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"Have You Tried Doing Yoga?"

Happy Friday everyone! I hope that most of you are in the weekday-workers club and are therefore free for the rest of the week to relax and chill and if you're not, then have no fear because hopefully today's post can help you out a little. A couple of weeks ago, I asked over on Twitter if anyone would be interested in a blog post all about yoga and how to get into it and I was so pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of you guys said yes! I have been doing yoga - on and off - for almost 11 years and really, the love affair with it started when I was 15. I went to a pretty shitty secondary school, but one thing they did kind of well was extracurricular sports and they really tried to include things that weren't typical of most secondaries at the time (like dodgeball and rock climbing) and one thing they decided to do during year 1O was yoga. We were a sports community college but all of my PE teachers were footballers, badminton, athletics etc. so when we found out we were doing yoga as part of our half GCSE, most of the class were confused. But when the day came, we all walked into the gym, got out those big blue mats every school has in England, and were surprised to see a really pretty young woman (she must have been about 21 tops) sat on a mat to welcome us to the lesson. This was our new yoga teacher and she's the whole reason I became so interested and hooked on it.

I don't remember exactly when she mentioned it, but I do remember her being incredibly nonchalant when she started to tell the class about how she had been involved in a devastating and fatal car crash when she was younger and it had confined her to a wheelchair. She was told she would never walk again and that she would have to alter her life around this. What? This woman who is literally folding herself in half with no issues and is making it look as easy as buttering a hot piece of toast had than many spinal issues after a car accident that she couldn't walk? Fibs. It had to be. But it wasn't. She had decided that she wouldn't give up and actively tried a multitude of ways to improve her spinal condition and her legs after the crash and yoga was the one thing that helped. Hearing someone say that at 15 when, to be honest, nothing much inspired me was so incredibly needed and has evidently impacted me in some way because I still think about how brave and how much of a fantastic advocate for the practice that woman was because she has managed to at least get lazy little me to practice it as often as possible.

So I don't ramble for too much longer about how I got into it, I guess I should explain why I have kept it up for so long and can't seem to stay away from it even if I do drop off the yoga wagon from time to time. I'm not going to sit here and tell you all the different sorts of yoga and what it all means because to be honest, there's much more knowledgeable and reliable people out there if you seek that information, but what I can say is the practice of yoga is unlike any other fitness regime I know or that I have tried. I have many friends who use fitness as an outlet for different reasons whether that be to have a better physique, to better their overall physical health, or to benefit their mental health. Fitness and working out can do fantastic things for us as human beings in general. But yoga? It's just something that's a little more special.

For me, I love practicing it because it's such an accessible discipline. It's a myth that you need to be mega flexible. It's a fib that you need to be some tall skinny blonde on a beach at sunset to take part in it. It's something that can be done alone, with a huge group of people, at home, in the park, on the beach... it just requires a mat and determination. Although I have done yoga for close to 11 years, I am in no means an expert and still consider myself a beginner because there's been times when I've stepped away from it for a while etc. so I feel like I need to re-educate myself often. But if you're someone who wants to get into it and you don't know where to start, maybe my next few points can help.

- You don't need to be flexible or mega fit already. I know I just mentioned it, but I can't stress enough that you don't need to be in good physical shape already before you start your yoga journey. The whole practice of yoga is like any other road to fit health in that your body will improve, your flexibility and ability will improve and mostly, your strength will improve. It doesn't matter if you're 2O stone or if you're 8 stone and can't touch your toes - you can all take part.

- It can be tough. A common misconception about the practice is that it easy and a bit wishy-washy but I honestly find it more challenging than any HIIT or cardio sessions I've ever done. If you take a 3O minute yoga session for example, you need to concentrate on pulling your navel in and working your core muscles for those whole 3O minutes whilst also balancing, holding your own body weight, stretching out muscles in areas your didn't even know you had muscles, and breathing in a controlled manner. The self-discipline required is extremely demanding and that is not meant to put you off at all, but you should feel encouraged that you're actually doing something pretty damn difficult that people often over look.

- It can be incredible for mental health. I touched on this already earlier too, but yoga is so good for your mind. Don't get me wrong, I can sometimes find some instructors to be so cringey and I can't take their holistic approach seriously, but once you find a way that suits you it just works. I prefer to do yoga at home either doing my own thing or watching a YouTube video for a bit more guidance. Doing this with no sound other than the potential video, with the window open, and either really early in the morning or as the sun is going down in the evening is just perfect to me. I feel incredibly rested yet rejuvenated after each session and I honestly feel lighter in my body. I feel lighter on my feet, I forget whatever has been stressing me out recently, I feel more agile and active, and just generally feel happier in myself and about aspects of my life. Knowing you're getting stronger and pushing yourself through a self-discipline that is actually quite intensive is such a rewarding feeling too.

