Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Berkshire Fitness Scene : Yoga

Yoga. It's not new, it's quite mainstream these days, and you are likely to find a class near you, wherever you live. So why am I including it in my series of posts on the local fitness scene? Because I think too many people write it off too early. Those of us who frequent classes or are part of sports clubs base some of our decision on whether we "click" with the teacher, coach or other members. We try a few before we find the one we like. Yet for some reason, from personal experience anyway, few of us do the same when it comes to yoga. Given that yoga comes in so many forms it seems bizarre that such a high proportion of people try one class with one teacher and give up. And I'm hoping that if you are one of those people, this post will persuade you to have another go.

My first experience of yoga was at University in a vast sports hall with around 50 other people. I was lucky that I gelled with the instructor and I came away with several months of positive experiences. It was only when I tried other yoga classes that I realised not all classes nor instructors are equal. Some I found too slow, some too difficult, the instructor unengaging... but some were great and I've gone back. I tried hot yoga, which I really enjoyed but have found the distance to class prohibative. I'm no yogi. I don't know the differences between the variations. I don't practice at home much. I'm not vegan. I don't meditate (often). I don't go "ommmmmm". But I know what I look for in a class.
I found a local teacher whose classes I really enjoyed, but as my schedule varies week to week so  I found I wasn't always able to make one of his half a dozen classes. As yoga has become more important to me so I've been trying a number of different teachers in my local area with varying success.

Mostly I've been going to Sam Rao's classes. The Saturday and Thursday classes are conveniently located in halls just half a mile away. If I'm prepared to skip parkrun I can go to the early Saturday class which is more challenging, but otherwise I can get to the 10am class after parkrun, which makes for a lovely morning dedicated to me. Sam is a kindly, approachable 70-something gentleman who is fighting fit. He fully believes in the physical health benefits of yoga and often talks about how certain poses should be affecting our internal organs. His adjustments, when he does them, are confidence boosting although his classes are often too large for individuals to get much attention.
Other instructors I've tried include Delmar, whose small classes mean you get a lot of input into what you practice, and Rosie, whose classes, although a little gentle for me, are lovely and welcoming. Paul and Rachel form a bit of a double act for their classes, with one taking the ear and the other making adjustments as necessary. Their classes are at a good intermediate level, although beginner friendly, with a slightly more spiritual element. The hall was beautifully warm (normally I'm armed with layer upon layer) and smelt of incense. Bliss.

I'm had recommendations for classes by Claire Foster and Lynn Waters, amongst others and they're on my list to try should I get the chance. Most of these instructors trained with the same lady yet they are very different in their styles. What is particularly lovely about all of these instructors is that they form a sort of group. Buy a booklet of tickets from one and you can redeem at classes with any of them, particularly great of someone like me!

So if you have tried yoga before and thought you didn't get on with it, I encourage you to try a different teacher. Of course I've only mentioned classes local to me, but a cursory internet search will throw up plenty near you, either independent teachers of those at a local gym or leisure centre.

Are you a yogi? Did it take you a while to find a teacher you liked?

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