‘Buttocks’, ‘pubis’ and ‘being mindful’ are all words you’ll hear multiple times when starting yoga.
Yoga has always been something I treated as a bit of a joke. I had images of crystal-filled rooms where people contort themselves into strange positions and talk about spirituality.
But when I recently decided to pull out the yoga mat for the first time, most of my cliché ideas about it were wrong.
But as my last year of university went on, the anxiety levels I already have trouble with began to rise.
I’d always heard yoga was a good remedy for stress, so I decided to put aside my reservations about it and have go.
In complete secrecy from my friends and family of course.
Knowing absolutely nothing about yoga, the first step was finding a studio.
Living in Ballarat and being on a student’s budget meant low cost was a priority.
I settled on Iyengar Yoga (Ballarat) simply because it had a sale on a seven-week beginners course with a payment plan.
The entire course was $119, which I’ve been told is quite cheap.
While my anxiety screamed at me to take a friend, I forced myself to go alone.
If you want to get the most out of it I highly recommend going alone as it minimises distractions and I found it less embarrassing when my in-flexible self was struggling!
A standard class sees the teacher take you through a range of positions with names I cannot pronounce but know the vague sounds of.
Something my class always practices is Tadasana (I had to Google that), or mountain pose, which is about correct standing posture.
We also practice the classic arms clasped behind the back.
Many standing and stretching positions.
And yes, we do the ‘downward dog’. And it is hard.
While doing these poses you also practice keeping your breathing and body relaxed and stay present.
The class is ended with 10 minutes of lying on the mats with the lights out, which leaves you so relaxed I once heard the guy next to me snoring!
The most surprising thing I found was the variety of people attending. There were men and women of vastly different lifestyles and sizes, and ranged from 20 to 50+ years old.
It was a great non-judgmental environment as everyone worked to their own abilities.
Something I hadn’t realised was how often yoga is recommended by health professionals as physical therapy for injuries, which leads us to the question; what are the actual benefits of yoga?
Not to be dramatic, but at my first class I felt like I hobbled in and walked out with head high, back straight and shoulders no longer hunched over! It felt amazing.
Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that dates back more than 5000 years and there are a number of known benefits.
Studies by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and Harvard Health Publications found many ways yoga can improve health.
It can help normalise blood pressure, improve the digestive system and increases flexibility as well as strength and endurance.
Practiced long-term, it can reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue as well as improve energy levels and better concentration.
As I finish off my fourth week of the course, I’ve started reflecting on the differences it has made for me.
I’ve definitely noticed a physical difference; I walk taller, no longer hunch my shoulders over and feel generally less stiff.
In terms of mental well-being I didn’t think it had made a dramatic impact, but I have found I’ve been more relaxed in normally stressful situations and, as cliché as it sounds, I feel I’m in an all-round more positive place.
There are heaps of different kinds of yoga out there, and from my experience, it’s worth giving a go!