Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Finally: it's time to mention yoga

I've resisted this long, but it's time to share. For the last 14 years I've been practising yoga and I qualified to teach BKS Iyengar's method in 2003. It's not all soft and fluffy; passing the assessments was probably the hardest work I've done. Four years of practise before you're allowed on the training course, and at least two years to get through. The Iyengar approach is rigorous, and uses equipment to help all students do the extensions correctly, but all yoga is yoga. If you are going to do downward facing dog, it's the same in every class you do; it's just that some methods hold the postures for less time and aren't so fussy about whether or not you try your hardest to get it absolutely right. Some go straight from posture to another in a more flowing style. In Iyengar's method, teachers are expected to help students to correct mistakes. Once they're good, then they can flow.

Around the globe some yoga teachers do something a little bit different and name it after themselves, trademark it and see if they can earn a stack of cash. That's not particularly yogic, not according to Patanjali who wrote down the rules over 2000 years ago. (BKS Iyengar says he does Patanjali's hatha yoga, it's just that it's simpler to call it Iyengar so students know what to expect.)

What's yoga anyway? Bouncing about in lycra showing how bendy you are? The definition I like best is that yoga is the quietening of the mind to achieve stillness. Showing your muscles and standing on your head in public isn't yoga, it's just showing off. But if you do go to a class with a decent teacher, concentrate hard on doing your best and what each part of your body is up to (ignoring the others in the room) you'll come out feeling brilliant, with a calm head and a spring in your step.

That's why I'm recommending that you give it a try. It'll help you to think clearly, put things in perspective and keep your body parts functioning smoothly. Since I've practised yoga I've been able to concentrate better while I'm working and I've got rid of the lower back pain I always had from sitting at a desk. (Except the time Nick dreamed he was playing football and kneed me in the lumbar spine.) I've a long way to go before I quieten my mind enough to achieve stillness, but it happens more often than it used to, which was never.

Go here to find yourself a local class: www.iyengar.org.uk. If you're in Ealing, get in touch.

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