By Tochi Anueyiagu
My first yoga class was a disaster. A course mate of mine in University convinced me to attend a session with her, and as I was always so curious and intrigued by Yoga, I agreed to go. What I didn’t understand at the time was that she signed us up for an advanced level hot yoga class in an attempt to humiliate me. At the time, I was not physically active at all, and my diet consisted of unhealthy takeaway food (gotta love that 21-year-old metabolism). That, coupled with my competitive nature, was a recipe for disaster. I got to the class and ended up spending 45 of the 60 minutes in a very humbling child’s pose flat on the mat. I was traumatized and concluded I just wasn’t the type of girl that did Yoga. It wasn’t until I accidentally ended up in a hatha yoga class that I fell in love with it three years later.
It couldn’t have happened at a better time. I was in the throes of what I can, in retrospect, call some form of depression. I was struggling emotionally in law school and coping unhealthily with a growing eating disorder. I had become hooked on pilates, and one day when my instructor failed to show up, I was instead forced to take a yoga class. When presented with that option, all the horror from that first class came rushing back to me. Luckily, I gave the class a try, and I haven’t stopped practicing Yoga ever since. I will never forget the high I experienced leaving that Hatha class. I felt a few inches taller and a few pounds lighter both physically and mentally, and I knew that whatever that was, I needed more of it.
Benefits of Yoga.
My yoga practice has completely changed who I am and my outlook on life as a whole. It’s a whole way of life, not to be confused with a religion, focused on the steps to living a fruitful and healthy life.
Asana, the physical aspect of Yoga, is an amazing form of movement that supports your mind and body. It is often labeled as a moving meditation that supports mental health while promoting strength, balance and flexibility. Studies have shown that Yoga actively lowers the stress hormone cortisol and can help keep anxiety and depression at bay. I can attest to the healing properties of Yoga in my own life and how nice it feels to be able to do the splits with ease.
Find The Yoga for You.
On my yoga journey, I’ve discovered so many different types of Yoga. If you are of the belief I also held that there are certain types of people that do Yoga, you are mistaken. There is a type of Yoga for you no matter your age, size, flexibility or fitness level.
A flow-based class with an emphasis on moving your body to the rhythm of your breath. This is the style I teach the most! Difficulty ranges from easy to advanced and vinyasa classes are great for yogis looking for continual movement rather than holding poses for extended periods.
Original Hot Yoga (FKA Bikram)
The Yoga I practise the most is hot Yoga in the original style. This is distinct from other yoga classes in that there is a set sequence that is repeated in each class. I love this because it allows me to advance within the set sequence and sweat out toxins in the hot room.
This is the type of Yoga I love so much and don’t do enough of. These classes are composed of slow movements designed to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. It involves a lot of props and pillows with extended moments (sometimes up to 4 minutes) of reclined stillness intended to help the body enter a deep state of relaxation. If you’ve never tried a restorative yoga class, I implore you to! It’s life-changing levels of R&R.
These are just the three yoga forms I practise and teach regularly. There are no parameters around how you can practice Yoga. On some days, all I can do is Yoga in bed in the morning or Yoga stretches at my desk in my chair. The important thing is to find the Yoga that you enjoy and find a way to incorporate it into your daily life to reap the mind and body benefits.