- Yoga can be a fantastic way to achieve and maintain the body you want
- Scientific research has been showing links between weight loss and yoga
- More vigorous styles of yoga include Ashtanga and Bikram
- Here we have given you a 10 step guide to modern yoga
1. MOUNTAIN POSE
Start in Mountain pose: stand up tall, feet together or a little apart, arms at your sides. Place your palms together in a prayer position, roll your shoulders back and down and lift your chest.
Inhale through your nose and extend your arms above and behind your head.
3. SWAN DIVE
Swan dive into a standing forward bend, exhaling through your nose and placing your hands on your legs as close to your feet as you can. Bend your knees a little if your hamstrings are tight, to protect your back.
- HALF STANDING FORWARD BEND
Inhale and lengthen your spine forward into a Half Standing Forward Bend, with your fingertips on the floor and gaze focused ahead.
- PLANK POSE
Exhale and step, or lightly hop, your feet behind you to get into a Plank pose, arms straight underneath your shoulders and legs straight behind you. Your back should be flat and your core engaged. Hold for a second, then, in a snake-like movement, lower yourself towards the floor. Then lower your chest and chin to the floor, keeping your elbows close to the sides of your ribcage, and flatten your feet to the floor.
- COBRA POSE
Inhale as you push down with your arms and raise your head, shoulders and upper body as far as you can without straining. This is the Cobra pose. Look upwards, roll shoulders back and down and keep elbows in. Firm up your kneecaps and thighs to prevent them lifting off the mat.
- DOWNWARD FACING DOG
Exhale into Downward Facing Dog; walk hands forward and slightly farther apart than shoulder width, and spread fingers wide for stability. Then curl toes under and press your hips upwards so your body is in the shape of a triangle, with your bottom as the apex. Make sure your neck and shoulders are released and relaxed. If your hamstrings are tight, keep your knees slightly bent. Take five deep breaths.
- FORWARD BEND
Inhale, step forward one foot and then the other between the hands, looking ahead. Then exhale into a forward bend.
Inhale and come up, arms above and behind head.
- STANDING POSE
Lower arms into original standing pose.
HOW TO EAT LIKE A YOGA EXPERT
- Eat nothing — or only a light, healthy snack — in the two to three hours before a yoga class. ‘You should arrive on an empty stomach,’ says Alessandra Pecorella, a yoga teacher at The Life Centre in Islington, London. ‘Otherwise you’ll feel heavy and your body will be busy digesting your food, so it will be less able to support you during the poses.’
This also helps to build discipline and will get you into the habit of eating when you’re hungry and not when you’re bored or emotional.
- Eating in moderation is an important part of yoga practice, according to Alessandra. ‘Yoga texts recommend eating until the stomach is three-quarters full,’ she says. ‘Always leave a space to aid digestion.’
- Eat the same foods as yogis. ‘The yogic, or Sattvic, diet is about eating fresh foods in season, when they are at their most nutritious,’ says Alessandra. ‘So it’s lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.’
These foods are full of vitamins and nutrients important for brain and body health; they also provide fibre and release energy slowly, so you’ll feel fuller for longer and be less tempted to overeat.
- The yogic diet is based largely on vegetarian, alkaline foods, meaning acidic foods and drinks, such as coffee and sugary pop, are to be avoided. Fizzy drinks can also be high in calories. Instead, drink plenty of water, especially on the day of your class, to avoid cramps. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, limit your intake, as this may affect your ability to relax and get into the calm state needed for optimum practice.
- A yoga class will stimulate your digestive ‘fire’ or appetite, says Alessandra. After class, she recommends a high-protein, low-carbohydrate meal such as a warm salad with chickpeas and nuts, or lentil soup. This will satisfy the appetite and help repair muscle without losing that post-yoga lightness.
- Keep your diet varied. ‘Each food has its own unique vitamin and mineral profile, so don’t just eat the same thing every day,’ Alessandra says.
Yogis try to eat at an optimal time for their body to digest food. Work out what time of day your hunger is at its peak, and have your main meal then. Again, this encourages mindful eating and paying attention to the body’s needs. ‘I find I’m most hungry between noon and 4pm,’ says Alessandra. ‘For some, it’s earlier or later, though I wouldn’t recommend having a big meal close to bedtime, as this can disturb sleep.
IT’S THE PERFECT ALL OVER EXERCISE
Although you may be thinking of taking up yoga to lose weight or shape up, you’ll probably notice all kinds of other positive changes.
For an all-round workout, yoga is hard to beat. There is now a large body of research proving its benefits for physical health.
Because of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, huge numbers of people in the UK will suffer back pain, joint pain and the various knock-on effects of these. Yoga is an excellent way to counter the problem.
‘It’s particularly good for healthy joints and for prevention or symptom control in arthritis,’ says Dr Tom Margham, a GP and spokesman for Arthritis Research UK.
‘The gold standard for arthritis is something that provides a combination of flexibility work, aerobic work and strength exercising — and yoga ticks all the boxes.’
But unlike most other forms of exercise, there is an emphasis on relaxation and mental well-being.
‘Yoga keeps the joints healthy and supple — it helps people avoid hip replacements,’ says Paul Fox, vice-chairman of the British Wheel of Yoga. ‘It strengthens muscles, including the core muscles, which protects against back pain, and it provides weight-bearing exercise which is good for the bones. But it’s one of the very few exercise systems that also deal with the mind.’
Yoga poses were originally developed to prepare for meditation, so a class can help to clear the mind, reduce stress and change how you respond to everyday situations.
This can be hugely helpful to people living with chronic health conditions, from arthritis to diabetes to multiple sclerosis to cancer.
‘A lot of pain is in the mind, and yoga is about accepting things and being aware of them rather than having an angry response, which can make pain or illness feel worse,’ says Fox. ‘This is why, for example, many women use yoga to deal with childbirth.’