It’s nearly 6.30pm and I just about manage to get up from my cosy sofa and set off to my Yoga class. I have attended quite a few classes over the years and find it to be a rewarding discipline that can be practiced at any age.
I’m always amazed that within the space of an hour, you can completely centre yourself through various postures, breathing and mindfulness. The Sanskrit root of the word Yoga means to unite, to bring the mind and body together, to dissolve the duality and bring inner peace.
Once I get there, we gather our props: yoga belt, blanket and two blocks and I chat with my classmates. The teacher starts us off gently and I’m immediately aware of my poor posture and shallow breathing as we’re asked to sit tall and cross-legged, lower our gaze and tune into our breathing, the starting position for the class.
The intake of breath and pushing up of the sternum immediately has an expansive and therapeutic effect. The out breath releases tension and enables us to focus on our bodies. Maintaining the stillness of the pose anchors and increases our body strength. We hold each posture until the teacher releases us and you can hear the group exhale with relief. Some postures I find easier than others like the Lord of the fishes twist or the Eagle pose.
The teacher walks around correcting our postures. The use of breath is crucial as his adjustments push your limits and it would be so easy to just fall over and give up. The in-breath allows me to reach a little further into the pose of a cobra stretching the spine, and holding still in the pose of a boat for toning the abdomen; balancing is always a challenge and I struggle to hold the dancer’s pose.
Next we attempt a seamless flow of postures like the Sun Salutation, a series of gentle flowing movements synchronized with the breath. Taking it slowly and checking our body alignment in the mirror is helpful at our amateur level. I’m in awe at how focusing on breathing and meditation techniques can empty the mind.
At the end of the session, the teacher dims the studio lights and we lie down and cover ourselves with blankets as we cool down. We keep our backs pressed into the floor, legs outstretched, arms out and palms facing upwards. My breathing is slow and I feel tuned out. We are relaxed and at peace. We have pressed the pause button. We are triumphant, “being” not “doing” in a society moving at breakneck speed.