Introduction to yoga

I won't assume that readers of little health bunny are keen yogis/yoginis, so let us start with the basics of what yoga is, what it's not, why people do it and also explain a few things I wish I knew when I first started practising.

yoga with kiri in tunbridge wells. arms in a chin mudra

The word yoga by definition means 'union', of body mind and spirit. Yoga intends to increase connection; perhaps this means connecting to ourselves, to connect our body with our mind, perhaps it means connecting to the world, surroundings, to others. Personally, time on the mat gives me time to check in with how I'm feeling physically, emotionally and sets me up for the day. In our busy lives we get swept from work to the gym to social occasions to bed, always looking forward to what's next or dwelling on what happened last week - it is so rare that we stop and take time to get/feel grounded. For an hour, an hour and a half, yoga and meditation give you the opportunity to let yourself off the hook; to shrug off your thoughts, frustrations, stories, worries, expectations and focus on the present moment. As a teacher, I hope to lift weight off students shoulders; to give them a space free of judgement, to get in touch with their breathing and themselves.

The word or sound OM. It is a mantra and is said to be the sound of the universe (like the noise and vibration you hear/feel when you put your ear to a seashell). You know how 'good vibes' is a popular saying? No matter what pitch or length it is, the vibrations you make with an OM gives out energy and lets energy flow through you. If that's all a little too hard to grasp - essentially it is just a hum. I find in a group environment it is a way to connect/unite us all and it is incredibly relaxing once you overcome the unfamiliarity/peculiarity/embarrassment.

Sanskrit. What are these odd words the teacher keeps repeating? I may be stating the obvious here, but yoga isn't a new fad, it has been practised for thousands of years. Sanskrit is the language of yoga that has been passed down generation to generation. Personally I was taught using sanskrit and feel it's only right to continue using this throughout my own teaching... plus, the vocabulary can be long, complicated, obscure and I've worked so hard to remember it so I think it's only right to share!

The term namaste. Generally it opens and closes the class and means 'I bow to the divine in you' - I have also heard 'the light in me bows to the light in you'; it's a way of showing respect and perhaps thanks.

Yoga is an umbrella term which encompasses thousands of traditions, philosophies and teachings. I practised and therefore learnt to teach hatha and vinyasa flow yoga. There are many other branches, including kundalini, ashtanga, iyengar, yin (the list goes on and I would only be able to name a handful anyway) and then within one type of yoga... many more branches. In addition, different teachers will teach in different styles; not one class can be the same as another - some more spiritual, some based on alignment, some focused on meditation or mantras... some are just very challenging sweaty workouts. So when someone claims that yoga 'isn't for them'... I tend to think they just haven't found the right teacher.

Unlike other forms of fitness, yoga encompasses so much more. Instead of working towards a goal, yoga is an ongoing practise. Yes, over time you will likely become physically stronger and more flexible... but hopefully so will your mind.

There is a whole world of yoga I will try to share with you, bit by bit, week by week. But for now, I will leave it at that and say namaste - have a happy hump day.

LHB