International Day of Yoga 2016

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Considering Some of Yoga’s Many Benefits on the International Day of Yoga

Anna Robottom – City Yoga Birmingham

Tuesday June 21st 2016 is recognised as the second International Day of Yoga, or International Yoga Day. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the UN explains that “this year’s observance of the International Day of Yoga highlights the important role healthy living plays in the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted last year by all 193 United Nations Member States”. There is certainly an increasing wealth of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal which supports the fact that yoga really can be central to a healthy lifestyle; physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. In its truest sense yoga is about much more than just the asanas (physical postures), but a physical practice is where most people begin, so this is where I will largely keep my focus here.

The video below shows Anna and Matty from City Yoga Birmingham completing a traditional sun salutation, Surya Namaskar, which is completed at the start of all of their Sun Power Yoga classes.

At its most simple level, adopting a yoga practice means an increase in physical activity, which we know has a strong correlation to life expectancy, mental and physical health. The physical practice promotes strength, flexibility and balance, none of which are necessary before starting a practice. Depending on the type of yoga that you practice it can be a cardio-vascular activity, a calming and restorative practice, or a combination of the two, either way potentially lowering blood pressure, and benefiting those at risk of heart disease. The fluid movements within the practice help to lubricate the joints, and the adoption of a practice which balances core strength and flexibility can help keep the spine healthy.

The word Yoga means to yoke or bind together, and in our physical practice it is the breath which binds together the body and the mind. A regular practice which draws our focus to the breath has many benefits, not least teaching us to breathe calmly, strongly, and efficiently. Good use of the breath can really help with managing stress, pain, and anxiety. A strong yoga posture or new sequence teaches us to focus on the present moment, where only the body and the breath count, and both the past and the future can be disregarded. This can potentially offer a real relief to those who are, or have previously, gone through a difficult experience in their lives.

Finally, although I could go on much longer with sufficient time and space to do so, developing a practice can help us to manage our lives off the mat, and gain a better understanding of ourselves. Some of this comes from the yoga philosophy which I integrate into my teaching; guides such as ahimsa – caring for the self and others, and learning to practice in a none competitive manner. The practice helps us to learn patience, to come to recognise difficult emotions, and to learn which of these feelings are safe to sit with, and which indicate that we need to make a change, either in our practice or in our lives.

On a personal level, yoga has brought an enormous amount of change and growth into my own life. When I first attended a yoga class I had never considered myself to be particularly fit or active, and struggled with many of the ‘basic’ postures. Straight away however I found that attending a class helped me feel calmer, more relaxed, and to get a better quality of sleep. Since then as my practice has progressed, I have felt my fitness levels increase, I have lost weight in a healthy and controlled way, and am the strongest and most flexible I have ever been in my life. Being able to return to my mat day after day has given me the consistency and the tools I needed to cope with some really challenging times, helped me recognise the points at which I have needed some support, and has also really increased my positive appreciation of life and those around me. This International Day of Yoga is now particularly special to me as it marks one year since I qualified as a yoga teacher, enabling me to start sharing my love of the practice and its countless benefits with those around me.

Anna teaches a free drop in class suitable for all levels at Birmingham LGBT Centre every Friday, 6pm

For information on other classes taught by her and others at City Yoga Birmingham see www.cityyogabirmingham.co.uk

For more information on the International Day of Yoga 2016 see www.un.org/en/events/yogaday/index.shtml

 

 

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