Though there are no reliable statistics for the UK, estimates say that between half a million to two million people practice yoga in the UK. This number can be further divided into the various branches of yoga: Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Nidra Yoga, Sutra Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga etc.
“The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California.
Although there are more than 100 different types of yoga, most yoga sessions include the same elements: breathing exercises, meditation and poses (often called asanas) to stretch and relax various muscle groups.
Taking yoga courses can bring you many benefits, both physical and mental. Practicing yoga can improve your physical condition, better your mindfulness, bolster your self-confidence and bring tranquility and vitality to your day!
- Need to learn to manage your stress levels? Yoga is there for you!
- Want to lose a few pounds? Yoga lessons will help!
- Insomnia? Yoga will help you centre yourself and fall asleep more quickly!
- Having trouble conceiving? Hormone Yoga is meant for you!
Here are some tips and poses associated with various “problems” that yoga can help you overcome.
There are many reasons you might decide to learn yoga.
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Taking a Yoga Course Can Help You Remain Calm and Reduce Stress
If measuring stress by survey is understandly difficult, we do know that professional stress is prevalent in the UK. In 2015-2016, 37 % of sick days in the UK were stress-related.
If, in the short term, stress makes you irritable, the long-term effects on your health are very negative, and stress can be a vector of numerous pathologies such as insomnia, back pain, muscle strain, a rise in cardiac rhythm and even depression.
“My body is my temple, the asanas are my prayers.” Iyengar.
How Can Yoga Help You Relax?
Though in the West, Yoga is generally considered a pastime, in its birthplace of India yoga is a lifestyle, a true philosophy.
The basis for yoga is harmony between body and mind. Yoga allows you to concentrate entirely on the present moment and take time for yourself, allowing you to let go for awhile in a world that so often goes by too fast.
This means that using yoga to relax is a good idea!
Its deep breathing exercises allow you to let all your tensions flow away.
Breathing, or Prayanama (literally “life force” in sanskrit), is very important in yoga. It tends to accelerate in times of stress. By concentrating on nothing but your breathing, inhaling and exhaling, you will soon notice your cardiac rhythm slowing down, a pleasant calmness suffusing your body and your anxiety being exhaled into thin air.
The benefits of yoga become apparent even after just one hour a week of practice, but ten minutes a day are even more beneficial in reducing stress levels and relaxing.
Two Yoga Poses to De-Stress
These two yoga poses allow you to release tension and relax your back - where all your stress tends to accumulate.
The Hand-Under-Foot Pose (Padahastasana)
Be sure to make yourself comfortable for your calming yoga session. You can even do them at the office.
- Stand straight, both feet together, and raise your arms to the ceiling
- Take a deep breath. On the exhale, lower your head and upper torso until your hands touch the ground (bend your legs if you need to)
- Slowly go back up, unrolling one vertebrae at a time
- For even more relaxation, you can move the upper body from side to side, slowly, while relaxing all your muscles.
- Repeat 3 to 6 times.
- Keep your stomach taut during the whole exercise.
The Cat Stretch (Marjarasana)
To improve “flexibility” in your breathing.
- Go down on all fours and let your back hang naturally. Your head is aligned with your spinal cord, your abdominal muscles are taut
- While inhaling, slowly arch your spine vertebrae for vertebrae while raising your eyes to the ceiling
- While exhaling, slowly round your spine, vertebrae for vertebrae, while lowering your gaze to the ground
- Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths
Bonus: Progessively Relax Your Muscles Using This Yoga Pose
In the Savasana or Corpse Pose, contract your feet muscles as tight as you can, then slowly relax them. Continue with your lower legs all the way up to your head, making sure you work all the muscles: calves, thighs, back, abdominals, arms, hands, neck, face.
Contracting your muscles to help you relax may seem paradoxal, but it works! Try it and see.
