Yoga Classes: learning an ancient practice with many benefits

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Yoga is an ancient practice through which yoga practitioners, or yogi , pursue self-realisation and inner peace. They do this through a combination of mental, physical and spiritual exercises. The word yoga itself means union. It is often thought that this refers to the union of mind, body and spirit. However, it can also mean an even greater union – between the individual’s consciousness and the universal consciousness.

Though there is a strong spiritual dimension to the practise of yoga, this aspect is not forced on students. Instead, it is something they can incorporate themselves, if they so choose. Yoga was first introduced to the West in the nineteenth century. Since then, many people have embraced this five thousand-year-old practice because of its many benefits. Here in Ireland, yoga started to gain popularity in the 1980s, and there are now numerous yoga classes across the country.

Yoga offers numerous physical and mental health benefits. A number of deep breathing and relaxation techniques can still the mind. As a result, these significantly reduce anxiety, stress and worry. In addition, the body postures and exercises help improve blood circulation, increase muscular strength and flexibility, and raise energy levels.

What does it involve?

Yoga can be physically challenging. However, teachers do not push novices beyond their capabilities. In fact, the learning curve tends to be perfectly suited to people who are not sporty. As a result, yoga appeals to a diverse spectrum of people of all ages and physical abilities. There are also classes that cater for the elderly, pregnant women or those recovering from illness.

With that said, yoga classes are typically suitable for learners at all levels. The initial emphasis is on breathing and body awareness. Novices also learn a number of gentle postures and the subtle movements used to attain them.

Hatha Flow Yoga

The meditative Hatha Flow Yoga is believed to be the most widely practised form of yoga in the world. It is easy to see why: it is the perfect introduction to yogic activity. Participants focus on breathing and on achieving a state of mental relaxation. They will also learn to adopt postures and gently flow from one to the next. Therefore, they gradually building strength, flexibility and stamina.

Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Another popular form is Vinyasa Flow Yoga (vinyasa means placement). This  synchronises movements with breathing. Vinyasa Yoga classes are noticeably more active. Practitioners dedicate more time getting sustaining postures and segueing into others. It is not all tough going, however. Breathing exercises and basic meditation are also integral to Vinyasa Yoga classes.

Diploma Courses

Those who develop a passion and aptitude for yoga may consider enrolling in a diploma-level yoga course. These train practitioners to become teachers. Diploma courses cover areas such as performance of yoga postures, teaching yoga postures, breathing, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, relaxation, philosophy of yoga and meditation, becoming a yogi, and how to set up a yoga class. All students must do work experience under the supervision of a registered yoga teacher. A good level of health and fitness are also essential.

Why do it?

Yoga is one of the few activities that provides abundant benefits across age groups. It improve postures, increases strength and flexibility, improves back problems, reduce blood pressure, regulates breathing and improves concentration.

You don’t need very much to begin. Courses are generally affordable and all participants need is comfortable clothing, a bottle of water and a mat.

At a glance

Yoga is an ancient practice that can help anyone find peace in the modern world. Yoga classes last for 5 to 10 weeks. A Diploma course in yoga/yoga training runs for around 11 weekends. You can find details about classes around the country here.

Frank Bolger

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