“It’s always interesting to see how people cope with new experiences, walking the edge of the unfamiliar”

I got into a little bit of a flap last Wednesday before the inaugural yoga class in Newbridge Sport centre . The directions were not fabulous to say the least and I ended up at a different gym where I was told in heavily accented English that the gym I was looking for was in behind the barriers of the Ministry for Defence. To be fair the flap was entirely of my own making. I was running close on time having picked something else (a very small thing that I had no control over) to freak out about to justify my feelings of panic. Anyways when I got there it was fine, a few poses in and I was considerably calmer, don’t know about the members of my class thou! With only a couple of participants having any experience of yoga before, I am sure they were a little apprehensive too. It’s always interesting to see how people cope with new experiences, walking the edge of the unfamiliar. Speaking for myself I generally stay well back from the cliff edge in completely familiar territory until it gets comfortable, verging on dull, then very occasionally running headlong to the edge trying something a little bit crazy and scare the bejesus out of myself! Fear is no reason for not trying.

It was lovely to see a mix of both men and women, yoga was originally designed as an activity for adolescence males in India as a mechanism to keep them occupied. It is only in the last hundred years or so that it has become mixed if not more female dominated. In some ways there is a gender difference, women are usually more flexible, men usually stronger, the joy of yoga being that it can develop the opposite in each. In the class we worked on hip opening and lower limb poses,  a few of the participants have existing injuries so it was really important that they worked within the boundaries of what their bodies felt capable of that day. A key pose that is useful for anyone, recovering athlete or not, is downward facing dog or adho mukha shvanasana in Sanskrit. It’s a good pose for beginners, it’s stable, well supported as hands and feet are on the ground, it strengthens muscles in the arms and legs, improving flexibility of shoulders and hamstrings, in addition to being an inversion (heart being positioned higher than your head) which is good for returning blood flow to the heart. With practise it becomes a resting or break pose but initially it can be quite challenging, the aim being to keep your back straight.  So if necessary, like in the picture below, keeping knees and elbows a little bit bent, this compensates for short hamstrings and tight shoulders, it does result in increased muscle loading but ensures the correct spine position. We ended with relaxation or corpse pose, the best bit. As I got carried away we were again a bit pressed for time and there was a few first aiders waiting for us to leave. In another flap this time for inconveniencing others I managed to spill half a bottle of lavender oil in the car so I arrived home elated, relaxed and aromatic! I hope all the participants enjoyed it as much as I did and that I see a few of them again.

author: Joanne Dowds

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