Can Yoga Help with Weight Loss and Body Toning
According to studies quoted by the National Health Service, one out of four UK citizens is obese. But don’t let these statistics influence you - instead, ask yourself whether weight loss is actually necessary in your case, or merely a question of aesthetics.
In others words, is your BMI (Body Mass Index) 25 or more, making you overweight (or obese if it is over 30) or do you simply want to lose weight to look slimmer and be better accepted by society?
Calculating your BMI
To know if you are overweight, you simply need to calculate your Body Mass Index. There are many sites out there where you can simply enter your height and weight and get your result, or you can calculate it yourself by dividing your weight in kilos by your height in metres squared (here’s the formula for pounds and inches).
For a person measuring 1.57 m (about 5 foot 2) and weighing 61 kilos (about 137 pounds):
61 / 1.57(2) = 24,75
According to the official classification of the WHO, this person has a normal BMI:
- Less than 16: anorexia or malnutrition
- Between 16.5 and 18.5: thin
- Between 18.5 and 25: normal weight
- Between 25 and 30: overweight
- Between 30 and 35: moderate obesity (class 1)
- Between 35 and 40: high obesity (class 2)
- More than 40: massive or morbid obesity (class 3)
How can yoga exercises help you lose weight?
Yoga is made up of a series of more or less tonic or dynamic poses called “asanas”. They are physical exercises and, like any other physical exercise, they can help you stay thin, slim down, tone your body and strengthen your muscles.
Yoga is perfect for body-sculpting if you have a few extra pounds in places like the stomach and thighs. Some poses are particular good for a flat stomach.
If your weight problems are greater than that, yoga alone will probably not be enough. You should associate it with some form of cardio training to accelerate fat burn. However, the benefits of yoga are not just physical: yoga can help an overweight person on a mental level, giving them the mindfulness to better accept their body, leading to lower stress levels that are helpful in losing weight.
Say goodbye to stomach fat with yoga poses
Here are two yoga poses particularly well adapted to training your abdominal muscles, helping to flatten your stomach and build those deep muscles.
The Boat Pose (Naukasana)
You don’t have to be very flexible to lose weight!
This pose is very good for the stomach muscles and also trains the back and legs.
- Start lying flat on your yoga mat
- While inhaling, raise your legs off the ground
- Raise your upper body and grasp your legs with your hands, around the calves or knees
- Remember to keep your back straight and your stomach taut
- Stay in position for two full breaths
- While exhaling, lie back down on the mat
- Repeat 5 times with a 15-second pause between the repetitions
Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
The best pose for a flat stomach, but not just that! It tones your whole body from your shoulders to your calves, muscling your buttocks, arms and thighs as well.
- Start out lying flat on your stomach
- Push back from the ground with your hands placed at shoulder height
- Your hands should be aligned with your shoulders, your body should form a straight line
- Don’t arch your back
- Stay in this position as long as you can without blocking your breathing
- When exhaling, come back to your original position on the mat.
Why Taking Yoga Courses Can Help You Sleep Better
It is said that we spend up to a third of our life sleeping. But what happens when we don’t sleep enough?
Problems concentrating, tiredness, stress… all are short-term effects of sleep-deprivation that can lead to recurring problems if your insomnia persists, such as heart problems or hypertension.
Have you already tried everything? Camomile tea, warm milk, turning off your phone an hour before going to bed, reading a boring book, counting sheep… All without success?
What if yoga were the solution? If Power Yoga and the Sun Salutation can help you start the day happy and full of energy, there are also yoga poses that favour sleep.
Yoga and meditation: miracle cures for insomnia
One advantage of yoga is that you can easily do it at home, even as a beginner - as long as you don’t try complicated yoga poses too soon! Fortunately, the yoga poses associated with better sleep patterns are simple.
Why can’t we sleep?
Usually, because we think too much. Yoga strives to help us find the inner peace that makes it easier to fall asleep quickly. The Corpse Pose is good for emptying your mind: while the name may seem macabre, it simply means lying down on your back, the palms of your hands turned upwards and slowly relaxing all your muscles, concentrating on each muscle group and thinking of nothing else.
