Long before Health Clubs, exercise studios and Jane Fonda there was Yoga. It’s believed that Yoga has been around for 5,000 years, originating in the East. The word "Yoga" came from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means "to unite or integrate".
Nowadays, there are many different forms of Yoga, and although most styles have common roots, each has form has its own unique features.
Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for mankind to be in harmony with themselves and the environment, they have to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, emotion, action, and intelligence must be in balance. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance and it is done through three main components of Yoga: exercise, breathing and meditation.
Yoga exercises improve circulation, stimulate the abdominal organs, and put pressure on the glandular system of the body, which can generally result to better health. A lot of the Yoga positions, or ‘asanas’ as you might hear them referred to in class, are linked to an organ of the body.
Instructors sometimes talk about the benefits of the positions you are in. Most of all, participants gain ‘flexible strength’ by practicing regularly, which means they can achieve a good range of movement whilst also becoming strong around joints. When we only train for strength without flexibility, we can become very tight and stiff and lose range of movement. Likewise, people who are very bendy may lack stability and strength around joints. Yoga helps you become supple but also strong.
Breathing techniques, or ‘Pranayama’ were developed, based on the concept that breath is the source of life. In Yoga, participants are taught different breathing techniques and by focusing on their breathing, they prepare their minds for the next step; meditation.
Many Yoga classes start with a short meditation section that helps bring the activities of the mind into focus. By designing physical poses and breathing techniques that develop awareness of our body, Yoga helps us focus and relieves us from our everyday stress.
Yoga will challenge your body physically, help you to focus and have some ‘you time’. Try out a few different styles as you may find you prefer one over another. As classes start with meditation and usually end with relaxation, it’s best to come to class with a jumper or something you can put on when you cool off and take off during the stronger sections of the class.
For more information – and the best environment to try some Yoga for yourself visit Virgin Active Health Clubs.
Call Virgin Active Health Club Stafford on 0178 523 1600 or visit virginactive.co.uk.
Written by Gillian Reeves, Virgin Active National Group Exercise Manager