This ancient practice, of which there are many forms, brings together mind and body. Technically, yoga is for everybody, but not every style is for everyone. Incorporating breathing exercises, mediation and stretching poses, the benefits of yoga are almost too many to mention, but here are just a few we think will convince you to give it a go.
Over the past 50 years, the focus of Western yoga has been very much about achieving the postures, and has been seen as more of an exercise technique, to help with everything from alignment to weight loss. The beauty of it, however, is that it doesn’t work solely on the alignment of bones and muscles – it helps with circulation and the lymphatic system, releasing the fascia and connective tissue to increase our lung capacity.Yes it helps with flexibility and mobility, but it also quietens thoughts and calms the mind, it helps reduce stress levels, improves concentration, and can be practiced either to energise, or to calm – all depending on the technique you use.
Once you have decided on what you want from yoga, then time is the next consideration. You don’t have to dedicate an hour to yoga every time – if you are doing it at home, a daily 10-minute session can reap huge rewards. Next up you need to decide which type of yoga you wish to practice, which is determined by many factors, not least the benefits you want to achieve. Your current state of health and state of mind are all important factors when choosing a technique to follow.
In Sanskrit, Hatha is the overarching word for all yoga practice, but we often use it to refer to a more gentle, flowing class which is great for beginners just getting to grips with basic yoga techniques.
Vinyasa, one of the broadest terms in yoga, combines a series of postures from the Hatha yoga practice. Vinyasa translates as the movement between poses: it can be very active, with each movement in coordination with the breath.
Ashtanga follows a set sequence of six series of postures, which increase in difficulty from standing to seated. Fast paced and dynamic, it’s usually practiced without music or props.
Another dynamic style of yoga, classes are themed around the elements and the corresponding target areas of the body: water (hips and groin), fire (core), air (front of body and back bends) and earth (hamstring and forward-leaning poses).
If you are looking to get into the subtleties of each pose, then Iyengar is for you. Rather than dynamic flow, Iyengar concentrates on the alignment of the body in a pose. Using lots of props, it is all about focus, building up to a pose with a small number of similar postures. It’s particularly good for injury rehabilitation.
Translated as yogic sleep, a Sanskrit phrase to describe the state of consciousness in between waking and sleeping. Yoga Nidra encourages the body to find a deep state of relaxation, whilst maintaining full consciousness until the final relaxation pose. Perfect for anyone with trouble sleeping or under stress, as it naturally calms the nervous system.
A slow-paced yoga using props such as cushions, straps and blocks, the poses focus on opening up connective tissues within the joints to release tension. Yin yoga can become quite intense, with poses held for as log as 10 minutes, but with concentration on the sensations, it can be very restorative.
Every yoga pose, from standing postures to seated twists, helps energise the body, calm the mind, and reduce blood pressure. Individual poses can help improve digestion and posture and strengthen and lengthen arms and legs. Yoga is very much about being more in tune with oneself, taking a moment to understand what the body needs and for each person that comes to to yoga, their primary reason for choosing yoga as a discipline often changes over time.
For many, finding the most beneficial yoga practice for their needs can take time, and for some, like Becs, founder of The Modern Yoga Studio, it ends up being a blend of some or many parts of several types of yoga. ‘I started practicing when I moved to Newcastle in 2010,’ Becs explains. ‘I tried lots of styles and different teachers, and now my practice is a fusion of what I learnt from them, blended with my own style. I kept my practice up throughout pregnancy and used it to help me to heal from a back operation.’
A former marketing director, Becs realised that whilst she enjoyed her marketing role, something was missing. ‘The more I practised yoga, the more I realised my passion was no longer in marketing. It was during my maternity leave that I finally realised finding your passion isn’t just about career and money. It’s about finding your authentic self,’ says Becs. ‘So I decided to share this passion to help others and that’s why at The Modern Yoga studio we aim to be as inclusive as possible, offering yoga for ages, and all levels, with memberships and at times that suit our yogis. We offer over 20 classes a week covering energising flow and Ashtanga classes, to restorative styles; including Yin, Restorative, meditation, through to specialist classes such as Pregnancy Yoga, Family Yoga, Yoga for healthy spines. In just one year, we have created a really special community of yogis. Watching people on their own yoga journey is so rewarding,’ adds Becs.
Yoga Therapies has just opened a brand new yoga studio, Yoga X Life, in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle, which husband and wife team Chris and Debbie consider to be their forever yogic home. They wanted to create more than just a room to run classes from. They were looking to create a special social space, a central hub for all their yogis to use to practice yoga, indulge in deep relaxation, enjoy events and simply hang out or catch up over a coffee. With a three permanent studios across the region, and a pop-up studio in Durham, each Yoga Therapies space offers a wide variety of classes and workshops. For those looking for an introduction to yoga, their Foundation of Flow class is a welcoming introduction to the fundamentals of yoga practice. Sessions are taught at a steady pace, and focus on the central postures and techniques, whilst your teacher will help with any modifications and adjustments to help guide you towards proper alignment and self awareness. Perfect for beginners, or anyone wanting to firm up their yoga foundations. Yoga Therapies also offer Aerial yoga using special hammocks, Post-natal and Kids yoga, and for those with restrictions, Chair yoga. To take your yoga even further, Yoga Therapies also run a full teacher training programme of 200 hours to help explore the science, art and philosophy of yoga. Participants leave as fully-qualified, inspiring yoga teachers.
Want to immerse yourself in a yoga retreat? The Wellness Space in Sunderland run regular classes and events but also offer special three-day retreats such as their Edinburgh Retreat 2020. A weekend of yoga, exploring and relaxing in beautiful Edinburgh sounds like the perfect way to switch off and de-stress. Claire opened The Wellness Space having discovered a passion for yoga whilst travelling. Always active, she was living in Saigon and stumbled across yoga by chance. ‘I remember my first class like it was yesterday,’ she says. ’Tucked away in the corner of a packed room, hot and sweaty, not having a clue what was going on and shaking when the poses were held for more than two seconds and confused because half of it was taught in Vietnamese. I was hooked.’ Despite being a sports fanatic, all that activity brought no flexibility and touching her toes was simply a dream when she started.
Signing up to do her Yoga Teacher Training she didn’t think she was ‘good enough’. Unlike other people in her yoga classes, she couldn’t do a headstand or the splits, but there were so many things about yoga that she knew she loved; the way it made her feel, the challenge for her mind and body, and the safe space in which it’s practiced, so she wanted to pursue it further. Now trained in Vinyasa, Mandala Vinyasa and Rocket, Claire loves to practice a mix of Power, Yin Yang and Gentle Yoga, and Wellness Space offer a range of classes and events in both their Sunderland and Durham Studios. Try Candlelit Yin, restorative and meditative workshop to practice the art of slowing down and nurturing your inner calm. The Solar and Lunar Energy Workshops help to balance the two key energy channels in the body, the pinball and ida, or try the Gong Bath. The gong is one of the oldest treatments of healing, used to promote health and well-being, and is an ideal tool for releasing tension.
Yoga X Life, Bryson Court, Portland Road, Newcastle NE2 1DW
The Mala, 4 Bowsden Terrace, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 1RX
The Den, Units 5–6, STACK Newcastle, New Bridge Street West, Newcastle NE1 6PT
Yoga Therapies at WBCo, Unit 8, St John’s Road, Meadowfield, Durham DH7 8TZ
The Modern Yoga Studio
1st Floor, 234-236 The Former Fire Station, High Street, Gosforth NE3 1HH
Quay West, 15 Pickersgill Court SR5 2AQ