WHY YOGA IS REALLY GOOD FOR YOU
Yoga maybe a 5000-year-old ancient Indian practice but its popularity and relevance as a movement is now growing faster than ever throughout the world as more people look for ways to "tune in and drop out".
Yoga is a unique combination of physical, mental and spiritual practice that aims to bring the mind, body and heart into alignment.
I've been practising Iyengar yoga - which is all about achieving a precise alignment in every pose - for the past five years. Initially I began yoga to cope with the daily deadline demands of working on a weekly magazine. However, pretty soon, thanks to my teachers Suzi Carson and Tamar Munch at Four Winds Yoga in Ponsonby, I quickly discovered the true joy of time on the mat. Yoga is a way for me to slow down, chill out and literally stretch out all of the physical and mental blocks in my daily life.
Mentally, my practice makes me more focused, sharp and disciplined and physically it's a way I can literally "work out the kinks". You see, as a writer I spend most of my time at my computer and nothing fixes keyboard tension like a supported back bend (see image below).
So what is yoga and why is it really so good for you? The term yoga is derived from the meaning of “yoking together”, which was applied to the practice of getting the physical and mental self in alignment, with the ultimate goal of shedding all ego. While its exact history and origins remain uncertain, yoga was initially developed in the East with evidence of yoga poses being found in artefacts dating back to 3000BC. However, it wasn't until the sixth century that meditation and poses became a crucial element.
Indian teachers introduced their philosophy to the West in the early 19th and 20th century and the five key principles of the modern yoga I practice today was developed approximately 5000 years ago. These key principles are: Savasana (proper relaxation), asanas (exercise poses), pranayama (correct breathing), a wholefood diet and dhyana (meditation and positive thinking).
My yoga teacher Suzi always says it's not about what poses you can achieve but it's about the act of practising regularly and mindfully that counts. For me, I've found that practising yoga for 20 - 40 minutes five to six times a week helps me stay in good shape, physically, mentally and spiritually.
To be honest, I used to be pretty weak but yoga asanas have made my body feel strong and fit. I also suffer from anxiety that comes from a mind that never stops whirring. Yoga has helped me calm this beast. And now that I know more about how to practice yoga, I'm able to use poses that support whatever challenges I'm going through in life, at that moment.
Of course, there are many different types of yoga that can be practiced and it's about finding the right style for you. Popular styles of yoga include Ashtanga (fast and repetitive), Hatha or Iyengar (precise and focused on correct alignment), Vinyasa flow (connecting flowing poses with the breath’s rhythm) or Bikram yoga, which is done in a hot room. Other benefits of yoga include changes that strengthen the musculoskeletal frame, an ability to combat and support against physical ailments, such as asthma. Yoga is also known to reduce heart disease, improve blood pressure and enhance cardiac rehabilitation. Daily practice is also an excellent way to reduce fatigue, depression, insomnia and anxiety-related disorders.
Most importantly for me, it's provided discipline in my daily life and a real understanding of how to get my body and mind flowing as one. That's why we'll be sharing lots of GFU tips and tricks from the yoga experts we meet along the way -so you can learn from them too.
- Yours In Health and Happiness, KB