Yoga. That enigmatic word that can bring up so many different ideas. Well, what is it really?
Yoga teacher Aadil Palkivala summed up what yoga is succinctly. He says "yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn't care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming."
So, the concept that being gymnastic flexible is not really the focus but instead becoming a better person, living the best we can in balance and learning a whole lot about ourselves is what we are trying to achieve.
What is holding you back from getting into a regular yoga practice? There can be all sorts of reasons and I have heard a lot of them. Hopefully, by reading these questions and answers, it might give you some inspiration to get on a mat and give it a try.
Will yoga help strengthen my core and overall body?
Yes, yoga postures will strengthen your body and your core. The main difference between yoga and other forms of fitness is that yoga isn't about counting how many calories you burn, but rather about connecting mind, body and your breath.
Holding yoga poses takes effort, and learning to breathe differently is challenging also. Yoga won't build bulk or increase your muscle size substantially but it will take the muscle you already have, teach you to use it efficiently, and help you get a healthy, supple body so you can do all the other things in life you do, better.
I have sore joints; will yoga help me?
Yes, yoga will help your joints and heal your body from present and past injuries.
Sharon Kolasinski, MD and rheumatologist, studied the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). She found that subjects taking 90-minute, modified yoga classes once a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in pain and improvements in physical function, as well as noticeable improvements in joint stiffness.
Kolasinski says more of her patients are asking if yoga is appropriate for them. "I think yoga is in a renaissance, [it]'s becoming more of a mainstream option."
She believes it's a good choice of physical activity for people with arthritis. Just be careful not to overdo it and be mindful if you experience any pain or discomfort.
Yoga: is it really something I should be doing?
Yes, you should do yoga because it has so many beneficial effects. It has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, reduce pain, help with osteoporosis, and improve sleep as a very basic list.
Surveys have found that those who practised yoga were more aware of their bodies and more satisfied with and less critical of themselves.
The best part about yoga is that there are so many different styles and practices that you can try so that you find the right class and teacher. You can do yoga to relax and restore the body, learn to add a mindfulness practice to your life, and work towards living a life in balance.
There is no limit to how it can change your life and make everything you're already doing, better.
Is yoga gender specific?
No! For some reason, a lot of men think that yoga is only for women and, fortunately, this is completely false. Anyone one can do yoga regardless of age, gender, or any other perceived roadblocks.
You can do yoga in a studio, at home, or online; the options are endless. If you think it's going to be "too easy", I challenge you to give it a shot and really see if that is the case. You never know what something is like until you actually give it a try and so to make judgements based on false stereotypes means you are missing out on something that could revolutionise your body and your mind.
Yoga is for everyone, there is a practice out there that will resonate with you can help you create the life you have always wanted to live. It will strengthen your body and mind and help you develop resiliency when life can be stressful.
The best part is you don't need to put in a lot of time each week to feel the effects; practising regularly two to three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes can set you up for success.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start stretching and see how yoga can revolutionise your life.
• Tim Seutter is a firefighter, yoga teacher, and director of the Loft Studio and Yogafire.tv