Frequently asked questions about Yoga
These are the most common questions and comments we have had from people considering taking part in Yoga classes. Some of the comments are about challenging some very common misconceptions about Yoga. We hope that these questions will help you in your choice of class but we are always available to answer any questions you may have. If you want to add a question – use the reply box below.
Don’t you need to be flexible to do Yoga? Not at all. One of the many benefits of a regular yoga practice is increased flexibility but you do not need to be flexible to take part. People of all ages and abilities attend our classes and access the various postures in a way that is relevant to their own needs.
I am very unfit – will everyone be much better than me? Anyone can practice Yoga. We have people of all ages, abilities, shapes and sizes in our classes. We encourage people to access the practice in a way that suits their own body. The good thing about Yoga is that it is 100% non-competitive, so what the other people in the class can or can’t do is not important. We encourage people to only focus on their own journey and to try and forget about what the other people in the class are doing. Yoga is not about achieving this or that posture or being “good” at it.
I like vigorous exercise/sport- won’t I find yoga too easy or boring? Absolutely not! You might be surprised by how challenging you find our dynamic Hatha Yoga practice. If you walk, run, cycle, do aerobics or play sports then Yoga is a perfect complementary practice, helping you to stretch and maintain the length and flexibility of muscles. Regular sports players have told us that they are more flexible and less prone to injury because of their yoga practice. It is anything but boring. It is a complete physical, mental and spiritual discipline which has many challenges and many benefits.
Will I have to put my leg behind my head or anything like that? Em, no! Some of the postures we teach can be challenging and that’s a good thing but we always teach modifications and lighter variations because we understand that everyone is different. If we think you can go further then we will encourage you. Be confident however, that we will never force you to put your leg behind your head!
Isn’t Yoga a bit “weird?” Well, it depends on your concept of weird. Most people who have never tried it have some misconceptions about Yoga. To us, Yoga is the most normal thing in the world and not weird at all. What could be less weird and more normal than stretching and relaxing the body and breathing deeply for the benefit or our health? The best thing, if you are curious, is to give it a go. Don’t worry – you are not joining a cult, far from it. Yoga is about freedom in the body and mind. Often people are worried because they feel self-conscious doing something new or different. Think of it like any other exercise class- but with the added extras of deep relaxation and spiritual connection. We will guide you every step of the way.
I don’t have a Yoga mat That’s OK. You can borrow one in the short term. If you decide to keep up with your practice it is always nicer and more hygienic to have your own mat but you don’t need to spend a lot of money
Is the class full of women? I am worried about being the token man. Actually, in India where Yoga originated, Yoga was traditionally practiced by men and only relatively recently has it opened out to women too. Yoga may have once had a particular image in the UK but thankfully that has changed and Yoga is a dynamic and evolving discipline which has thousands of male and female exponents. You may be surprised by how physically challenging the practice can be too!
Is Yoga Hindu? I am a practising Christian and I am worried about things like chanting and meditation. Good question and the simple answer is that no, the practices of Hatha Yoga are not essentiallly Hindu. However, it cannot be denied that Yoga originated in India and out of the ancient Vedic religion which predated Hinduism so much of the classical teachings of Yoga have references to the Hindu gods and practices of the Hindu faith. Some yoga teachers will teach a version of Yoga which has removed all references to its spiritual origins and I fear that this is somehow denying the depth and beauty of the tradition. The vedantic philosophy which accompanies the practice of Yoga is pantheistic – i.e. it sees God as existing in everything and everything in God and this is my spiritual view of the world. To my mind, this is not incompatible with any religious view. Yoga is a spiritual discipline which encourages a deep connection to the self, and our approach is to encourage people to allow their own personal spiritual beliefs or feelings to be deepened by their Yoga practice. Yoga is not about converting people or asking them to deny their own faith. Learning to breathe deeply, meditate and relax can provide you with a deeper connection with your own spiritual path. People of all faiths and none attend yoga classes. We have had students with a devout Christian, Jewish and Islamic faith who find that their Yoga practice complements and enhances their relationship with God. Indeed, many Christians have found that their experience of prayer has been enhanced by drawing eastern spiritual techniques such as meditation. I think in today’s interfaith culture, there should be no fear of sharing spiritual practices which may deepen your connection to your own faith. One of my own spiritual teachers Bishop Alistair Bate recommends reading “The Heart of Christianity” by Marcus Borg for any Christian exploring these issues.
What does chanting OM mean and do I have to chant if I don’t feel comfortable? OM is a Sanskrit mantra which we often chant at the end of a class. OM is considered to be the sound of the Universe and to contain all other sounds. Chanted with the right resonance it is considered to vibrate in such a way as to connect with your spiritual essence. Whilst the symbol and sound of OM are connected to Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, the concept is more ancient that any of these religions. I believe that the concept, symbol and sound of OM are universal. There is some suggestion that is shares linguistic roots with the word AMEN in the Judeo-Christian tradition. You are welcome to chant the sound with us if you wish, or to simply listen and enjoy the vibration.
Will Yoga help with my stress? Yes, undoubtedly. Yoga works on many levels – mind, body and spirit. There is physical activity involved which is known to enhance wellbeing. In addition, we place and emphasis on correct use of the breath which encourages relaxation by engagement of the relaxation response. We also teach specific relaxation techniques which encourage the release of muscular tension in the body to reduce stress. Yoga is ultimately about the mind. Learning some very basic yoga techniques can help quieten the mind – and its anxious thinking – to change how you approach potentially stressful situations. You might find, over time that Yoga will change your way of thinking about life so that you are less prone to stress. If you are depressed or anxious or have a mental health problem, it may be worth talking to your doctor or CPN about it before you start but you will probably find that they are very supportive of your choice to practice yoga.
I have a long- term health condition which affects my physical ability. Can Yoga help me? We have experience of working with people with a range of long-term and chronic health conditions including: cancer, MS, fibromyalgia, ME and CFS and rheumatoid arthritis. Provided we know about your condition and how it affects you individually, we can help by adapting the various practices in class to suit your needs. Yoga is not a cure for any of these conditions but you may find that the various practices in Yoga increase your feelings of wellbeing and quality of life enormously. You should always speak to your medical practitioner first though.
Do I have to be a vegetarian? No. Some people who have practiced yoga for a while choose a non-animal diet because they feel better for it or because they find that they have less desire for animal foods. Some choose to go veggie because they believe that the yogic principle of Ahimsa (non-harming) includes not killing animals for food. Diet is a personal choice and whilst we are happy to give advice about healthy diet and lifestyle choices we will never judge you for what you choose to eat.