I recently had a conversation over coffee with a friend who was concerned about the impact on her life and health of doing a busy and demanding job and balancing that with her family life.
I recommended yoga to her and she asked why? She was interested but wanted to know how it would benefit her.
It’s a good question. In my experience, the benefits of yoga and the work you put in on your yoga mat deeply and positively influence you, your home and working life off the mat.
People decide to try yoga for a whole range of reasons – to get more flexible, to develop the muscles that most other exercise doesn’t reach, to relax reduce stress and feel healthier, or out of curiosity … or maybe for a little of everything.
I have been doing yoga for a long time and liked it so much I trained as a teacher (as well as still doing my day job!). I thought it would be a good idea to answer the question by asking other people what they felt about their first experiences of yoga. These are some of their responses.
‘My most memorable experience of my first yoga class was standing with my feet together on a mat, raising my arms and stretching my hands and fingers up to stand up straight. I was 44 years old and I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I really experienced standing still, with my body stretched and straight. It was a simple but powerful moment for me. I stood tall!’
‘The first class I went to was a restorative class on a Saturday afternoon, I remember thinking how strange it all was with everyone looking zonked out in various poses using lots of bolsters and blankets and belts over their eyes! I soon discovered how lovely the programme was. I remember the feeling of air in my lungs after chair Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) … wow.'
'In regular classes even when I found it difficult I stuck with it because after every class I could feel a tiny change for the better. I love that yoga is a lifelong journey and I’ll never stop learning.’
‘I enjoyed the yoga classes from the start. I liked following the teachers instructions (as well as I could) and feeling the response in my body. At the end of the class the teacher must have seen the happiness on my face and said isn’t it great when you find something you’ve been looking for. She was right!’
‘Finding time and willpower to keep going is difficult at first. I wasn’t particularly strong physically and it wasn’t easy for me but at the same time right from the beginning it made me feel better about myself. Gyms are all about results and vanity and while yoga gives results too (I am so much stronger and more flexible than I was) it does help you step out of that and question why you are so critical of yourself.’
My advice to is to just make a start; commit to doing a yoga a class once a week for three months. Schedule a time in your diary and just go each week without thinking about it. Focus on learning with an open mind and see what happens for you.
The cartoons that capture the yoga feeling so perfectly are by artist and Iyengar Yoga student Divyam Chaya Bernstein.