Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore or a quick fix for losing weight. Yoga is a lifestyle form of exercise that goes beyond just making your body healthy — it heals your mind too.
When yoga became a top exercise trend, followed by its sidekick Pilates, no one thought these sweat-less forms of fitness class would stick around for long. In an age where we run, jump, punch, squat, kick and spin until soaked in perspiration; it seems inconceivable that a quiet, serene and seemingly easy form of exercise would take off. But it did.
This ancient form of relaxation has become more mainstream than running on a treadmill. In the USA alone, a whopping 72.2 per cent of women and 27.8 per cent of men favour it above any other type of exercise. And this summer is seeing even more out-there styles, techniques and yoga recitals emerge, proving its worth as a true exercise trendsetter.
An ancient art
As a spiritual, mental and physical discipline, yoga originated in ancient India over 5,000 years ago and is related to the meditation processes seen in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. It’s the oldest defined practice of self-development and holds the overall aim of achieving a perfect sense of calm, balance and contentment within one’s self.
Originally, yoga techniques were passed down from teacher to student through word of mouth, until they were written down by Indian sage Patarjali, considered to be the father of yoga.
In the western world, yoga made its first real breakthrough in the swinging sixties and re-emerged stronger than ever in what’s known as the “yoga boom” in the late eighties. Nowadays, it is known mainly as a form of exercise. You may be familiar with the different types: hatha, ashtanga, bikram, kundalini, lyenga. Hatha is the most common style, which consists of a combination of positions, breathing and meditation.
The crux of yoga is this focus on breathing, a sense of self-control that celebrities, such as Madonna and Jennifer Aniston, have found life-altering and imperative to their figures and stress levels. There are many different positions, each putting emphasis on a different area of the body to fully stretch and flex every muscle.
The somewhat comical positions and names (we’re all familiar with the downward-facing dog, but what about the reclining big toe pose?!) do have merit and extensive success rates behind them. Yoga has been proven to benefit a great number of ailments; most commonly, it is known for being a great stress relief exercise and calms both the mind and body to achieve a state of “Zen”. There has been an emergence of studies showing yoga to be a course of treatment for cancer patients, depicting that the motion decreases pain, anxiety and depression. It has also been used as a treatment for schizophrenia, by improving cognitive functions and for heart disease, through reducing blood pressure levels.
Overall, there are 10 general benefits which are believed to occur in every person who practices yoga regularly;
1. Stress relief
2. Pain relief
3. Better breathing
5. Increased strength
6. Weight management
7. Improved circulation
8. Cardiovascular conditioning
9. Inner peace
10. Improved concentration
As we edge into summer, many will be preparing their minds and bodies for a yoga retreat holiday. There are stunning locations dotted around the world that promise the ambiance and environment you need to really “find yourself”, whilst getting slim and trim. A favourite for celebs is Bali, but Turkey, Spain, France and Goa are all valuable competitors.
This form of the sport is slowly making its way over from America. Forget surfing and instead, test your centre, calm and balance whilst striking a pose in open water…and trying not to fall in!
This is one of the newest fads and is also known as “suspension yoga”. Positioned in a specially-designed harness, you will feel the low-impact benefits of inversion therapy combined with yoga’s emphasis on strength and flexibility.
This year, kids’ yoga has hit Bahrain, with classes cropping up for your little ones to take part in. The sport has been shown to calm children down naturally and promote more coursed energy and less fatigue.
For a real hippy vibe, festivals worldwide now incorporate yoga classes into their busy timetables. Last month, celebs and other festival-goers were seen stretching and posing on their mats at hip event Coachella.
This fad has actually just arrived in Bahrain, and you can enroll in classes at Namaste Centre in Budaiya. The idea is that you combine yoga with self-triggered laughter exercises to release endorphins and increase blood flow, subsequently burning calories.
Yoga and spinning
New York spinning teacher and Yogi Noll Danial formulated this odd fusion. Participants begin spinning on their bikes for half the class and then dismount to use the bike’s handlebars for poses and positions.
Yoga in Bahrain: where to go
World Beat Fitness Centre and Café; Call 17 612-576.
Dessange; call 17 713-999.
Lotus Yoga; call 17 810-789.
Bahrain Wellness Resort; call 17 795-961.
Curves; call 17 691-496.
Namste; call 38 855-999.