What is Yoga?
Yoga is a system of healing, devised in India over 1,700 years ago. The word 'Yoga' is a Sanskrit word that translates as 'Union'. It's simplest definition is just this - a union of mind, body and spirit.
Western society is most familiar with yoga as a physical practice. There are the physical postures, or asanas, of which there are said to be over 300,000 in existence, a number that is always growing; The breathwork, or pranayama, where we develop control of the breath and the ability to bring the mind into 'one-pointed focus'; The transitions, or flowing movement between postures, known as vinyasa; The dristi, or gazing-point, required to develop deeper concentration and withdrawal of the senses; The bandhas, or 'locks', in the body, leading to greater internal fire and strength. All of these elements together, constitute a robust physical practice that not only improves fitness, strength and flexibility, but that also brings the mind into focus.
And, for many, the practice goes beyond the physical, and becomes a journey towards discovery of the Self. The ability to unclog our minds and find space both in the mind and body, paves the way to breaking bad habits and old patterning that no longer serve us (our samskaras). We learn how to be our own healer and discover the inner power that we really have as human beings. We learn how to help empower others. We pave the way for growth and evolution as individuals and as a society.
The Science Behind Yoga
New research emerges every day to support the positive effects of yoga on health and wellbeing. And with 10% of the American population now practising yoga, a transition is in motion, as Western society is beginning to accept and acknowledge yoga's role in the prevention of disease. Contrary to the established belief, research continues to emerge proving that disease is largely caused by stress. What is stress? It's the mind overworking. How does yoga work? It brings the mind back into focus. One of the most notable studies has been on the positive effects of yoga and other contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation, as a treatment for depression.
To find out more, watch the full 26-minute documentary, 'The Science Behind Yoga' by Uplift Connect.
Vinyasa Flow is oriented in breath and movement. The Western world has become a seated society, and increased movement is absolutely essential for health. Vinyasa yoga gets us moving.
With a seated lifestyle comes an unbalanced mind: because our bodies are still, our minds are racing. Vinyasa yoga stills the mind because it has so many focal points that train the mind: the breath, movements, bandhas, postures, and sequences. We are then given the ability to process what the practice brings up to the surface for us. Vinyasa Flow helps us gain more awareness of the body as a whole and how our lifestyle choices are affecting our health.
Classes incorporate a creative mix of postures and transitions, usually beginning with sun salutations to heat the body, and followed by standing and/or seated postures, finishing with some cooling postures that are held for longer, and a final relaxation (savasana).
I hold vinyasa flow classes in Dumfries and Galloway and Edinburgh (Tuesdays only). Please check my class timetable for details.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic style of yoga, rooted in a strong tradition dating back to Patanjali’s yoga sutras, the earliest yogic texts written over 1,700 years ago. The postural practice of Ashtanga Yoga as we know it today (invented in Mysore, India) incorporates several series of postures, beginning with the Primary Series. Each posture transitions seamlessly into the next, linked by the breath.
"The ashtanga practice can either be used as a way of keeping physically fit and healthy, or it can be traversed as a path to explore the subtle realms of spirituality. Whatever purpose we choose, there is only one method to reap its benefits: Practice!" (David Swenson).
Ashtanga Yoga can be a great place to start your yoga practice, as it provides a structured practice that becomes your own and evolves with time. The sequence is designed to give the student the best chance of progress, with each posture in the sequence preparing you for the next.
I do not currently have any public Ashtanga Yoga classes, but I have availability for private tuition in this style of yoga. Contact me to learn more.
Yoga in the workplace
According to figures in the Health and Safety Executive Annual Statistics Report for Great Britain, 2012/13, 22.7 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health during the period and mental ill health is the single highest cause of working days lost within this figure.
Stress in the workplace today is a major consideration for employers and anything that can be introduced to alleviate this is a potential benefit to both employers and the employees. Less stressful employees will be more productive and are less likely to need time off through illness. Less stressful employees are likely to have happier home lives and this in turn leads to increased productivity.
Take the first step to healthier, happier employees. Contact me about yoga classes at your place of work!