Whether it is to slim down or fine tune the body’s engine, your new year’s health related resolutions could be fulfilled by the age old philosophy of yoga, finds Behnaz Sanjana.
It probably happens every time. The festivities of the season go on to become unsightly bulges and paunches that seem to refuse to leave your body, like little reminders of all your indiscriminate indulgences.
So between despair (will I ever be able to wear that little black dress again?) and lofty resolutions that eventually lose fizz (I will trudge to the gym five times a week), there’s yoga.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word, derived from the word yuj, which, in contemporary terms, is interpreted as ‘union’. Its primary purpose is to unite the mind, body, and spirit. Celebrities swear by the power of the practice – several of them attribute their svelte figures and their ability to cope with life’s upheavals to yoga.
It’s a misconception that this approach for a healthy mind and body is only for flexible folks. Given time and consistency, your body will surprise you. We spoke to Master Yogi and founder of the acclaimed holistic centre Namaste Bahrain, Weam Zabar, to shoot down your apprehensions.
So, Why Yoga?
Weam says that yoga is a healing practice. “It doesn’t only look at muscles. It works with organs, bones, joints, energy, mental wellbeing, emotional health, releasing fear, finding balance and living a more skillful and meaningful life.” The rewards from regular practice are manifold in comparison to the time and resources spent.
What’s your style?
Yoga as a practice has developed and evolved over the decades. If you are baffled by all the various styles of yoga there are, Weam puts it in a nutshell: “There are more styles of yoga than those that moved to the West. In the West, the main style that is normally referred to is Hatha Yoga, which involves the physical effort of Asanas (poses). Hatha Yoga is the branch from which many styles of yoga [Ashtanga, Vinyassa, power, yin, Bikram, Iyengar etc] have emerged.”
She says there are also other schools of yoga that work towards the same goal: union of the mind, body and soul. Karma Yoga, for example, is based on selfless service, Bhakti Yoga is based on devotion and love for the divine, Jnana Yoga is the yoga of contemplation, Raja Yoga is the yoga of mastering the mind.
The Weight loss Question
Who wouldn’t want to drop a dress size or two? For those of us who hate the very word ‘exercise’, Weam’s ideology is a beacon of motivation. “Yoga is not exercise. Yoga is a science of happiness. You will get stronger, more flexible, fitter and slimmer in the process but the main aim of yoga is to free the person from suffering.” Now how’s that for a jumpstart to get on to your yoga mat!
The health and fitness industry is a dynamic one and the practice of yoga has also seen new variations of the original system. Versions such has Power Yoga and Hot Yoga have already gained a solid fan base in the Middle East, but more challenging and bizarre practices like Stand-Up Paddle Yoga (done on a paddle board in water), AcroYoga (an acrobatic form done with a partner) and Anti-Gravity Yoga (done on a fabric swing suspended from the ceiling) are the newest trends that are fast catching on.
To elaborate, Weam says: “Yoga is a constantly changing practice, it always has been. It is evolving and growing with time. There are many great teachers and practitioners that spend a great part of their lives studying yoga and trying to develop practices that could benefit and heal people. What is important is to find a practice that speaks to the heart; a practice that encourages happiness, freedom and love.”
Not Just Physical
“Yoga looks at the person as a whole; the emotional self is neither separate from the physical nor the mental. It is well established that our mental and emotional state has a direct effect on our health. In the end, we all want to be happy and although we might think that we will be happy if we become thinner, richer, more popular, more famous etc, in the end happiness is a mental state”, enlightens our guru.
Yoga works directly with the mind to release mental patterns that stop us from going to our original state of bliss and joy.
An Ideal Class
There are a few things Weam thinks are very important to look for in a yoga class. First and foremost is that the teacher must be certified. This is important so that he or she knows how to modify your practice as per personal situations, viz, injury, illnesses or other restrictions.
Secondly, you should be able to practice most of your yoga class. “If the class is not catered to its students then it ends up being frustrating and maybe intimidating,” Weam points out.
And lastly, if the class includes breathing, relaxing or meditation practices, then that’s an extra bonus. Weam recommends that students give every yoga teacher a minimum of two chances before deciding to continue or
finding another teacher.