Over the twelve or so years that I’ve had a real keen interest in fitness, I’ve jumped around from functional fitness to traditional strength training to circuit training; if there’s a different type of training out there I’ve probably given it a go. But the one that I’ve always come back to, however, is yoga. The link between mind and body that I get from yoga (more specifically Ashtanga or Vinyasa style) is completely different to any other type of exercise that I do. There might be workouts at the gym I do where I think “I really felt that mind-muscle connection during that lift”, or when I’ve got the right type of music playing in the right frame of mind and I enter a meditative-like state, but I’ve never finished a yoga session and not felt clearer in my mind or like I haven’t really worked my body.
I am by no means a Yogi. In fact if I put out a yoga DVD it would probably bomb because I am so inflexible. Injuries accrued over years of performing arts training have left me with a multitude of bad joints, tight muscles and limited range of movement. But it’s improving. I most recently really threw myself back into yoga at the beginning of the first lockdown and I couldn’t reach the floor if I bent over, now I can do it with only the smallest of involuntary noises. Not only that but my balance has improved dramatically, especially on my right leg where I injured my knee. My fiancée also hugely benefits from yoga, as she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and hypermobility, it helps to strengthen the muscles around the problem joints and to stretch out, in her words, her “achy, achy limbs”. Multiple studies have shown it can also reduce pain and mobility issues in relation to osteoarthritis (nhs.uk).
It’s not just the physical side though as I also find it hugely helpful when it comes to my mental health. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety those thirty minute sessions a few times a week, where all I am focusing on is my breathing and my body alignment, have done me the world of good. When I’m focusing on how and where my breath is moving throughout my body and making tiny adjustments to my pose to ease further into a stretch, or “opening my heart”, it quiets all those intrusive thoughts and brain-noise, and just lets me be completely in-the-moment.
The best part about yoga though is how accessible it is, there are also a multitude of apps and videos out there for anyone interested in getting into it. Not only that but you can do it at any level, it’s not all headstands and wild backbends. If you’ve done a plank before, you’ve done a bit of yoga.