Yoga teacher, Helen Portas, works in the community, teaching yoga to all ages and abilities (her youngest yogi is 10 and oldest is a young at heart 77!) She aims to make each class unique, basing each one on an imaginative theme which is then woven into the class.
Over to you Helen…
I’m new to yoga and I don’t know what to expect in my first class. Help!
The beauty of yoga is that there are always many variations which can make poses comfortable and accessible to all. Firstly, make sure that the teacher knows that you are new so that they can make sure you are kept safe and sound. If you can, get to class a little early the first time so you can introduce yourself…and don’t hide at the back! Make sure you can see what’s going on. No-one else will be watching you…they’ll all be too involved in their own practice once you get going!
Whilst there are many different styles and each teacher will be different, in a nutshell, you can expect to focus on your breathing as you move from posture to posture (asanas as they are called in Sanskrit, the lingo of yoga!!) These postures will probably be both seated and standing and perhaps balance will be incorporated. You will certainly get the chance to stretch out muscles, as well as build up strength as you hold the postures. At the end, you can expect a delicious relaxation.
I can’t get to a yoga class every week. What tips can you give me so I can practise yoga safely at home?
Whilst it’s always useful to go to a class with a qualified teacher to make sure you are in the correct alignment for example, that may not always be possible. A short yoga practice when you get up or before you go to bed can be hugely beneficial. In the morning, remember that muscles may well need some extra TCL to warm up and, in the evening, avoid doing anything too strenuous which may keep you awake. Focus instead on some gentle stretching, bringing awareness to your breath to quieten down the mind before going to bed.
I’m a bit worried about meditating. What will this involve exactly?
Each teacher will have a different way of approaching this important element of yoga into the class. It may be that you start the class with a simple exercise when you sit comfortably (not necessarily cross legged!) or lie down and simply focus on your breathing. You may find this really hard to do at first and your mind will wander. Don’t worry! Over time and with practise, you will begin to find it easier to switch off your ‘monkey mind’ and to enjoy moments of peace, away from the endless busy thoughts that can overwhelm us all at times.
What sort of clothes do I need to wear to practise yoga in?
Wear comfortable clothes such as a pair of stretchy leggings and a T-shirt and you should be fine. Bring along a blanket or a warm jumper for the final relaxation if you wish. We do yoga bare foot but, if you feel the cold (like me!) I recommend that you buy some special non-slip yoga socks which will ensure your toes are toasty and will also prevent you from sliding on the mat.
Do I need a mat or any other equipment?
Check with the teacher first. In most leisure centres or studios, equipment is provided for you but, if your class is in another location such as a village hall, the teacher may not provide everything. If you enjoy yoga, you may decide to buy your own mat which you’ll find are very reasonably priced and readily available on line.
I have a back injury. Will yoga help me?
Yoga can be great at helping to strengthen muscles and build up stamina, as well as stretching tight or overworked areas. However, it’s really important that you tell the teacher in advance of any injuries or illness. They can then ensure that they look after you safely and can offer alternatives if a particular posture may aggravate any underlying problem. Don’t be embarrassed! It’s important for teachers to know in advance.
Let’s get started!
These websites offer some useful online resources which you can watch and follow….but remember that using technology before bed is not the wisest choice when trying to wind down!!
https://www.doyogawithme.com Plenty of free online classes which you can filter according to ability, length of class, style of yoga etc
http://www.yogajournal.com Lots of information including classes, meditation ideas etc. You will need to subscribe to the site to access some of it but, plenty is free to download.
http://sequencewiz.org A really helpful site with short, well structured classes as well as top tips to keep your practice safe.
https://movementformodernlife.com Great site with some excellent teachers. Subscription only but, you can try it for free first.