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Yoga for Everyone

EXPERT VIEW

YOGA FOR EVERYONE

Whatever your level of fitness, why not kick off the new year by finding little ways to incorporate revitalising  yoga activities into your routine? Louisa Koussertari, a qualified yoga teacher and a Product Merchandise Manager at John Lewis, tells us why yoga is beneficial regardless of your flexibility, and dispels some common myths.


What are the benefits of yoga?

The poses, known as asanas, help to keep muscles long, joints supple, maintain alignment and build core strength, so it’s beneficial for people of any age, flexibility or fitness. It’s a great way to unwind from hectic mornings and afternoons! Yoga also focuses on your breath which can help with stress, anxiety and depression. 
 

So beyond fitness, it’s good for general health and well-being?

Absolutely. Through a combination of movements - lengthening and opening the body, along with twists - yoga can ‘work' the nervous system and digestive organs, boosting digestion and encouraging the liver and kidneys to flush out toxins. It can really help with bloating, too. There’s a kind of breathing specific to yoga - inhaling and exhaling through the nose - that helps to create a mental and physical release, slowing down the mind and body.
 


What should I expect when I go to a class?

If you are a beginner, go with an open mind, try your hardest not to compare yourself with others but focus on the poses and feel free to ask the teacher for help. Also remember that everyone’s body is different; there are some poses that even the most experienced people can’t achieve and that’s absolutely fine. That’s what props are for!

For someone who's new to yoga and wants to practise a little daily for health and wellbeing, what do you recommend?

Hatha or beginners Vinyasa flow.


Is yoga only for the flexible?

No, this is a complete myth. Yoga helps with flexibility but it’s NOT the goal - the 2nd myth of yoga!

Can you recommend a series of beginner poses?

A great series of poses that are easy to work into your daily routine are Mountain, Downward-facing Dog, Plank, Triangle, Tree, Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Seated Forward Bend, Bridge and Child’s Pose. There are some helpful short videos on Youtube that can give encouragement when starting out.

Which props are helpful for beginners?

Straps are useful for people of all abilities, they will get you that little bit further until you’re more limber. Blocks support the body and make poses more accessible.

Yoga styles can be confusing for a beginner trying to choose the right class. Can you explain the different types and who they’re best for?

Here’s the lowdown on the differences:

Hatha is a great introduction to yoga and the poses - it’s practised at a calm pace and works on general movement, alignment, breath and relaxation for the body and mind.

Vinyasa is a little more fast-moving, with fluid movements. It can vary from low to high intensity, and music sets the tempo. Vinyasa in Sanskrit means 'flow'. This will give you more of a cardio workout and the sequence will vary every time.

Ashtanga is much faster and physically demanding, for more advanced Yogis. Each movement is specific to an inhale or exhale and there is a pace. The order and the length of time you spend in a pose is the same every time, so it can feel a little regimented if you’re not used to the style.

Iyengar is prop-heavy, and almost every pose uses a chair, block, strap or blanket - it's a very supportive practice, and great for those with health conditions or disabilities. It’s usually a small class or one-to-one. The poses are held for longer, but you move in and out of each one by breaking it down and applying the props; less cardio more strengthening.

Jivamukti is much more of a spiritual practice. Meditation and chanting set the class, along with application of poses held vs. flowing sequences.

 

What should I look for in a teacher?

Someone who can offer an honest, thoughtful and supported practice. Their goal should be making yoga accessible to everyone.