“Why don’t you try some gentle yoga” was the cry I heard when I was pregnant, when my friends and colleagues were uncomfortable seeing me cycle to work then drag my huge 7-month bump round the park for a lunch-time run. It made me want to ram a 20kg weight plate down their throats. For some reason, the idea of doing yoga inspires a kind of violent abhorrence in me like nothing else.
I’m not sure why. I think because it is slow and controlled, and I hate slow and controlled, despite me using those words with my clients every single day. And it’s just really really hard. I’ve tried a few different types (even with my baby, who also hated it) and never enjoyed a session! When a physio told me to avoid it because I’m hypermobile and have chronic joint problems, I could have kissed him. And maybe that explains why I find it such a bother.
BUT DON’T LET THAT PUT YOU OFF!
Yoga may be synonymous with lithe and limber instagram models posing at sunset, or LuluLemon Yummy Mummies, or even old-school hippies, but the people who need it the most tend to be those that avoid it the most: big dudes who lift big weights, athletes, those of us who’s age is advancing faster than we’d like, and absolute beginners to exercise.
“But Kate you have just admitted that you HATE yoga, and that’s it’s really hard – how can we trust you?”. Trust me, I don’t like cleaning my teeth either but I do it 2-3 times a day, because it’s good for my health. And yoga can be good for your health too. Here are some reasons why:
- It increases mobility, and honestly the vast majority of us could use that. We sit down travelling to work, where we sit down all day then we come home and sit down some more. Most of us spend at least 8 hours a day stuck in the same position, and then we get sore and stiff, or worse, injure ourselves doing something innocuous like moving the shopping in from the car. And for those of you thinking “aye well I’m a body builder / athlete / gardener / builder” you’ll be spending a large amount of time breaking down and growing the same muscles day in, day out, and they need some love to remain healthy, smooth and supple.
- It can teach you the basics of moving well before you go on to bigger and better things – a good class that focuses on deep breathing exercises and core strength can be vital for creating a good foundation for other sports – lifting weights, running, cycling, fencing, kayaking, whatever takes your fancy.
- It builds muscle. “What!!! I thought only lifting massive weights to failure built muscle?”. In yoga you’re lifting your body weight – that could be 50kg, it could be 100kg, and that’s no mean feat. You’re also moving on different planes than your standard deadlifts, bicep curls and running motions, so you’re challenging your muscles in new ways to make them even more strong and stable for when you want to focus on deadlifting or bicep curling or running etc.
- By holding poses for longer periods of time, it increases endurance and helps you build slow-twitch muscle fibres – great if you’re running a marathon, walking the West Highland Way or just trying to keep up with your kids.
- By focussing on eccentric muscle contractions, you’re developing some lovely, long and strong muscles to balance out those you might over use doing standard weight lifting. When you lift big heavy weights your muscle fibres heal closer together to give short and bulky muscles, often prone to injury – yoga can help balance that out.
- It can calm you down. Honest. The Streeter et al. (2007) study showed how yoga increased hormonal levels of brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA), meaning yoga could be explored as an adjunct treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders. But ask anyone you know who does yoga – they will all tell you they feel immensely better after a session. Try restorative yoga for a nice chill out if you’re feeling overwhelmed or have the Sundayblues.
So there you have, just one of many reasons why giving yoga a try is worth. However if, like me, you’re hypermobile or you just really bloody dislike it, come to Pilates instead!
Th great news is that we’ve got a new yoga class at 12pm on Wednesdays for over 60’s and Pilates is every second Tuesday at 6pm. If you can’t make it then check out our friends over at Kali Collective: http://www.