What I love about yoga is that you can pick the yoga style to suit your mood on any given day. Whether you wish to flow freely or soften into stillness, it is important to connect to what feels right for your body.
The yoga that evolved out of the ancient teachings from India means that the variety of yoga on offer in the West nowadays makes it accessible to everybody.
Yet with names such as Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Scaravelli, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kundalini, Yin, Restorative, where do you start? Read the style description and talk to the teacher. Think of yoga as an extensive breakfast buffet: so much choice and you can have whatever feels right on the day.
Hatha yoga is an example of an active yoga practice that allows you to lengthen the muscles, becoming stronger and more flexible. Not only do you reap the benefits of stretching with the breath but you cultivate balance and create space and vitality.
Looking for something on the other end of the scale? Yin yoga is the perfect practice if you need to develop mental clarity, alleviate stress, anxiety or have been holding onto emotional baggage.
People talk about yoga practice, because you are practicing a sequence of poses with the breath. Most people roll out a mat as they find it has better grip than the carpet but the lawn on a sunny day can be just as inviting.
Yoga poses can be tailored to suit your needs in your own practice or when you are in a group scenario, they may focus on themes. It is no different from going for a walk by yourself (or with the dog!) where you dictate the route or a group of friends agreeing on a common path to walk together. Both are different but equally rewarding.
Whether you practice actively or passively, always take time to lie down at the end so that your body can absorb the benefits of the poses in the stillness. This final pose is called Savasana, it is the most important pose you do. Its serenity serves to bring you back to the smoothness of the breath, your constant companion on and off the mat.
So much of what we do in yoga is designed to make us feel more at ease in our bodies. Rather like finding your flow in the garden, if you love the feeling of yoga, it usually becomes a regular practice, niggling out the proverbial weeds.
Sometimes you get better at poses, sometimes you learn to let go of what no longer serves your body. Every moment will be different. The physical practice that you see advertised on class schedules is just one small part of the yoga journey.
Finding stillness can be hard in a busy world with regular distractions and constant communication through technology. Significant gains will be made by taking the time to consciously return to the sound or the sensation of the breath entering and leaving the body.
Just as you would not walk the coastal path without appropriate footwear or a waterproof jacket on a wet day, or head into the garden without your fork or gardening gloves, think of your yoga practice as learning some useful tools to lead a happier healthier life…one glorious breath at a time.