About Yoga

Yoga 103There is a lot of information out there which you can google if you want to know more about yoga.  Here, I’ll just tell you about my own experience of yoga.

For me, yoga is about stretching, strengthening and relaxing…it helps me feel good and live a better life.  As I explain in more detail in ‘About Catherine’, I believe yoga can bring benefits to anyone, whatever level of mobility and fitness they are starting from.

There are some yoga poses you might have come across in pilates, physiotherapy, gymnastics, dance classes, aerobics or sports training.  What distinguishes yoga from most other physical activities I’ve tried is the emphasis on breath awareness – moving with your breath – and the connection between body and mind.  Also, the longer you do yoga, the more you notice its positive influence ‘off the mat’ too.  Practising yoga can, over time, help your concentration, balance (physical and emotional), self-awareness and ability to relax/sleep well.  There is a good summary on the Yoga Scotland website here: What Is Yoga?

It’s really important in yoga to accept where you are, rather than strain to do things that aren’t right for how your body is at the moment.  With patient, gentle practice it’sYoga 152 amazing how your flexibility and strength improves over time.  Yoga teachers advise you on practising safely and how to modify postures to make them more accessible to you – but it is your practice.  Only you can tell if something is painful.  It is always okay to stop or modify what you’re doing rather than try to ‘push on’.  If you have any chronic health conditions or have recently had an operation, discuss with your doctor if and when you can start doing yoga.

Supta PadIn the ‘About Catherine’ section, I explain I started off by doing Iyengar yoga.  This style is known for its emphasis on precise alignment and using props (such as blocks and straps) to help less flexible people do poses safely.  Most of the classes I went to in my teens and twenties were taught by Iyengar teachers, but I also attended Ashtanga classes for a year or two.  Ashtanga is a vigorous, flowing style of yoga and the classes always follow the same routine of sequences and postures.  I felt very fit while I was doing Ashtanga yoga, but my personal preference is for a more gentle style and some variation from class to class in the selection and sequence of postures.

For the last ten years, my main teachers have been registered with Yoga Scotland (including Margy Bevan here on Skye as well as the tutors on the Yoga 107Foundation and Teacher Training courses).  I’ve also attended residential yoga courses.  On several of these I’ve been taught by Angelika Grohmann, whose core teachers were BKS Iyengar and Dona Holleman (famous for her work integrating yoga and horse-riding).  In 2012, I took part in a 5 day intensive course with Sandra Sabatini, who studied for 17 years with the renowned teacher Vanda Scaravelli.  It was inspiring to learn that Scaravelli only began doing yoga in her mid-40s and became so supple and fit she was still doing yoga (including advanced back bends) into her late 80s!  Trained by many of yoga’s ‘great names’, Scaravelli  developed her own approach, emphasising letting go, listening to your body and allowing it to move with gravity, with no rushing or pushing to achieve certain poses.  In 2014, I participated in an excellent two day workshop with yoga teacher and osteopath Pete Blackaby. In 2016 I completed Judy Cameron‘s Yoga for Pregnancy training course, during which I learned a lot about yoga in general as well as specifically for teaching prenatal classes.

Yoga Raasay Ferry

On the way to Raasay for our yoga weekend

I take yoga seriously, but I also find it fun – and I think that’s reflected in the friendly and informal atmosphere of my classes.  Each class begins with a short period of settling in, then a series of warm-up exercises.  After that we do yoga poses (asana).  Every week has a slightly different theme: for example, we may focus on a particular area of the body (such as the muscles of the hips) or family of poses (such as twists).  All yoga classes end with a period of relaxation, which may include time for some breathing exercises (pranayama).

My training as a massage therapist also informs and complements my yoga teaching – I’m fascinated by the way different yoga poses stretch and strengthen different muscles, and how differences in our skeletal structure affect our range of movement.  And of course, I am still learning – I don’t think there’s any end to what you could learn, discover and enjoy about yoga!

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