Perhaps because of the images of pretzel-shaped poses or the connection with more mindful inner workings, yoga, despite its massive popularity, can intimidate many would-be beneficiaries. If you are afraid of yoga then it is probably because you don’t understand what it is about and just how fantastic it is!
What do you think of yoga?
Despite attracting legions of avid fitness fans, yoga is often seen as being for a certain type of person only: a woman who doesn’t really want to keep fit but likes a more leisurely approach to exercise. It is also often seen as being ‘hippy’ or even ‘far-out’ because of some of the meditative breathing exercises and the fact that yoga is about making mind-body connections. Yoga is often viewed as being too difficult to enjoy or benefit from and an exercise for the super-bendy! The fact is that none of these ideas are true!
So what’s the truth about yoga in a nutshell?
Yoga attracts all types of people, of all ages and fitness levels. It is as popular with the corporate crowd looking for after-work fitness as it is with those looking for a more integrated mind-body workout. Yoga is challenging yet accessible and while it often lacks the cardio-power of such training as high intensity interval training (HIIT) it can be a perfect complement.
Yoga is in fact a perfect way to strengthen your core and to improve flexibility and inspire stability. This can help guard against injuries in other activities, explaining why yoga is so popular amongst top athletes.
With an ever growing focus on the negative impact on health of stress, there is nothing ‘hippy’ about addressing a very real threat to our wellbeing. Exercise can reduce stress levels and yoga is one of the best ways to clear the mind and inspire greater clarity. This cleansing effect is felt physically too, as yoga helps with the process of eliminating toxins from the body and the release of feel-good hormones.
Don’t shy away from yoga because you are:
- Frightened of making a fool out of yourself – Yoga is focused on being non-judgemental which means it is perfect for those looking to get back into fitness.
- Not flexible – Being flexible is not a sign that you are unfit. In many respects we all have a certain level of flexibility to begin with and yoga helps you improve that. Haven’t you ever met someone who is really bendy and yet does no exercise at all?
- Worried about exposing your inner vulnerabilities – It is true that yoga can be incredibly transformative but this is about your own inner development and does not have to leave you feeling exposed. Yes, yoga may change some of your ideas and attitudes, as well as how you live your life, but yoga is about positive change and development is a natural process. Yoga is inspirational and you are likely to feel elated from the way that yoga helps relieve any mental tension.
The best way to face your fear of yoga is to try a class. Contact us if you are not already benefitting from the joy of yoga.
The shoulder stand is really an iconic pose in yoga; it not only looks dramatic but the benefits practitioners purport this pose brings are many and varied too. Anyone who is serious about really understanding and experience the real power of yoga can really find that sense of integration through the shoulder stand pose; one of the most wonderfully satisfying yoga inversions.
While we looked at how challenging some inversions can be in yoga, where the head is lower than the heart, the shoulder stand can look more daunting that it actually is. However, you do have to take care with this pose and it is best to try this with a trained yoga practitioner. Women who are pregnant or have their menstruation should avoid this pose, as well as anyone with an underlying health issue such as high blood pressure or neck problems. Check first.
How to do a shoulder stand
To get in the right position, you can follow these steps:
- Start lying flat on your mat.
- With the legs together and keeping your arms and palms flat on your mat, bring the legs up and over your head into the Plow Pose as you inhale.
- Your head, neck and shoulders should be on the mat, along with your arms. Your toes should be touching the mat behind you, with your legs straight.
- Be careful not to jolt into this position or swing into it too intensely. Instead, let the spine gently bend and bring up your hips to give some momentum.
- Next, bend your arms, placing your palms on your waist at the back. Your elbows should be pointing out slightly and not overly wide or too tucked in. Your hands should fit snugly and comfortably in this position.
- The next step is really the tricky part. Keeping your arms strong, bring your legs up so they are straight up. It is best if you bring one up at a time, rather than both together. Don’t bend them and keep the toes pointed upwards. It is easy here to lose your balance.
- Remember, you are using your hands to support your back and to benefit from the pose you want to lengthen and stretch the body, so tuck your pelvis in and straighten the line from the mat upwards but do not tighten up the glutes. Keep the neck still and move the chest to the neck and not vice versa.
- To add more support you can place a folded blanket between your shoulders, but your head and neck should not be on this.
If you find this pose too challenging then you can vary it with a Half Shoulder Stand, where you begin lying down with bent legs. Bring the legs into your chest and then extend upwards. As you do so, place your hands on your lower back and lift lower body off the ground so that a 45 degree angle or more is created by your hips. You will find less balance issues in this pose.
Make sure you come out of either pose slowly, lowering your hips in a smooth movement, bending the legs down and finally bringing them down to your mat to rest.
Learn some powerful yoga poses with us. If you are not already benefiting from yoga then get in touch and start a new journey for the body and the mind today.