Wellbeing through the Weekend: Yoga
Wellbeing through the Weekend is a blog series which provides tips and personal experiences of ways to improve wellbeing, particularly over the weekend when services might not be available. The idea of the series is to share ideas, and introduce others to the many different ways someone can help themselves, regardless of who they are or what their situation is. If you have any ideas, tips or suggestions for improving wellbeing, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.
Whenever I think of ways to improve wellbeing, my mind instantly jumps to yoga as my go to suggestion for anyone. To put it simply, yoga is a perfect blend of mind and body exercise which focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing. The practice stems from India around 5,000 years ago as a spiritual exercise, but has expanded and been adapted all across the world for a variety of reasons, from general physical activity, to an exercise in mindfulness.
I first came across yoga when I moved to Canada for a year in 2012. The move to a different country with a totally new environment, no friends or family nearby, and the number of new experiences I was facing every day was a really overwhelming experience in my early twenties, and I found myself looking for a suitable outlet that wouldn’t involve a lot of money, and was something that I could easily do by myself whenever I wanted. I’d been to a few yoga classes with some friends occasionally over the years, and knew it was something I enjoyed, but I hadn’t put in the commitment to make it a regular practice. That all changed with my first yoga session abroad. From the first sun salutation, I was hooked, and made yoga a daily practice that I could do whenever I felt overwhelmed, homesick, or anxious, or if I just needed to take some time to myself. It also came in handy that my university counselling service had set up free weekly yoga classes that I could make sure I was practising yoga correctly. Yoga has now become something I have taken with me ever since, knowing that despite all the trimmings that can come with yoga, all you really need is a mat and the ability to breathe in and out.
There are so many reasons why yoga is so great for wellness. Yoga forces you to practice mindfulness, staying present within your body and mind and focusing on what is happening right now, which prevents you from overthinking in other aspects of your life, catastrophizing situations, or worrying about what may or may not happen in the future. The practice of deep breathing is a powerful tool to utilize during moments of high stress, anxiety and/or panic attacks, and equip you with key skills need to help yourself in difficult situations. There are numerous physical health benefits as it increases your physical activity, such as improving strength, flexibility and balance. There’s been plenty of studies which provide evidence that regular yoga practice can be extremely useful to those with circulation problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, joint problems, back pain, as well as depression and stress, and provides a great distraction.
How to start practising yoga
What I love about yoga is that there are so many ways that you can go about practising it, such as:
- Finding a class near you by visiting or searching on Google Maps for your nearest yoga centre.
- To save some money, it may be worth visiting Groupon, where you can often find great deals of 5-10 classes, which will give you a great taster of what yoga is really like.
- If, like me when I first started, you’d rather not spend much money, there are plenty of free online options. On Youtube, there are hundreds of yoga tutorials; my personal favourites are the channels Yoga with Adrienne or Clare Missingham.
- If you are a member of Amazon Prime, you can stream plenty of yoga videos through Amazon Prime Video. Using videos online is a great way to trial run your practice of yoga, from the comfort of your own home, on your own time and in your own space, which makes it an inexpensive, yet invaluable exercise in wellness.
Before you start
If you suffer from any physical conditions, please make sure to check with your GP before taking up any exercise. Whilst yoga can be extremely effective and useful for many physical conditions (and has certainly improved my back pain caused by a slipped disc), it is always advisable to consult with a health professional before embarking on any physical activity.