Discover, enjoy and deploy the
benefits and components of yoga
A Code of Practice for life
Nobody has to tell you why yoga is right for you. You’ll know by doing it! Think of it simply as something positive and good for your complete physical and mental health.
The Five Components of Yoga
Yoga consists of five components which you develop over time through a genuine desire to learn, enthusiasm for and a motivation to practise regularly. Coupled with proper instruction, persistence and determination. The components are:
- Physical yoga postures: integrated with…
- Breath control: followed by…
- Relaxation and meditation: underpinned by…
- A nutritious and balanced diet
- A fruitful and considerate lifestyle
The Benefits of Yoga
The benefits of yoga are more generic. What we can confidently assert is that regular practise of yoga, coupled with proper instruction, will help to facilitate the integration and development of:
- Sustained and prolonged physical fitness and health
- Safeguarded and strengthened emotional and mental health
- Wellness, wellbeing, awareness, confidence and purpose
Take a Step-By-Step approach
You need to be realistic. Very few of us ever attain all of these things. Nor do we need to. You build up your practice to where you want to be. So: if all you want is the exercise and relaxation yoga offers that’s what your objectives are. Yoga is an adult vocation. It’s up to you how far you take it and that we always respect.
THE COMPONENTS OF YOGA IN DETAIL
Discover what parts of yoga suit your needs
Yoga is often called “Skill in Action”
The term “Skill in Action” comes from an ancient text often associated with yoga called the Bhagavad Gita. What it means is that yoga is a skill for life. And like any other skill worth having it takes persistence and determination to get good at it. That positive attitude of mind pervades yoga. Here then are the components it consists of. Then we will look at the payback!
1) The Physical Postures of Yoga: called Hatha Yoga and what most of us think of as yoga
Hatha Yoga is the physical form of yoga. It exercises the body using postures, called Asana. Asana are physically demanding: be mindful of that! There are seven groups of Asana:
- Hip openers
- Forward bends
These can be performed individually or more dynamically as a flow of postures. This sequencing is called Vinyasa. Vinyasa are a very popular way of practising Asana. We feature both forms of practice in all our yoga sessions.
2) Breath Control: a core success factor
Breathing is the pulse of life. Developing our use of that energy is at the core of hatha yoga. It improves physical performance and develops your chest, lungs and diaphragm. There are two types of breath control in yoga which we have calling Applied Breathing because that’s exactly what you’re doing. Applying your breath to a specific aim. The first type we named integrated breathing the other is traditionally called Pranayama.
A) Integrated breathing
This is the conscious use of your breath while exercising. It helps to facilitate the transition and sustaining of each posture (called an Asana). Integrated breathing maximises your use of the energy (or life-force) in the breath, called Prana. That word appears again in the second type of applied breathing…
Pranayama harks back to the origins of yoga. It is a series of controlled breathing exercises which are used to cleanse the body. This ancient practice requires instruction from an experienced teacher. However, we do use the simple forms of pranayama, such as alternate nostril breathing, (illustrated above) which helps you to focus and relax, in some of our yoga sessions.
Focus on Integrated Breathing
A good analogy for integrated breathing is to compare the movement of the breath with hydraulics, such as the power-assisted braking or steering in your car. Hydraulic fluid or gas is pumped into a chamber to exert and relieve pressure, which in turn generates movement. So it is with yoga, but more subtly. During the transition into each posture you use the natural process of inhalation and exhalation to facilitate the movement. When you lift and exert you inhale. When you relax and consolidate you exhale.
All comes to he (or she) who waits… and practises often!
It’s amazing the difference integrated breathing makes to your balance and control. Plus it cements the mind and body connection. Eventually, you will be able to elevate yourself into the state-of-being called yoga during each Asana. It’s a marvellous experience but for most of us this level of performance takes years to achieve. So, no need to rush. Stay chilled and take your time.
3) Relaxation and Meditation: an elixir for your mind and body
When you have completed the physical side of yoga you enter into realm of relaxation and meditation. In fact: ancient yoga was a mental practice. Namely: “to settle the chattering mind”… something most of us still need help with. Especially in today’s digital environment.
After an Asana practice you should always relax. Allowing the body and mind to consolidate what has gone on during the session. In each of our sessions we always allow at least 10 minutes for relaxation. Note that relaxation in yoga is not like lying on a beach. It’s a posture in itself. A conscious act of focusing the mind on one thing: usually, in the first instance, your breath.
Meditation is awareness of one’s self. It’s a more spiritual and reflective than relaxation or mindfulness. Regular meditation brings about complete knowledge of the more profound person within you. It regulates your brain and develops a sense of purpose in life.
The psychiatric and medical professions testify to the value of meditation in treating or preventing mental illness. It has also been proven to aid the healthy physical functioning of the brain.
4) Healthy diet and lifestyle: get to grips with the big issues in your life
To be blunt: and we love our food: but you/we are what you/we eat and think. We don’t want to be preachy about this. BUT – and there’s always a but – it’s self-defeating to take-up yoga and not pay attention to what you are eating and how you live your life! It’s common sense: and yes our definitions of common-sense may vary. BUT: if your motive for doing yoga is to improve your physical and mental wellbeing then unfortunately we cannot overlook the crucial importance of diet and lifestyle. That does not mean faddish or vegetarian diets. Nor living a hermetic or sacrificial lifestyle (well maybe just a tad). Here’s why: we teach yoga on the principle that…
Life is to be lived well and enjoyed. Yoga helps you to make that happen!
