Yoga: your invitation to relax and unwind

Photo by Emily Sea on Unsplash

Originally written for The Uni Bubble

Ever since I joined the yoga society at Uni two years ago, I have never looked back. Its ability to completely de-stress and revitalise is unparalleled, and I can’t think of a better way to begin my mornings. Despite my love for yoga dating back to pre-pandemic, there is no doubt that my passion has blossomed throughout lockdown, as I was suddenly given endless time to explore and develop my ability. Its healing powers has helped me and many other people all around the world to keep calm and motivated during a tumultuous time filled with uncertainty and panic. If you have found yourself getting stressed easily, looking for a gentle form of exercise, or if you feel like you have an unfillable hole, there is no doubt that yoga can help you reach your goal.

Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

Yoga, originating from ancient India, is described as a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices. The ultimate goal of the practice is Moksha (liberation) and the ability to achieve a state of spiritual awareness.  Yoga is one of the six orthodox philosophical schools of Hinduism but there is also a wide variety of yoga schools in Buddhism and Jainism. The practice of yoga is thought to date back to pre-vedic Indian traditions, possibly in the Indus Valley civilization, around 3000 BCE.

According to Indologists, the core principles of yoga are: Discovering dysfunctional perception and finding inner peace, expanding the consciousness to becoming coextensive with everything, following a path to enlightenment and comprehending impermanent and permanent reality, and entering into other bodies and attaining supernatural accomplishments.

“This form of yoga was created in the ‘Modern Yoga Renaissance’ of the 20th century, where Western styles of gymnastics were blended with postures from Hatha yoga”

Don’t let these intense principles and words scare you away as you definitely don’t need to start yoga with these in mind. Many modern yoga practices focus simply on the asanas (bodily positions), connected into a sequence called vinyasas, and accompanied by some breathing exercises of pranayama. This form of yoga was created in the ‘Modern Yoga Renaissance’ of the 20th century, where Western styles of gymnastics were blended with postures from Hatha yoga. It is a great form of natural exercise, and allows you develop strength in your core, upper body and glutes. New levels of flexibility are introduced into your system, allowing you to feel more agile.

This Western yoga allows you to exercise naturally, unwind and incorporate as much of the spiritual side and core principles as you want to. Personally, when I began yoga, I was merely on a journey towards flexibility and strength. But, after a few months of stretching, I began to listen closer to the breathing techniques, think about those core principles, and incorporate them more and more into my practice. I found that my stress levels began to significantly drop, and I found it much easier to relax and focus on my work.

“The new techniques I have learnt from pranayama has allowed me to work through my irregular breathing and control it, allowing me to feel a lot more confident”

I used to suffer from panic attacks, and I still find it difficult to breathe every now and then. The new techniques I have learnt from pranayama has allowed me to work through my irregular breathing and control it, allowing me to feel a lot more confident. You shouldn’t shy away from the spiritual side completely as it is extremely beneficial to the mind, body and soul, but you can choose to introduce it as slowly as you want on your yoga journey.

When lockdown came, I found that my free time expanded, and so did my stress levels. With coursework due in and no idea how the pandemic was going to play out, I turned to yoga for support. Beginning my days with the practice meant that I went into my daily routine feeling a lot more relaxed with a lot more focus. It also acted as the perfect break from my studies, giving me a mindful exit from the perils of Uni and pandemic life.

All of my yoga lessons transferred to zoom which I found still worked well, but I began to look for other practices to fill in the gaps between lessons. That’s when I discovered YouTube. The website is completely bombarded with amazing lessons from a whole hoard of different teachers. My personal favourite (and 9.8 million others) is Yoga with Adrienne. Her YouTube page is packed full of 7 years’ worth of yoga lessons, covering every theme you can think of. Yoga for the core, yoga for relaxation, yoga for runners… it’s all there!

Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

One of my favourite features on her channel, is her 30 days of yoga series, where she uploads a 15–30-minute video every day in a month-long cycle. Each day is different, concentrating on different aspects of the body and breathing techniques, resulting in a well-rounded practice over the course of the month. I would definitely recommend this if you are looking to get into the practice, as this will give you a great introduction.

Her yoga for beginner’s videos are perfect for those who have absolutely no flexibility and are vital for a gentle warm up before you attempt anything too challenging. The videos provide gentle stretching techniques, an introduction to the classic poses, and the necessary reassurance that everyone needs to start from somewhere!

For many, the ability to start your journey in your room is a massive bonus as you can go at your own pace without feeling self-conscious. It’s so easy to get YouTube up on your laptop or phone and try one of these sessions out. You don’t even need to buy a yoga mat straight away; you could use a towel or carpet until you feel like you want to commit and invest in some equipment. Also, as you can practice from the comfort of your own home, you don’t need fancy gym wear or yoga pants. Soft and stretchy pyjamas act as a perfect substitute due to their delivery of comfort and give.

So, if you have access to YouTube, a towel to practice on and pyjamas to wear, what’s stopping you? I encourage you to get out there, give it a go, and invite some positivity and strength into your life.

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