If thinking about nothing seems difficult - don’t give up. As with everything else, practice makes perfect. Focus on sensation rather than thought, concentrate on your breathing and feel the air filling your lungs with vital energy.
A Pre-Sleep Routine
Grant yourself some time for yourself before going to sleep and start a sleep routine to help you slowly wind down. Repeating the same things every night will send your body signals that it is time to sleep and it will respond by producing melatonin, the sleep hormone.
The downward-facing dog pose (Ado-Mukhasvanasana)
- Go down on all fours
- Raise your hips and unbend your legs to stretch your back
- Without forcing it, try to touch your heels to the ground - you should feel a light stretch at the back of your legs, no more
- Breathe deeply for three full breaths, then relax while exhaling
The Child Pose (Balasana)
- Sit down on your heels
- On the exhale, bend your upper body forward and touch your forehead to the ground
- Let your arms hang loose at your sides
- Breathe slowly while emptying your mind for 5 to 10 full breaths.
Finish with the Corpse Pose in your bed, tucked in nice and warm under your covers.
Can Learning Yoga Help you to Get Pregnant?
Positive thinking helps you stay in control at an emotional level.
Conceiving a child is not always as easy as it sounds. Some couples can encounter difficulties.
First: don’t panic. There are many more impatient couples than infertile ones. Out of 100 couples, only 5 won’t become pregnant within two years of stopping contraceptives.
Several factors combine to create difficulties in conceiving: age, weight but also your lifestyle and environment. Stress plays an important roles in fecundity and ovulation problems in women.
You know what they say: the harder you look, the less you find! It’s better to calm down and let nature take its course.
Nevertheless, motherhood doesn’t come out of nowhere, and taking yoga classes is great in helping you relax.
Taking Yoga Lessons to Improve Fertility
First, let’s take a moment to remember that in only one in three cases do fertility problems lie with the woman. And when it does, it’s usually an ovulatory dysfunction, either caused or aggravated by stress.
If Prenatal Yoga can help a pregnant woman prepare for childbirth, Hormone Yoga can help you conceive!
Created by Dinah Rodrigues in 1991 - in close collaboration with her gynecologist - Hormone Yoga is based on Hatha Yoga techniques, linking breathing exercises (called pranayama) and dynamic yoga poses, coupled with Tibetan energy flow techniques. This is meant to help activate the hypophyse, thyroid and ovaries.
Yoga Poses for Every Day
Yoga helps you learn to breathe mindfully to help lower your stress levels, stretch your muscles, ease back pain or improve flexibility.
Here are two yoga poses for flexibility in the pelvis and to improve blood circulation in the uterus and ovaries in order to favour fertility.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)
- Start seated on a yoga mat
- Spread your legs to form a right angle
- Place your hands between your legs
- Move your hands forward until you feel your back and legs stretching
- Hold this position while progressively relaxing your hips and pelvis for three full breaths.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Learning to deal with stress can help you procreate. And why not initiate the future daddy to yoga?
- Start out lying flat on your back
- Fold your legs and bring your heels to your buttocks
- Take a deep breath and raise your buttocks while exhaling; your arms remain on the floor at your sides for stability
- Maintain the pose for three full breaths and relax while exhaling
You can end your yoga session with the Corpse Pose (savasana) to completely relax all the muscles in your body.
Yoga Classes are a Great way to Relax
You don’t need to practice yoga intensively or master it completely to use it to help you relax, fall asleep quickly, increase your fertility or lose weight. A simple introduction to beginner yoga poses are enough to start on.
A yoga teacher is obviously helpful, especially private yoga classes, to teach you to hold the poses correctly so you don’t hurt yourself. Don’t hesitate to consult our Superprof database and search for yoga near me.
Here you can read 40 tips from yoga teachers on how to relax and de-stress.
Want to discover the benefits of yoga? Find a good teacher for yoga London - or elsewhere.