Whether you're devoted to the downward dog or don't know your child's pose from your tree pose, it's time to get more acquainted with yoga.
From increasing flexibility to boosting focus, yoga offers a plethora of benefits - even if you practise it just twice a week.
Need proof? Amy Pantlin, the founder of , recently took up yoga twice a week and says it's completely transformed her body, health and mindset. Like most millennials, Amy has a busy office job and active social life but wants to teach like-minded women how to reap the benefits of yoga just like she did.
Here, she shares a simple guide to yoga with GLAMOUR readers looking to incorporate the practice into their lives. Namaste..
What is yoga?
There are definitely some questions as to what yoga actually is. Is it a form of exercise? Is it a philosophy or religion? Or is it, in fact, a way of life? Yoga, in short, encourages the connection between your mind, body and your breath, which are considered the three fundamental components of all human beings. Yoga practice focuses on a series of postures that are designed to increase your strength and flexibility whilst also focusing on your breathing.
Yoga is becoming an increasingly popular workout and it's hardly surprising – imagine a form of exercise that not only improves flexibility, strengthens your muscles and contributes to weightloss, but also centres your mind, your thoughts and relaxes you. Not only that, but yoga can be done in a class with others or in the privacy of your own home.
Different styles of yoga
There are many different styles of yoga, varying in the areas they focus on (either focusing on the postures themselves or on your breathing, or a bit of both). They often vary in pace, from more vigorous power classes designed to increase the heart rate, to more restorative classes which are intended to focus more on relaxation and meditation. It’s essentially about finding your own preference. What is right for your body and what you enjoy. In summary:
Hatha Yoga: A slower, more gentle yoga, which teaches you to hold postures for several breaths
Yin Yoga: Postures are typically held for several minutes at a time - a more meditative practice that targets deep tissues and improves flexibility.
Iyengar Yoga: Focuses on use of props such as blocks and straps to encourage proper alignment.
Bikram Yoga: Combines breathing exercises with a vigorous series of poses (often done in a heated room and known at ‘Bikram Hot Yoga’).
Vinyasa Flow Yoga: Connects breathing with a quick change between postures, allowing you to flow between each posture. This creates a fun but intense class designed to increase your heart rate.
Ashtanga Yoga: Has six different series of specifically sequenced poses.
Kundalini Yoga: A more spiritual practice focusing on singing, chanting and meditating, as well as intense breathing exercises.
What are the benefits?
There are a number of physical and psychological benefits of yoga.
- Increases your flexibility: You don’t need to be flexible to embark on your yoga journey – it will be a gradual process, improving over time as you develop your practice.
- Increases your muscle strength and tone: When you build your strength through yoga, you are also balancing it with your flexibility (often missed out on when training in the gym or with weights).
- Protects your spine and perfects your posture: A well-balanced practice will help keep your disks supple, as well as assist with curves in the spine caused by slumping (a common issue caused by sitting at a desk Monday – Friday 9-5!).
- Increases your blood flow: Yoga gets more oxygen into your cells, which function better as a direct result of yoga practice.
- Releases tension in your limbs: As you start to practice yoga, you will notice where you hold tension in your body; wrists, arms and shoulders are commonly tenser areas of the body.
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- Helps you focus: An important part of yoga practice is to focus on the present and allow yourself to be in the ‘here and now’.
- Relaxes your system: Yoga encourages you to relax and slow your breath, which has calming and restorative qualities.
- Gives your lungs room to breathe: Yoga promotes breathing through the nose, which filters the air you are inhaling.
- Increases self-esteem: Through your yoga practice, you will experience feelings of forgiveness and gratitude, which can then be applied to your everyday life.
- Gives you inner strength: Through focus, yoga can give you the inner strength to make the conscious effort to change things in your life that are causing you angst or upset.
Why yoga has become the go-to work out for millennials
Millennials (anyone born between 1980 and 1997) are typically known for the promotion of change and the constant need for more and focus on what is next.
What about the here and now? What is wrong with living and enjoying this exact moment? After all, it is never going to happen again…
Millennials are typically a stressed-out generation working harder and harder in order to prove themselves, from working hard at school, to University, to unpaid internships to climbing that greasy ladder they call the ‘career ladder’ – definitely much harder than most people had envisaged…
Yoga can help us take a big deep breath and remember that nothing is set in stone, that things are transient and all part of the bigger picture. In this sense, yoga is a great solution to deal with the stresses and expectations of millennial life.
Yoga is also a great way to tone without really realising that you are doing it. You think you may be relaxing and stretching but you are, in fact, also engaging that core and muscles that you never thought you had! Millennials love a deal and this is a great deal…
Yoga also teaches us to not worry about the things that don’t matter, including other people’s opinions, social media and what may happen in the future. It teaches us millennials to focus on living life right here and right now, whilst keeping us sane and balanced at the same time.
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How can you break yourself in gently?
Classes usually range between 45 minutes and 1hr 30 minutes and as well as the different types of yoga out there, there are also many options to attend a beginner’s classes up to more advanced classes. Most teachers will also offer alternatives to more challenging postures to support beginner’s practice.
If your weekly schedule doesn’t allow to attend a class in a studio, home practice is a great way to start off – all you need is a mat, some comfy clothing and the right attitude.
YouTube has so many videos with various timings that allow you to practice in the comfort of your own home for an amount of time that fits in and works around you.
Why not try getting up 15 minutes earlier and finding a quick class on YouTube to kick start your practice and your day?
How often should you do it?
One of the most wonderful things about yoga is there is no optimum amount of time you need to practice – it is totally up to you, what feels right and best for you but also, most importantly, for those with busy diaries, whatever fits in best with your own schedule.
About AEC Yoga
Amy’s interest and passion for yoga was spurred from extensive travel throughout South East Asia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bali, and The Philippines. After having also lived abroad in both Sydney and Dubai and now back in the hustle and bustle London life, Amy’s love for yoga continues as a welcomed break from the stresses and strains of city life which prompted her decision to embark on her Yoga Teacher Training with YogaLondon.
Amy sees yoga practice as the only time in the day where you can switch off and solely focus on yourself, your breath, your movement and be completely in the now. Amy’s teaching practice is Vinyasa Flow inspired (coordinating your movement with your breath in order to flow from one pose to the next) starting with some gentle restorative stretches and ending with a calming relaxation session.
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