When I started to practise Yoga the only place I could find a class was at my local gym & trying to relax with relentless house music pounding through the floorboards and dumbbells thudding to the ground felt a little soul-less… so I searched out a weekly Ashtanga class which was one hour’s travel away at a local community centre and that was my first step into what I could have never predicted to become my biggest passion and my job! Nowadays, Yoga is everywhere. You can’t walk down a street in London without stumbling across a boutique studio or peering into a pop up and everyone from the inquisitive Uber driver I had a lengthy chat with just this morning to friends who take great pleasure in mocking my ‘hippy interests’ are growing more and more curious to try Yoga for themselves. If you are ready to take your first step out of your comfort zone and onto your mat, read on…
1. You have to be flexible to do Yoga
I am told most days on multiple occasions that I have met ‘the least flexible person in the world’ or that people are not flexible
enough to do Yoga at all and I have to stop myself from laughing. You come to Yoga to help improve flexibility – it’s one of the key benefits and if you are, like most people, not naturally as pliable as a pretzel, it’s even more of a reason to do it! One of the best things about Yoga is that ANYONE can practise and benefit from it – no matter what size you are, what race, what gender, what religion or if you genuinely believe yourself to be the least flexible person alive (the odds are slim – let’s be honest) – Yoga is available to everyone in one form or another.
2. Yoga is mainly ‘stretching and breathing’
Yoga is a holistic practice and is SO much more than just stretching and breathing – when practised regularly Yoga can have profound effects on your Body, Mind and Spirit – helping to maintain a healthy physical body, healthy mind and healthy relationship with yourself. To name a few of the long list of benefits Yoga has..
- Yoga can help to make you feel calmer and to become more flexible physically.
- Yoga increases muscle strength and tone whilst also improving respiration, energy levels and vitality.
- Yoga has nothing to do with any religion. All you need is an attitude to learn something new.
- Yoga is about understanding and accepting your body, and not just learning different postures.
- Yoga can help to increase attention and concentration.
- Yoga is proven to help reduces stress, anxiety, and even depression.
3. You have to be spiritual to practise Yoga
Yoga is not a religion and against contrary belief it’s not a cult either! If, like I did, you get hooked and delve into Yogic
Philosophy it’s completely fascinating and steeped in culture. The Yoga Sutras are a collection of 196 sutras or teachings on the theory and practice of yoga written at least 1,700 years ago and can be understood as guidelines for how to live a meaningful life of purpose. According to these teachings there are Eight Limbs (or often called the Eightfold Path ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’, ‘ashta meaning ‘eight’ & ‘anga’ meaning ‘limb’) which ultimately can lead to bliss or enlightenment – and who doesn’t want that!
4. Everyone else will know exactly what they are doing and be ‘better’ than me.
Please don’t panic when you walk into your first class – everyone is there for the same reason – to practise Yoga and do something amazing for their Mind, Body and Spirit. Introduce yourself to the teacher if you are new to Yoga and let them know if you
have any worries or injuries they need to know about. Find yourself a mat, get comfortable and relax. It’s easier said than done but try to leave your ego at the door when you walk into a class, Yoga is not a competitive sport and everyone will be at
different places in their practise and find some poses more challenging than others. Despite what you might see on Instagram, the goal of Yoga is not to force your body into crazy contortions, the goal is whatever brings you to your mat – connecting to what matters, developing a healthier relationship with your body or creating some much needed space for self-care.
5. You have to have special clothes or equipment.
Wear whatever you are comfortable moving in – you don’t need any special brand of clothing or any equipment. Just come as yourself! Shoes aren’t necessary for yoga and you will need to take them off when you arrive, most people prefer to be barefoot on their mat but if you prefer to wear grippy socks you can bring those along. At MoreYoga we have changing rooms; cubby holes for you to leave your belongings in and you won’t need a padlock – don’t worry the studio is locked during class.
6. You have to be floating through life on a cloud of zen OR on the brink of a nervous breakdown to need Yoga.
A lot of people come to yoga because they are going through a rough patch and expect that once you have earned your shiny title of committed ‘Yogi’ you will be living in a constant state of bliss…This is most likely (never say never!) not the case – taking one Yoga class may change your day but it won’t change your life. With dedicated practice and by making Yoga part of your lifestyle you open the doors to transformation – whatever that might mean for you. I often describe yoga & meditation as part of my ‘Life Hygiene’ – just like brushing your teeth every day we need to regularly practice yoga to experience the benefits it can offer – this can also be a preventative measure and help if things get a little rocky allowing you take what you learn on the mat and apply it to your life.
7. All styles of Yoga are basically the same.
There are many different styles of Yoga to try in order to find which discipline suits you and gives you what you need from your practice. I started practising Ashtanga for years before moving to Vinyasa and now I teach a lot of slow flow and Yin. The best
things to do is to experiment – check out our class descriptions and see what takes your fancy. Our introductory offer gives you the freedom to try unlimited classes for 20 days so you can try different styles, times and teachers to see what suits your needs
and what works for you. If you are new to Yoga maybe try one of our Morning Flow or Hatha classes to begin, if you’d like something a little more challenging our All levels Vinyasa or Power Yoga classes are perfect to get your heart racing…if you would like something more nurturing why not book a Flow to Restore or Yin class to help you to relax and unwind.
8. You have to have taken a pilgrimage through India and speak Sanskrit fluently to be a ‘Yogi’
You don’t need to have been on a pilgrimage, visited an Ashram or back-packed through India to be a Yogi. Sanskrit is the classical language of India and Hinduism and many words and mantras used within the practice of yoga are of Sanskrit origin.
You may hear your teacher use the Sanskrit names for the yoga postures (Asanas) and they may close the class by saying Namaste, which means ‘the divine light in me honours and bows to the divine light in you’. Remember that Yoga is available to everyone and whether it’s your first time stepping foot on a yoga mat or you practise every single day, anyone can be a Yogi and everyone can benefit from Yoga. Just be careful – you might end up teaching it one day!
About Liz Joy Oakley
Liz Joy Oakley is Head of Vibes at MoreYoga and teaches Yoga & Meditation specializing in Yoga for Anxiety. Liz came to Yoga after being diagnosed with Malignant Hypertension and Generalized Anxiety and left the Fashion Industry to work in Wellness and help others to lead healthier lives holistically.
Liz is passionate about helping people achieve a healthier, happier lifestyle and aims to cultivate joy through her work. She now works in London facilitating workshops and events based around yoga, meditation, improving mental health, happiness, nutrition and wellbeing.