Guest Blog by Kirsty Herd of Camomile Concepts
My Journey: Yoga is an incredibly popular. I can guarantee that if you ask amongst your group of friends you’ll find someone that has practiced one of its many forms. It’s not just about the physical exercise but it’s a truly holistic practice that aids mindfulness, encourages relaxation and eases stress. I’ve practiced one of the hot versions, Bikram for four years now and I’m a different person from when I started. I’ve lost significant amounts of weight (over three stone), have improved flexibility, been supported through horrendous grief and started to curb my anxiety issues.
When I entered my first Bikram Yoga studio in Glasgow in January of 2013 I was not relaxed, excited or confident. In fact, had it not been for a rather bossy (in the nicest way!) friend then I doubt I would have gone at all. Although I had lost a couple of stones through a slimming club, I was still quite a distance from my goal weight so the thought of wearing tight lycra in front of a bunch of skinny, perfect yogis was filling me with fear. Secondly, I had an elbow injury which has been through three operations causing me misalignment issues and stiffness in other parts of my body. I had never been flexible but after the trauma with the operations and recovery, I was as stiff as a board. Finally, I was a smoker and a heavy one at that. My friend rolled her eyes and sighed as I puffed away on a couple of Malboro Lights before entering the studio. My lungs weren’t in great condition and I always had a cold, how was I going to breathe through a yoga class? I was anxious and panicking……far from the ‘zen’ I’d heard yoga gave you.
I wish I’d read an article like this before I started my yoga journey as it just might have eased some of my worries and make me realise yoga is for everyone. Yoga is genuinely for everyone; any age, any size, any fitness level, any level of flexibility, anyone. There’s no judgement, just encouragement and, with regular practice, you experience the most wonderful transformations inside and out.
The Magic of Kula Yoga & Wellbeing
I’m delighted to be guest blogging for Kula; it’s the studio’s culture and teaching ethos encourage amazing positive vibes and a true feeling of togetherness.
Kula is a genuinely friendly and happy place to be with the most incredible teachers and facilities way beyond any other studio I’ve been to before. I’m focussing on Bikram Yoga in this article as that’s my main chosen form of practice but there’s many other options open to members at Kula. They have two yoga rooms, fire and earth. Fire is for hot practice – mainly Bikram but also Warm Vinyasa which is a dynamic flow form of yoga. Earth is for normal temperature practice where they offer Yin & Nindra, iFlo, Kula Sculpt, Vinyasa and Dynamic Body. More details on each of these are available on their website. The really special ingredient is the therapies that are available; Massage & Bodywork, Nutrition, Meditation, Psychology and Acupuncture. Complimentary 15 minute consultations are available so you get to meet the therapists and get a personalised understanding of the benefits of the therapy for you as an individual.
Why Bikram Yoga is for Everyone
I said at the beginning of this article that yoga is for everyone; here’s my five reasons why…
1. No-one is looking at you other than you! One of my greatest fears when I first went into yoga was what the other people would think of me. Slightly chubby, old workout gear and not the most attractive without makeup. After a few classes I realised that no one is looking at me! The reason for this is twofold; first, yoga is a moving meditation. Your focus through the entire class is on your breath and your own work. If your mind and eyes start to wander then you’ll lose focus, particularly in the standing series when you spend most of the time balancing on one leg. Second, the practice of yoga encourages empathy, support and togetherness not judgement… I have digestive problems and a disproportionately large tummy compared to my arms and legs but I still practice in a sports bra and leggings as I feel more comfortable in the heat and prefer to see my stomach when trying to meet the requirements of the posture.
2. At Kula, we have a huge range of people practicing yoga and everyone has their own reasons and own story. I love the fact the class is filled with decades of age ranges and lots of shapes, sizes and abilities. The teachers are very kind and incredibly supportive, never questioning or pushy and will help you if you’re struggling or have injuries that may require adjustments to the posture. One of the teachers talks about yoga being a non-competitive, lifelong journey which you adapt to fit your own shape, lifestyle and ability. Never before has a truer word been spoken. I’ve practiced with people with series long term injuries, with a wonderfully spritely 91-year-old lady and with a teenager suffering from a long-term heart defect – all those people found benefits and improvements to their lives through their practice.
3. The full name of Bikram Yoga is ‘Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class’. There’s no advanced classes – every single class is the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. There’s depth to each posture which you’ll move towards over time but regardless if it’s your first or 1000th class you all do the same sequence at the same time as everyone else. I really like this as I feel I can work on small improvements with each class – perhaps not on every posture every time but I feel I always come away having learned something new, making small improvements to my practice.
4. Bikram has designed the sequence to help heal medical and physical conditions and continual practice has been proven to improve cardiovascular health, spine strength and mental health. The class works 100% of your body from the inside out. For example, The Half Moon Pose which is one of the three warm up postures promotes kidney function helps cure enlargement of the liver and spleen and corrects bad posture. One of the master postures, the Camel Pose has been proven to cure constipation, open the rib cage which gives the lungs more space to expand and relieves backache by producing maximum compression of the spine.
5. The heat is good for you! Now I must confess, I was never a fan of heat – sunshine, saunas, hot rooms just made me sick and sweaty. My first foray into Bikram made me feel much the same but four classes in I had this strange revelation, which I found my fellow yogis also shared. The heat is your friend. It’s the heat that helps my muscles relax. It’s the sweat that helps me wrap my foot around my ankle in Eagle Pose. It’s the heat that helps my tendons soften so I can stretch further and it’s the sweat that gives me the glow, the detox and the wonderful zen feeling post class. My advice is to embrace the heat and sweat. If you ensure you breathe in and out of your nose throughout the whole class then this won’t be too much of an issue – you’ll start to love it!
A Few Final Words…
I hope this article has helped to relieve any fears or anxieties about starting a yoga practice. I’m a different person to the scared, nervous girl who walked into a Glasgow studio four years ago. I feel I’ve still got a long journey ahead of me but I’m embracing it. The small changes are wonderful and I’m content to embrace the capabilities of my body with each class.
I’d actively encourage you to speak to your fellow class mates and teachers at Kula. Everyone is super friendly and if you have any fears or questions I can guarantee they’ll be able to help you. Mary Lou does a Beginners Workshop on the first Sunday of every month where she’ll spend time going through the intricacies of each posture and answering any questions you may have. I’d hugely advise attending this when you first start practice with the first month. If you have any issues around nutrition, physio or muscle pain then book in for a complimentary session with a therapist and enjoy the holistic facilities that Kula has designed.
So, give it a try – you never know what you’ll discover.
If you are thinking about starting yoga classes then Kula has everything you need to feel confident in beginning your yogi journey. Our intro offer entitles you to unlimited yoga and movement classes including Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa, Yin, Nidra, Dynamic Body and I.Flo as well as a complimentary monthly Bikram workshop for beginners taught by our amazing Marylou! Yoga is for everyone and anyone, so do not feel shy to start your yoga journey.