Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Namaste (na-mas-tay)

The NHS describes Yoga as an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. I first got into yoga nearly 3 years ago, while I was at uni in my final year but it wasn't until a couple of months ago that I made a decision to start it again. I'm not really sure what prompted it. Work was a little bit 'meh', life was busy and I wanted to do something that was completely for me. So I started doing exercise again.

I wasn't sure whether to write this post. I didn't want it to come across as prescriptive. But exercising and learning what is working for my body has been important for me over the last couple of months and I decided it is something that I do want to share.

When I was at school, I played netball or hockey nearly every night, on my gap year I went to the gym at least a couple of times a week. And then I got to uni, and it all stopped. I had a gym membership but I used it very infrequently. Life took over a little and exercise was the thing that suffered. Its taken me over a year of being in London, of being busy and working, to find time for me again, and time for exercise.

I renewed my gym membership and with this found a renewed interest in yoga practice. I want to be strong, to stretch out my very unaligned body and to mix up my exercise classes. For me, exercise isn't about loosing weight. It's about being strong, feeling healthier in myself and ultimately increasing my energy levels which leaves me feeling fitter and better.

My combination over the last couple of months of gym time and yoga classes has been working pretty well. I've been going to the gym 2-3 times a week and heading to 1-2 yoga classes, depending on my plans. The gym is a 2 minute walk from work so I barely need any motivation to go and even a short session is preferable to nothing. I'm already missing it when I don't go for a couple of days.

For me it's not been about creating a set routine but about trial and error, knowing my body isn't completely strong yet, nor is it near peak fitness. I know I can't do everything I want to so have been working very slowly and steadily, ensuring that I have good pre-gym snacks and good food to follow. I think everyone works very differently and bodies all have varying strengths and weaknesses and learning this has been a big step for me.

On the yoga side of things, I'm enjoying trying lots of different classes, teachers and venues. London offers a “no-frills” approach to yoga, which I personally really love. Studios tend to be fairly basic and many are warehouse type set ups with varied class offerings and different teachers each day. You can drop in on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and nearly always have the option to pay-as-you-go. I haven't been to a yoga focused studio as of yet, instead trialing classes at mix studios such as Frame, The Detox Kitchen and with Fat Buddha at The Hoxton and while I still have so much to learn, I am enjoying building my knowledge. I love the combination of running and cardio with yoga which is completely fab for flexibility, balance and for strengthening certain muscle groups, which also makes it a welcome addition to most gym training.

Many of the more difficult yoga moves are dependent on core strength more than anything else: inversions, arm balances and jump-throughs are made so much easier with a strong core. Of course this can be built through yoga but by incorporating other forms of exercise into your regime, it’s likely to be built much more quickly.

Monday night classes are a perfect way to start the week and Saturday or Sunday mornings followed by brunch are fast becoming my favourite way to spend the weekend. I'm excited to build my knowledge - and my core - to bend in new directions, be able to touch my toes and to feel stronger generally.

I wanted to take some time to speak about London classes as when I started looking to increase the time i spent on exercise that first thing that struck me was quite how many classes there are to choose from, and notably how expensive the majority are. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting my thoughts on the studios I've visited so far- as a new and inexperienced London exerciser - which hopefully will be useful to anyone stepping up their exercise-game in the lead up to summer.

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