Blogpost written by Suzie Smith, our new body, soul & brunch teacher
It’s an absolute no-brainer that any action or movement which promotes balance, strength, flexibility and endurance within the body is going to make our experience on this earth a lot healthier and more vibrant. When we start to feel more energised and alive in our bodies, our eyes shine brighter, our minds become sharper and our bodies become capable of living more full and fascinating lives.
Practicing yoga postures promotes not only physical health benefits, it also helps us to rehabilitate by being mindful, present and aware of every sensation and every moment as we breathe and explore our limitations.
This mindfulness also helps to calm our scrambled thoughts, worries and fears, allowing us to tune into something a little more real and a little deeper within ourselves.
However, the purely physical side of yoga called ‘asana’ (which is Sanskrit for posture) is just one tiny strand of an entire way of life which offers so much more than handstands and forward folds. Thanks to the beautiful, bendy, pretzel-like yogis on Instagram our westernised view of yoga has become infatuated with the visible side of the practice, so much so that we now see yoga as just another exercise on our local gym timetable and yoga is marketed as an easy zen-like path to weight loss.
Of course the physical practice does wonderful things to condition the body, which is perhaps why many yogis fall so hard in love with the fluidity and freedom of a regular yoga asana practice that they begin to shun other forms of activity, favouring the yoga studio over the gym every time. This was me a few years back: so addicted to my frequent yoga studio practice that I forgot about the escape of running outdoors and the incredible triumph of surviving the sweatiest round of circuit training. I felt like I would be cheating on my yoga practice by going to the gym, choosing to preserve my energy for my downward facing dogs, rather than fuelling the fire of my practice by growing stronger and fitter outside of the studio.
Nothing should be stagnant or repetitive, least of all our yogic lives which teach us to flow through life, embracing and accepting the unexpected twists and turns in the road. So of course our physical activity must be shaken up and change from time to time - to be just as dynamic and unpredictable as we are.
Including multi-dimensional activities such as high intensity circuit training into your exercise routine will build your muscular and cardiovascular strength to help you fly through yoga postures such as arm balances and fast moving flows, whilst also keeping exercise boredom at bay. Circuit training is my activity of choice; a quick 25 minute session can be done absolutely anywhere and by anyone, as each exercise is adapted to suit any fitness level, and with enough music and friends to keep you going it doesn’t have to be the most painful experience in the world and you’ll see and feel the results (once the muscle ache subsides!) super quickly.
When the body is working at its fullest, healthiest potential, you can truly feel the escape of a flowing, moving meditation, which to me is the true yoga asana experience. At the same time the mindfulness cultivated through yoga will continue to feed perfectly into your high intensity workouts preventing you from leading yourself into injury.
The most straight forward translation of the Sanskrit word Yoga is ‘union’ or ‘connection’. Perhaps we can start to see our regular yoga class as just one precious strand of an entire feel good lifestyle - a lifestyle which connects physical fitness, a colourful diet based around energising wholefoods, awesome friends and family and true love for ourselves and everyone around us - to create a whole, united, full and happy life, which is something far too beautiful for an image on Instagram to ever truly capture.
Read more about Suzie's body, soul & brunch class here