In yesterday’s blog post, I discussed the many reasons why you should do yoga – that can really be boiled down to just a few words – strength, flexibility, endurance, mental relaxation.
However, there are several different types of yoga, and what is right for me, may not be right for you. I thought I would share one of my experiences today as an example of a type of yoga that doesn’t seem to be right for me!
I usually practice Hatha or ashtanga yoga, just because these are the ones taught in the classes at my gym and the most common. They involve several vinyasas or sun salutations and you flow from one pose to another in a series of movements. Otherwise known as “flowy” yoga. However, my mum has been going to several hot yoga classes a week, so a few weekends ago when I visited her, I went to join her class.
Lano Yoga had a lovely atmosphere – walking out of the torrential rain and up three flights of stairs, we walked into a brightly lit, warm reception area, took our shoes off immediately and signed in at reception. There’s yoga kit for sale, water dispensers, and you can rent mats for the class. The changing rooms are clean and open – there are no lockers but the changing room door is locked once the class starts. The studio was large with a huge full-length mirror running the length of the longest wall.
But it was so, SO different from my usual classes (we went to the Lano 90 class – they do have flow and power yoga classes as well amongst others).
First of all, the instructor’s mat was at the back of the room, with the huge mirror at the front. For the whole class, he wandered around the room, adjusting people’s alignment and calling out praise. He knew everyone by name and seemed to know the different poses they particularly struggled at and the different levels they should be at, calling out “good job Trycha!” (for example) if he saw someone had managed something they hadn’t done in previous classes. That was awesome.
The class itself was very different from the normal classes I do, as it wasn’t “flowy” – we didn’t do a single downwards facing dog or vinyasa! Instead, we would do one pose on both sides, take a break, repeat, and then move onto a different pose. The poses were fun but not much different from those I would do in a normal yoga class, just without the flowing movements in between. In fact, if it wasn’t for the heat, I wouldn’t have found the class that difficult.
But the heat. Oh the heat. Very quickly I took my top off so I was practicing in shorts and a sports bra, and the sweat was trickling down my legs, pooling in my belly button, dripping from my forehead. But that wasn’t the worst thing – I’ve been to hot countries before, I’ve sweated before. The worst thing was the dizziness. I really suffered in the standing poses. I could do the pose fine, no problem in my muscles or with my flexibility. But then I would get a little dizzy, my vision started to go wobbly. I came out of the poses and stood still, concentrating on breathing deeply. But then my vision wobbled further and completely disappeared, so my eyes were open but I could only see black.
Immediately I would get to my knees, go into child’s pose with my head on the floor, close my eyes, and very quickly I would recover, get up and try again. But in the first half of the class this happened five or six times. Then in the second half – the seated poses – it didn’t happen at all and I was absolutely fine!
I therefore don’t think hot yoga is quite for me and I should maybe stick to the cooler type that doesn’t make me almost pass out…!
So what should you do if you want to practice yoga?
Well, the absolutely best thing is to find a local yoga studio, or, failing that, see if your gym has any classes. If not, try finding videos online. Do You Yoga is a fantastic online source of articles, advice, and videos, with numerous yoga courses, some free, some you have to pay for. As the anecdote above might suggest, I would recommend trying out lots of different types of classes and not writing all of yoga off if you have a bad experience.
In the podcast I mentioned yesterday, Run to the Top, Tina Muir gave an anecdote of a yoga class she had been to where the instructor told everybody to really push themselves, saying it was the one part of their day where they would push themselves physically. In my (admittedly with limited knowledge) opinion, yoga is not about that. Firstly, if you are a triathlete (or insert other sport here), the likelihood is that you have already really pushed yourself that day. Secondly, yoga is just not about that. It can be about that – definitely about trying to hold poses or try new things – but ultimately it is about finding the limit that your body is comfortable at. Don’t do the splits before you can touch your toes, for example. That attitude by a yoga teacher, in my opinion, will lead to people looking at what those around them are doing and trying to do the same, which can be harmful. I’m very willing to accept alternative opinions so if you disagree, let me know in the comments! But I think yoga is about pushing myself, not being told off by an instructor because I can’t yet do x or y.
I actually started getting into yoga with Erin Motz’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge from Do You Yoga, which I would hugely recommend, especially Day 14 which is yoga for runners. I am now working on the 14 Day Yoga Body Challenge which is really hard but is hopefully doing some good work on my core muscles. And maybe eventually I’ll be able to do a headstand.
I also follow several “yogis” on Instagram, who tend to have monthly challenges where they post a different pose every day. There are certainly pros and cons to this approach, as I’m not sure it’s a good idea with some of the poses to just try them straight, rather than as part of a yoga practice where you have loosened off your muscles to work up to that particular pose. But I try to incorporate them into my practice, working repeatedly on some – such as wheel – until I’m able to do it. Currently focusing on Crow as I am still so far away from being able to manage it!