No matter how long you’ve been doing yoga, it’s still called practising, the belief being that you can only progress and get better. I love doing yoga because it’s non-competitive, relaxing, gentle and fun. Uh-oh hang on, I think I’ve just described myself! I know it sounds like a cliché but when I first moved to London in 2001 life did become more stressful because of the volume of people I encountered every day. Whether it’s on the tube or on the street, in London I am never, ever alone. That’s why I seek sanctuary in my garden as often as I can and as soon as I get home from work.
In yoga there is more than just stretching and breathing. There’s an awareness of what you are doing to your body, realising your body and soul are moving as one. Shoot me, I know, I sound like a hippy but once you start doing it, you become evangelical and want to spread the word. My weekly hatha yoga class teaches me important rules of how best to move, to improve my posture, to breathe myself into calmness if I’m panicked or stressed. I can send myself to sleep any time I want to using breathing techniques which I’ve learned. You build up a stillness inside, a zen like way of coping with the world. What will be, will be… and breathe, one, two, three. I know, I’ve gone all hippy again, but it’s true.
However, it’s not all drippy hippy and big breaths. It’s also about strength, physical and mental. Yoga has taught me that when I’m on a busy tube train, never to crumple into a corner and let myself be squashed under somebody’s armpit. I stand tall, I stand firm, although I try not to breathe too deeply when stuck in that situation. Yoga has taught me that stress can take its toll physically before it affects you mentally so if I feel my shoulders hunching at my desk in the office when using the PC, I do some neck-rolling exercises before the stress in my body affects my mind and starts a bad mood.
You are never, ever too old, too unfit or too fat to start yoga. As I said earlier, it’s non-competitive, you work at your own pace and only do what you can. Only when you’re ready do you push yourself a bit more and only then, if you want to. Even after five years there are some exercises I struggle with because of a painful knee and so while everyone else is doing the pigeon (it’s a technical term, nothing rude) I take a break and relax. Likewise, balancing on one leg, for me, is a doddle while others in the class wobble like jelly and some sit it out.
So what are you waiting for? There are many different types of yoga and to help find the one that’s right for you and to find a qualified instructor, have a look at the British Wheel of Yoga website and set yourself free. It might just change your life.
[Originally written for Dollymix]