell, linking us to the very essence of nature and ourselves. BUT everyone is free to take this in their own way. Generally teachers will finish class with saying Namaste (meaning: the divine in me sees the divine in you) as a recognition of this basis of yoga. Others will incorporate a chant into their class (such as ‘Om’, the syllable that is said to contain all seen and unseen existence). These techniques all help to replenish the body and mind in some way. It’s fascinating to look into, so don’t be scared off, just explore, go with the flow, and see what happens!
Want to give yoga a go? Why not try some of our free classes on at our City, Woolston and Timaru campuses? For further information on what is available at the Recreation Centre check out Campus Life.
The Library has a number of electronic and physical resources you can borrow on yoga from Yoga for everyone to Yoga anatomy.
Our guest blogger Breeze Robertson, of Santosha Yoga Christchurch, has been practising hatha yoga for some 15 years and teaching for seven years. See: www.facebook.com/santoshayogachristchurch