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Yoga

Yoga is a mind and body practice with thousands of years of history in ancient Indian philosophy.

 

An Introduction to Yoga

Yoga is a mind and body practice with thousands of years of history in ancient Indian philosophy. It is practised widely around the world today and adapted into a number of different styles which combine physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation.

 

What is Yoga?

The word yoga derives from the Sanskrit root Yuj meaning to ‘join together or ‘yoke’ and is commonly translated to mean ‘union’. When applied to the context of yoga as a practice, it can mean joining together two things to create a transformative process. Simply put, when we yoke our mind and body, we produce a positive transformation.

We most commonly know yoga as the physical practice which helps to build awareness, strength and harmony in the body and mind. However, the true origins of yoga and its traditional teachings are centred on principles to be more present and provides tools, such as postures, breathing techniques, meditations, teacher relationships and observations, to help navigate the nature of being and live a full life.

 

Where did Yoga originate?

The “Yoga Sutra”, a 2,000-year-old guidebook of yogic philosophy is the earliest written record of the practice. The guidebook provides the framework for all modern-day Yoga and teaches you how to master the mind, control emotions, and grow spiritually.

Within these texts, Patanjali wrote about the practice in an “eight-limbed path” containing steps and stages towards obtaining enlightenment, also called Samadhi. Patanjali is often considered the father of the practice and his Yoga Sutras strongly influence most styles today.

 

What are the eight limbs of Yoga?

  • Yama – ethical rules on how to conduct yourself towards others or social discipline
  • Niyama – correct conduct towards oneself, a means of aiding personal growth
  • Asana – the practice of physical postures (undoubtedly the most well known of the eight limbs)
  • Pranayama – controlling of the breath
  • Pratyahara – controlling the senses
  • Dharana – concentration, the process of drawing the senses inward
  • Dhyanameditation
  • Samadhi – the union of mediation and the subject of meditation, often closely linked with obtaining enlightenment
How Yoga can benefit you

How Yoga can benefit you

Practising yoga benefits both mental and physical health. The practice incorporates philosophy, breathing exercises, meditation and physical poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress.

Particular benefits include:

  • Improving overall body strength and muscle tone
  • Improving flexibility, posture and mobility
  • Supports healthy bones
  • Improves stability, balance and coordination
  • Increasing stamina
  • Improving mood and mental wellbeing
  • Better ability to cope with stress
  • Feeling more balanced and harmonious
  • Increased happiness, energy and vitality
  • Promoting longevity
  • Deeping relaxation and feeling well-rested
  • Improving awareness and clarity
  • Support during pregnancy
  • Improving gut health
  • Detoxing the body

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Further Reading / studies

More and more studies are being conducted into the health benefits of Yoga. While they are yet to be conclusive, preliminary findings are very promising, however, you should always seek medical advice before practising.

 

Muscle tension and lower back pain
A study from 2005 published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed significant benefits in its participants relating to the reduction of lower back pain. This study is the most important trial on Yoga for lower back pain and the first high-quality trial on Yoga. Based on this trial, Yoga became increasingly recognised as an effective treatment for lower back pain.

One study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that a 12 week Yoga program improved scores for disability and pain intensity and reduced opioid use among military veterans.

 

Cardiovascular health
A study from 2013 by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology explored the benefits of Yoga on cardiovascular health. The study showed that in patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, practising Yoga improved symptoms of arrhythmia burden, heart rate, blood pressure and circulation, anxiety and depression.

 

Quality of life
A study published in 2012 by the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that there was a significant improvement in the quality of life for people living with diabetes when practising Yoga. It also showed an improvement in glycaemic control in the group practising the comprehensive yogic breathing program compared with the group that was following standard treatment alone.

 

Anxiety
A 2016 analysis found that practising Yoga had a promising effect on relieving anxiety. It was also most beneficial in people who had the highest levels of anxiety at the start of the study.

A 2017 systematic review found that Yoga could help reduce depressive symptoms for people, including those suffering from a depressive disorder, pregnant and postpartum women, and caregivers.

 

Headaches 

A comprehensive study on the effect of Yoga on migraine concluded headache frequency and intensity were reduced more in Yoga with conventional care than with conventional care alone. Another study demonstrated a significant reduction in headache frequency and associated clinical features, in patients treated with Yoga over a period of 3 months.

 

Sleep and fatigue

A systematic review of 10 randomized controlled trials into the effects of Yoga interventions on fatigue in cancer patients suggest that Yoga interventions may be beneficial for reducing cancer-related fatigue in women with breast cancer.

