I never used to enjoy yoga. I went to my first class when I was about 15 and couldn’t understand why people were paying to do a class where you spent most of the time doing something you could do at home: stretch and sleep!
Growing up as a dancer, and then becoming a teacher myself, I was stretching for probably around five hours a week on my own. As a result I was extremely bendy and found yoga classes painfully easy – that is, until I discovered Bikram yoga about six months ago. I was blown away by the intensity, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life as I did during that first class.
I did Bikram for a month, and then switched to power yoga – provided free at my gym. It’s also done in a room heated to 35ish degrees (around 95 Fahrenheit); however unlike Bikram, there’s no set routine of poses so you always experience something different. Power yoga is supposed to be more of a cardio workout than Bikram, but that’s really not how I’d describe it. Some parts are fast-moving but it’s a long way from a run!
I currently do one class a week on Mondays. It’s a nice way to start the week while trying to convince myself that I’m still flexible (I stopped dancing/teaching at the beginning of 2010). Unlike some, I don’t think of the class as a workout at all. Instead, I focus on the relaxation side of it and the sweat is an added bonus!
5 things I love about yoga
1. It’s completely selfish
Yoga is the only time I have where I’m alone to clear my head completely. It took me a while to learn how to properly let go of my thoughts and just focus on my breathing. For someone who hasn’t practiced before, I realise how strange that sounds, but trust me – the zen feeling soon becomes addictive. I always leave class feeling extremely calm and like I’ve done something wonderful for my body.
2. It’s personal
When you’re in a yoga class with regulars, nobody pays attention to you. I know I’ve said this before about lifting weights, but it’s much more the case in yoga. I’m still yet to experience any creepers (despite wearing next to no clothes during class) and nobody sneakily judges your form – most people have their eyes closed and are immersed in their own movements. It’s also personal in the sense that the class is always tailor-made to you. The beauty of yoga is that you can have someone attending their first class right next to someone who has been practicing for 10 years, and both will equally benefit from the experience.
3. It’s a workout that involves sleep
When I first started, I used to hate savasana i.e. the pose where everyone lies flat on their back for 5-10 minutes without moving. Now it’s my favourite part of class! The problem is over the last six weeks or so, I fall asleep every single time! Within about 30 seconds of lying down I’m out like a light no matter how hard I try to stay awake. But during my last class I fell into a deep sleep for the first time. I had already started dreaming when I jerked myself awake and realised that everyone else was already sitting up! That’s all I need: to be left in the studio snoozing after everyone else has gone home! On a serious note, learning how to breathe and meditate is a great remedy for sleepless nights.
4. It’s a cheap massage
I’ve always had a really tight back and shoulders, and that has only amplified since I began lifting weights. I’m lucky enough to have had a massage and been to a power yoga class in the past two days, and I have to admit that the effects of both are surprisingly similar. My back was in all sorts of pain yesterday but the second I started yoga I could feel everything loosening up, especially after doing some rock and rolls. Yoga introduced me to poses I had never done before and even if I stop practicing I’ll keep up with these stretches for the rest of my life. My teacher is amazing because, if you’re lucky enough to be chosen, she gives you a head massage during savasana. Bliss!
5. It’s great for the skin
This is probably the most obvious benefit but all that heat produces a lot of sweat, which in turn clears the toxins out of your body. The heat has a purpose beyond making you sweat like crazy, by the way: it warms your muscles to allow you to stretch deeper without injuring yourself.
All that being said, I could still never do a regular non-hot yoga class as I would still find it too boring! Do you do yoga? What’s your favourite type? And how can I stop falling asleep during class?!