By Katherine Benson, National Academy Manager, Fitness First
I attended my first yoga class whilst I was studying at university. I had been exercising for some years before that, attending classes and going to the gym on a regular basis but yoga never appealed to me before this time. I had been advised to try yoga to help manage exam stress and compliment the other training I was doing in the gym/studio.
I decided to attend a power yoga class and never looked back, trying different yoga classes whilst developing my own home practice. I practiced yoga for five years before deciding that I should train to be a yoga teacher.
In the UK, I started teaching my own classes and quickly developed a style of sequencing and teaching, often focusing on particular theme or area of the body.
I often find myself referring to my yoga mat as a magic carpet – life is busy with work and family commitments and yet when I step onto my mat, I allow myself the time to focus on ‘me’, my space and my body. Although there is much more than the physical poses in yoga, it is a great place to start. The physical practice can often encourage us to become more aware of the body and help us to become more present. Even taking just 20 minutes a day to practice some breathing exercises alongside a simple yoga sequence, can have profound effects on the body and the mind. After all, there are 24 hours in the day, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a little time to dedicate to ourselves, particularly if it will help us to become a better version of ourselves in the future.
Yoga can help with the following common health conditions; back problems, heart conditions, high/low blood pressure, headaches/migraines, respiratory disorders, pregnancy and digestive ailments.
In this issue, we will focus on twists. Poses that incorporate a twist can promote the following benefits;
- Mobilising and nourishing the spine
- Stimulates the abdominal organs
- Promotes digestive relief and liver detoxification
See if you can join me in this simple yoga sequence. Try to do it in a quiet space on a towel or yoga mat if you have one.
Sukhasana with arms
Start in a seated position (Sukhasana) with legs crossed if comfortable. To help support the spine, use a bolster or rolled up towel/cushion under the backside. Place your hands on top of your knees and open your palms, soften your fingers. This will help open your chest and shoulders whilst relaxing your hands.
Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so. Take a couple of breaths and allow your breathing rate to settle in to a happy rhythm. Then breath gently in and out through your nose noticing the way your chest and collar bones move upwards when you inhale and downwards as you exhale. Take 10 more breaths in this seated position.
Rest arms by your sides, inhale and take your arms overhead and allow your head to follow, taking gaze up towards your fingers.
Exhale and allow your hands to return to your sides, dropping your chin towards your chest. Repeat 5 times.
Inhale, lift the arms over head, eye gaze to follow, as you exhale twist towards the right using your hands to support moving into seated pose with twist (Parivritta Sukhasana). Take a few breaths in this twist before you inhale and lift the arms over head and exhale to change sides.
Bring yourself to standing at the front of your mat with feet together in mountain pose (Tadasana).
Inhale and take the arms over your hand bringing your palms together, exhale, bend the knees, pull the tummy in and into fold forward (Uttanasana) – don’t worry here if you can’t touch the floor!
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Inhale, bend the knees and move the hands onto the floor. Exhale, step back with the right leg into a low lunge, resting the back knee on mat.
Inhale move the left hand onto the back hip, exhale and twist towards your thigh.
Inhale, then as you exhale return the left hand back to the mat.
Inhale, then as you exhale step back into downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
Inhale move the weight forward and into plank pose (Kumbhakasana), then exhale lower the knees and slowly lower your chest onto the mat.
Reverse this sequence from child’s pose, through a lunge and back up to standing. You can then repeat this on the left side.
Coming down to all fours and into child’s pose, thread one arm under the other to ‘thread the needle’ taking three breaths before changing sides.
A lovely way to finish this flow, is in Savasana or relaxation pose.
Lay on your back with either legs out straight, allowing your feet to turn outwards slightly, or if you prefer bend the knees and allow them to rest against each other. Arms should be a little way from the sides of the body and palms should face upwards. Close the eyes again and start to focus on breathing in and out through the nose. Let the breath move gently and the body to be still for three or five minutes. Be aware of the body against the mat, and allow it to feel move heavy. If your mind starts to wonder, draw the attention back to the breath.
Inhale, squeeze the backside and shoulders, lifting the chest gently from the mat into baby cobra (Bhuhangasana). Exhale and put your lower back onto the mat.
Inhale, bend the knees and move onto all fours, exhale and drop the hips back onto the heels into child’s pose (Balasana)