Another study into the impact of long term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly concluded that regular Yoga exercises in the daily routine of elderly people can help to achieve good sleep quality as well as improve the quality of life.

 

Weight control

According to an article published in the Harvard Medical Review, the research found that people who practised Yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for at least four years, gained less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight actually lost weight. Overall, those who practised Yoga had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) compared with those who did not practice Yoga.

 

Inflammation

A 2015 study concluded that those who practised Yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who didn’t.

A small 2014 study showed that 12 weeks of Yoga reduced inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue.

What are the different types of Yoga?

What are the different types of Yoga?

There are many styles of Yoga that can be found in studios across the UK. The different styles have derived from the basics and evolved into their own form and following. The types vary in difficulty and length and below you will find a selection of the most common ones practised today.

 

Hatha

Hatha Yoga involves breath, body, and mind, and classes are usually 45 minutes to 90 minutes of breathing, poses, and meditation. Classes are usually slower and more gentle than Ashtanga and Vinyasa.

 

Ashtanga

A challenging style of Yoga centred around a series of sequences, known as the Primary Series. Each posture builds in complexity and intensity as you move through the sequence and includes arm balances, shoulder stands and headstands. A Mysore style Ashtanga class is an assisted self-practice class, in which students practice on their own under the guidance of a teacher.

 

Vinyasa or Flow

Classes usually consist of a flowing sequence of Yoga poses that are connected to the rhythm of your breath. There are varying levels of difficulty to choose from and many vinyasa classes are accompanied by music.

 

Iyengar

Iyengar Yoga focuses on the precision of your poses. Known for their use of blankets, straps, blocks and bolsters, to help support their practice. Some classes will include ropes anchored to the walls to assist you in inversions and other poses.

 

Yin

Yin Yoga is different from other styles and focuses on passive stretching, and improving flexibility in the connective tissues around the pelvis, sacrum, spine and knees. Poses are held for a longer amount of time in Yin Yoga classes, generally from three to five minutes. It is also a fairly quiet style and helps us to learn how to sit in silence and listen to our bodies.

 

Restorative

If you are looking for a little more relaxation from your class, restorative might be right for you. Restorative poses include seated forward folds, gentle backbends and light twists usually practised together with props, blankets, blocks and bolsters. This style involves holding poses for longer periods of time.

 

Jivamukti

Classes integrate the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of Yoga. Classes are usually vinyasa-based with hands-on adjustments, breath awareness and meditation. Classes are usually themed and supported by Sanskrit chanting, music, readings and references to philosophical texts.

 

Kundalini

Kundalini Yoga is a combination of breath, movement, and sound. The practice is filled with breathing exercises coupled with poses and meditation. Its purpose is to activate your Kundalini energy or shakti. This is a spiritual energy that’s said to be located at the base of your spine.

 

Hot

This refers to any Yoga class that is practised in a heated room — generally from 27C to 45C degrees. These classes tend to be vinyasa style or follow a set of specific postures, like Bikram yoga. It is important to stay hydrated before, during and after one of these classes. It is advised to check with your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions and not recommended if you are pregnant.

How do I find the right Yoga class or teacher for me?

How do I find the right class or teacher for me?

Yoga is a personal practice and a lifelong journey, and you may find yourself drawn to different styles of teaching at different stages in your life.

If you are completely new to yoga, many teachers and studios offer beginner classes in which they teach you the correct way to practice each posture in a slower environment. This can be helpful and reduce the likelihood of injuries caused by muscle strains and poor alignment.

Many people start a yoga practice for the physical benefits and relaxation effects and find themselves diving deeper into the philosophy and roots of yoga once they have established a regular practice. We recommend trying out a few different styles, teachers and studios to see what works for you best – these days you have lots of options and can even test out a new teacher online before committing to their studio classes.

If you have a particular goal to reach or are working with an injury, you may want to consider hiring a private teacher to help you progress more quickly and ensure classes are tailored to your specific needs.

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We’re launching soon!

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Medical concerns

Holistic disciplines can assist you in your wellbeing, though they are not a substitute for medical care. This information should be used as a guide only to help you explore which holistic disciplines may assist you. We recommend researching the discipline and speaking with a practitioner before choosing to book any service.

This information is not, nor is it intended to be used as a medical diagnosis. Any information provided must be considered as guidance only, and not a substitute for obtaining a diagnosis from a medical professional. Please see the full terms and conditions of use. Always consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

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