Unfortunately there’s no magic formula. What’s required is self-discipline in what we consume and do. That’s rarely easy – but it’s a fact. Plus it gets better with practise. Especially when you start to feel so much better for exercising restraint.
A few tips on diet
Quality, quantity, and how you prepare your meals is critical for your wellness and wellbeing. Buy fresh organic produce focusing on nutrition and variety. More fruit and vegetables, less meat and better portions will be better for you and the planet. Also, consider the ethics of how your food gets to you and animal welfare.
Non-preachy considerations on lifestyle
We’re not too comfortable with possibly being seen as moral guardians. Or of giving the impression that taking-up yoga means you have to develop saintly virtues. That’s not actually good yoga because yoga treats you like an adult and expects you to know and learn for yourself the right code of behaviour.
Deep down we innately recognise what constitutes a good and healthy lifestyle. This whole page resonates with what is likely to make you a healthier and happier person. Just be yourself. The rest comes with experience. Doing what you know is right – and of course – lots of yoga practise!
THE BENEFITS OF YOGA IN DETAIL
Positive payback for your persistence and determination
What you gain from getting on the mat and doing yoga
1) Enjoying sustained and prolonged physical fitness
Yoga is meant to be physically challenging and absorbing. It’s a particular form of stimulating exercise you can practice at any stage of your life. That’s a major strongpoint. Most people start yoga in their mid-thirties when they realise they need a change. The younger you are when you start the more you’ll benefit but it’s never too late. Many yogi’s are in their eighties but rarely do they move like or look their age. We think that’s a great aspiration which yoga will definitely contribute towards.
Regular yoga develops the five components of physical fitness recognised by the World Health Organisation [WHO]. These are:
- This is the capacity of your lungs, heart and blood to carry a wholesome supply of oxygen to where it’s needed most – efficiently and effectively. Aerobic exercise such a running, cycling and swimming are often seen as the best for this. Yoga too will do this but in a slightly different way.
- For certain: yoga sequences will get your heart and lungs going but you’re also controlling your breathing. Essentially yoga is a more composed but similarly beneficial activity for looking after your cardiovascular system.
- Strength means power and quality of muscle fibre proportionate to your body and need. Not bulk but lean and keen. Yoga requires and builds strength in all the muscular tissue in your body. It reaches the parts other health and fitness pursuits don’t reach in a safe and very beneficial way.
- The smaller muscle fibres and connective tissues around, for example, the knees, hips and elbows gain particular benefit. The likelihood of injury is reduced. This is one reason why many sports people practice yoga.
- Stamina is essential to keep us going when things get rough. Yoga is master at this. Several of the postures require you to sustain and demanding position for up to two minutes. Hard at the time but the rewards are exponential.
- If there is anything which yoga is known for its bendiness and stretchability. Almost excessively in that many people think you have to be able to touch your toes before you can do yoga. The opposite in nearer the truth: yoga develops agility. That quality is extremely important in virtually all physical and mental tasks life demands of us.
- This is the tone and quality of your internal and external physique. Because there are so many twists and turns in yoga; plus all of the other factors above, yoga is great for weight control and reducing fat where it can do most harm. It’s brilliant for digestion and other critical body systems because yoga goes deep.
Unique to yoga is how it integrates the body with the breath and mind. Hence why it is good for your physical and mental wellbeing. Moreover, it prevents injury, improves recovery, sharpens performance and lengthens an active life.
2) Safeguarding and strengthening your mental health
Yoga nurtures your mental health through the release of energy during each posture. The integration of mindful breathing engages the mind. This in turn prepares you for relaxation and meditation. Because yoga is multifaceted and systematic it is an ideal routine for combating the causes and relieving the symptoms of mental distress and illness.
These days it has become much more acceptable to be open about mental health. Johnston Lowry, our teacher and founding member has suffered with serious chronic depression. He testifies to yoga’s role in helping him to curtail the worst effects of that illness. Prevention is always better than cure. Use yoga as part of your depression prevention strategy. Make sure too that you have companion strategies in place: particularly in relation to diet and lifestyle.
3) Wellness, wellbeing and purpose
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl. You’ll probably have heard about the importance of work-life balance. That’s pretty much sums-up yoga. It’s steering us towards the thinking underpinning yoga – you could write a book on that and many people have. We prefer to think of the philosophical side of yoga as pertaining mostly to lifestyle. In other words the choices you, as an independent responsible adult, make about how you live your life: without patronising you.
Living a holistic lifestyle rooted in wellness and wellbeing
Yoga is the father and mother of wellness and wellbeing. Wellness pertains to a strategy for maintaining your physical health, wellbeing to mental health.
Wellbeing is a state of mental health in which you can realise your potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and are able to make a contribution to your community.
Wellness is what you do to make that happen. Your healthy habits! Regularly attending yoga classes, practising at home and working towards adopting the elements of yoga has got to be the best wellness strategy on the planet.
More about how yoga consolidates you wellness and wellbeing
Yoga underpins your emotional awareness. If you’re not fully aware of your emotions, you cannot manage them as well as you might. It develops your understanding of why and how you feel like you do, which is vital for your happiness and effectiveness in relationships of all kinds. Making the best of yourself and getting what you want out of life. our sense of life-purpose is the driving force for meaningful change. Yoga helps to promote the psychological qualities needed to meet this.
Last but not least, what the National Health Service has to say about the efficacy of yoga. Read the “NHS Guide to Yoga“.