- Never get disheartened. This relates back to what I said about not being the perfect "yoga student" when you begin this discipline, but yoga is a constant battle of quickly identifying your weaknesses and trying to improve them. There's been many times that I've given up yoga for a few months because I couldn't do specific poses no matter how strong I felt I was getting and I've realised over the last couple of years that that is completely the wrong attitude to have. I have extremely weak wrists so find doing any poses that require me putting any weight on my hands quite difficult now - if you're familiar at all with yoga, the typical "downward dog" pose requires yep, you guessed it, you to put your weight on your hands/wrists. I now do this pose probably at least 1O times during each evening session I do and I'm also doing more and more poses which require more weight on my wrists and I'm slowly improving. It takes time to get stronger but one thing yoga does well, is that it gets you *strong*.

- Flexibility isn't just visible in your body. The absolute joy of yoga is once you feel comfortable with what you can and can't do and you feel confident to do your own thing; you absolutely can. If you can't do a specific pose due to any health reasons etc., it's totally fine - you just choose a different pose. Can't hold that pose for that long? Don't worry - make it easier for yourself by putting down your leg for stability or if it's hurting your back, go back to a comfortable pose until it's time for the next pose. You can also do yoga as often or as little as you want. Obviously the more often you do it, the more results you will see, but you could do it once a month, once a day, 15 minutes a day or 2 hours. It's a completely flexible practice that you can tailor to whatever you want, need, or enjoy.

- There's no wrong way. Again following on from that last point, because it's such an interchangeable practice, you can't do it wrong. The only indicator you will ever have that what you're doing is wrong is if it hurts. For example, I know if I do "fish" pose, my back will literally make me cry out in agony when I come out of the pose so I only ever do it if my shoulders aren't feeling tense. This level of hurt is because I often sit at a desk/on public transport a lot so my back is always a bit sore so this helps stretch it out and get rid of the tense areas, but if you're doing a yoga pose and it is really truly hurting, you know to just come out of the pose because you might be doing it wrong.

- Everything feels the benefit. So I've mentioned that it can be great for mental health (particularly the meditative aspect of it), but it can also improve other areas. I notice an improvement in my overall attitude and certainly my patience when I practice yoga regularly, I notice my breathing is healthier and I can hold my breath for longer as I put my lungs through controlled training throughout every session, and of course my body is healthier. I see results in how toned my body is, how flexible I am, how light on my feet I am, but also how much healthier my insides feel. I know that seems like an odd statement to make, but my digestion and bowels in general seem to be happier when I regularly do yoga as I have less stomach pains, less IBS, and less bloating.

I don't really know where I was going with the post other than just wanting to share with you how great this practice is and how I'd recommend it over any other type of fitness for the many reasons I've listed above. As for starting out, the best advice I can give is try it out at home. To me, the comfort of being able to roll out a mat at home and stumble around or need to take a 5 minute break when you're sweating your backside off is a luxury that I wouldn't get in a class. However, if you're someone who needs other people around them to feel motivated and empowered when it comes to working out, definitely check your local gym, community centre, or even university because I guarantee at least one of those places are holding regular classes.

The best accompaniment to working out at home though is without a doubt, YouTube. YouTube have some amazing yoga instructors and advocates that are a great encouragement and comfort to watch if you're unfamiliar with any poses or if you need that constant influence there so you remember to control your breathing, need direction on how long to do poses for etc. So to finish off this post, here's a quick rundown of my favourite videos and accounts that I watch regularly or would recommend:

- Yoga for Beginners, The Basics: Yoga with Adriene is a holy grail yoga influencer who I've got to be honest, I don't personally watch as I don't find her as soothing as others, but she is perfect for the absolute beginners basic information.
- Yoga for Complete Beginners: Yoga with Adriene again with a great routine to get you started on your yoga journey.
- 3O Minute Hatha Yoga for Beginners: Hatha Yoga is all about using physical exercises to align your muscles, bones and skin and help open up areas such as the spine (as well as being incredibly beneficial for the mind). This alignment focus is great for anyone who has any aches or pains such as bad backs or knees.
- 2O Minute Yoga Flow for Beginners: Yoga by Candace is a great channel on YT as Candace is a fuss-free, down to earth lady with very simple videos that are easy to follow. She has various beginners videos but this one is a great one to try just to get used to the flow of yoga and how common poses move from one to the other without breaking the flow and how they move with your breath.
- Yoga for Weight Loss & Fat Burning for Beginners: Psyche Truth is a channel with lots of stuff going on, but their yoga videos are pretty damn good if you want to use yoga to specifically target fat burning and weight loss. The lady who presents the session is lovely and calming and this really does make you get a sweat on!
- Useful Yoga Playlist: I've saved my absolute fave til last and that is the utter babe, Steffy's useful yoga videos on the channel, Tonic. Tonic has a mix of fitness, food, and even dating videos, but I particularly love the videos Steffy created for the channel. These are the videos I use most frequently as I find her so genuine and calming to follow. She does videos focusing on getting energised in the morning and getting ready for a good night's sleep, to digestion to toning. She's got it all. She also has a pretty fab blog if you want more info.

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