I just came back from a Yoga Fitness class at Union Yoga that I NEEDED to do and that my husband (a cyclist) would LOVE!!
I love yoga but travel lots and can’t attend a regular class – I know that’s the best way to progress but at least I can practice at home using DVD’s. To make sure I am practicing correctly, I attend drop-ins and workshops which means I am always on the lookout for a suitable yoga class that fits my schedule and my abilities. There are enough yoga classes, studios and varieties to warrant its own blog (any takers on ‘Yoga Edinburgh’?) but when I realised I had a free Sunday afternoon I checked the timetable for one of the first studios I ever went to (even before moving to Edinburgh), Union Yoga on Rodney Street. Known primarily as an Ashtanga* Yoga Studio, Union Yoga offers several other types of yoga classes to suit all levels and some great workshops. I was very happy when I checked their timetable and saw what seemed to be the perfect drop-in class, Yoga for Fitness (Wednesday 7pm, Sunday 12:15pm):
‘A class suitable for ALL levels who wish to improve their fitness levels.
The perfect balance between stretch and improving core strength.’
I was looking forward to trying this new class as a change is often needed to address underused muscles and challenge the usual muscles in a new way. My eagerness was further boosted as I entered the yoga studio; the large, calm, bright open space cleared my mind, preparing me for the class ahead.
Our instructor, Jonny, started us off with a series of unfamiliar fluid, sweeping movements that brushed aside any tension and inhibitions; I loved the way that they warmed the muscles and increased mobility in the joints before moving on to the more typical yoga postures. The biggest change that this class provided – as compared to my home practice – is that we were really given time to hold each posture – which both stretches and strengthens the muscles and focuses the mind and breath. The sun salutations where ‘dissected’ giving each posture its own focus – allowing us to adjust each pose to our individual abilities, really feel the stretch and hold the pose long enough for the muscles to strengthen. That style was continued through the rest of class. Holding the postures just that bit longer than I was used to really challenged my muscles in a new way – I could feel them working, shaking and lengthening, my arms feeling the benefit of plank; my abs toning while moving in and out of boat pose. Time was also allowed to help us work into more challenging postures such as the arm balance ‘crow pose’. Jonny encouraged us to take our time, ease into the pose – just lift one foot off the floor, now the other – nothing was rushed; knowing I had a bit more time I felt more motivated to try and YES I did get both feet off the ground (for a few seconds 🙂 )!!
I was on a workout whirlwind this weekend – Zumba®, Spinning® and LOTS of walking – so I went into the class with tired aching legs. While holding these strong poses and deep stretches I could feel my muscles being wrung out like a giant sponge –squeezing out the depleted blood and built-up lactic acid. As I released the pose, my muscles were inflated with a rush of fresh oxygen and nutrient rich blood – bringing them back to life with added lightness and vigour. The hour flew by and all too quickly the gong signalled the start of Savasana – relaxation pose. Jonny, our instructor, brought each of us a blanket so that the warmth we generated in our muscles wouldn’t be lost as we lie on our backs, surrendering to the floor beneath us.
This Yoga Fitness class was exactly as described in the timetable – a fusion of strength and stretching that is guaranteed to improve your overall fitness. This would be ideal for people who love a variety of activities who may not want to become full-on ‘yogis’ but still want the strength, flexibility and serenity of mind and body that yoga uniquely provides. It is also a perfect complement to a training regime for endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists who would benefit from an intense post workout stretch and a stronger core.
I hope to share lots more yoga stories with you but if you want to try a class for yourself (and I highly recommend it) you can find more information on the Union Yoga Timetable or search the web for ‘Yoga Edinburgh’ to find out about other classes in your area. You can often find classes at community centres and through Edinburgh Leisure. For a gentle introduction to yoga, a good start may be Union Yoga’s ‘Mindfulness & Movement’ class, also with Jonny:
The perfect introduction class for those who are looking to start yoga or are coming back after a long break or for those who have injuries or are very stressed. The focus is on gentle stretches, deep breathing and light meditation. Suitable for all levels and ages.
If you are completely new to yoga all you’ll need is a yoga mat (some centres provide or hire mats), bare feet and workout clothes that are comfortable and non-restrictive. For the best experience, start with a beginners class and just relax and enjoy the postures – there will be ones that naturally come easy for you and others that don’t – it’s all just part of the journey to better health and fitness; you have to start somewhere!
Want to know more about the different styles of yoga? Pop a query into a comment and I’ll try and get the answer for you.
*Ashtanga is a set sequence of dynamic, flowing postures with the movements linked to your breath – the same sequence wherever you go. It is often taught to beginners in blocks or intensive workshops before moving on to intermediate led classes or mysore (self practice, with supervision).