If yoga is a cult, consider me brainwashed

For the past couple of years, my exercise game has been overthrown by the preference of sitting about and eating everything. However, as part of my bucket list for my 28th year, I have recently taken up yoga. Tick for the mind zen, and tick for the getting out more.

Before my first session, I was expecting to feel nothing but embarrassment. I’m overweight, I’m about as flexible as a tree trunk, and I’m the most unfit I’ve ever been in my life. “Everyone has to start somewhere”, I reasoned with myself.

I picked my weekly yoga venue to be a Hindu temple, partly because I thought the atmosphere would be a bit more calming than a sports centre, and partly because it’s approximately a 45 second walk away from my house and I bloody love convenience. As soon as I entered, I felt welcomed and as though no one would berate me for being so appallingly bad. Everyone seemed incredibly mellow and equally lovely, even though I accidentally kept my shoes on rather than taking them off at the entrance as I was meant to (STILL SO SORRY).

The class I have now been to twice consists of an hour of yoga followed by thirty minutes of guided meditation. So far I have realised the following:

  • I’m better at moving than I thought I was
  • I’m worse at breathing than I thought I was
  • Even though yoga is chill, I still manage to sweat through it (is this normal, or is this just be being excessively sweaty again?)
  • I can’t do a shoulder stand unless a wonderful lady named Johanna battles to wrench my feet up for me
  • I am not good at turning my brain voice off during meditation, but I am learning to quieten it

The first session I had included some strange but hilarious moves, such as rocking my leg like a baby and forcing out a super loud laugh. The best thing was, no one else gave one shit about looking like a dick because that room is the one public place where everyone can get away with it without any judgement. The same for getting on all fours and growling in a room full of people doing the same. There’s something quite liberating about letting go of those inhibitions and getting stuck in.

As I am a beginner, I thought it a good idea to speak to a pro about how to improve so, I interviewed fitness influencer Chris Baxter:

What would you say to anyone who’s considered yoga but is scared they’ll embarrass themselves?

Yoga is fantastic, and it’s the only exercise class that you will come out feeling really refreshed when you leave. I would recommend a great beginners class, focusing on technique more than intense exercise. This will help you develop both your technique and confidence, until you feel comfortable to increase your level. In yoga, technique is everything from body movements, right down to your breathing, so it always important to tune into this first. And in beginners classes, everyone is in the same position (no pun intended).

I don’t know the terms for different kinds of yoga, but for any other beginners out there, what should they be looking for when they’re looking for a class which isn’t too intimidating to start with?

Choose a class that focuses on technique, and is specifically for beginners. I would recommend doing a couple of classes that focus solely on breathing and meditation, as this will be beneficial if you ever choose to do a more intense class. Something like bikram yoga isn’t ideal if you are looking for something light and relaxing. With yoga, it is important to be confident of your fitness level, as it can be hard on the body if you choose a level that is too difficult. Select a class that focuses on basic movements, and doesn’t require too much flexibility. You will still get a lot out of it, but it won’t cause you any potential damage. And remember, take it in your stride and you can always stop or take a break if it gets too much.

There were a few moves I didn’t quite manage, like the shoulder stand. How long do you think it’ll be before I get to that?

It won’t take long, if you are consistent in yoga. I would recommend to practice at home as well, so you can test your body in your own time. It’s a typical beginner’s move, but can be hard on the upper back and neck. Mix yoga practice with regular massages, and this will help develop your flexibility.

What about being able to wrap my legs around my neck? (This question is mostly for my boyfriend)

Ha ha #AskingForAFriend, again, this will come with practice and development of flexibility. Try not to push your body too hard and take it outside its current limits, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you need to build your strength and flexibility. The best thing about yoga, is that is a natural prevention of injury so you can push your body further, but like any exercise, you need to work into it and results come with perseverance, mixed exercise and stamina.

I’ve come to the realisation that exercise is for my mental well being first and foremost, as it’s the one thing which really eases my anxiety and depression. What are your thoughts on this, and can you tell anyone reading why yoga is good for mental health?

Yoga and exercise are amazing for mental health. I suffer personally with anxiety and tackle quite a lot with it. The only thing that calms me down is being active and exercising. Yoga has become a massive part of this. Yoga increases body awareness, relieves stress and sharpens concentration. It allows you to focus and centre your body and breathing, and relax. And this is incredibly important, especially in a fast instant society we live in. Yoga also calms the nervous system, which is a major link to anxiety. Exercise also releases endorphins, and makes you feel happier and more positive, and this is beneficial for depression. The benefits really are endless.

Is going to a class once a week enough to see real effects, both mentally and physically?

One hour yoga class per week is enough to really start making a difference, so one class is enough. Depending on what is involved in the class, to help develop your breathing, boost your positive mental health and relax, try taking a meditation class, or meditating for 30 minutes at home per week. This will help develop your skills and allow you to reap the benefits more rapidly.

Last question, and a very essential one, what are your favourite crisps and why?

This is a great question! I love roast chicken flavour, but I am also really into my vegetable crisps at the moment. And Doritos if I’m feeling cheeky.

I LOVE CRISPS. Namaste.

You can find Chris on Twitter and Instagram (body goals), and can check out his clothing brand Blessed Saint here.

51 thoughts on “If yoga is a cult, consider me brainwashed

  1. to answer your question, I am trying really hard to stay away from any crisps at the moment, so I am trying not to think of them – but ranch dorritos, oh yeah, those are cool!

    And no, you are not the only one who breaks a serious sweat during yoga. I also learned that I suck at breathing – I guess we all don’t pay much attention to it, until we are truly forced to, and only then notice our bad habits.

    Oh well, I loved your post – Have an awesome week!

    Claudia
    http://avalon-media.org

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    1. I’ve switching to keeping crisps as a weekend treat, otherwise I’ll eat nothing but. You have a good weekend too 🙂

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    1. I’ve been told not to push myself if it hurts, and to practice! I’m surprised at how much I ached after the first one x

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  2. I love that getting fit was part of your yearly bucket list! I need to follow in your footsteps – I have been considering trying Yoga forever and haven’t done it for fear of looking like an idiot. I need to just bit the bullet and try it at home first. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Thank you! I had the same fear, but now I highly recommend it. See if you can find a beginners class near you, or have a look online for videos! X

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    1. Honestly, you can’t be more unfit than I am! Find a beginners class, sit at the back, and only do what feels comfortable. I was terrified of going because I’m in the worst shape of my life, but I’m so glad I did!

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  3. Love this! I’ve only tried yoga a couple of times, but I get some of the same benefits from an occasional Pilates class. There is a noticeable difference in my mental health on days when I’ve exercised vs days that I sit around and eat all day, ha!

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  4. I never have tried getting into yoga or any mental programs. But as I am reading your post, it changed my mind. Having few stress lately, I definitely need to do yoga. Thank you so much.

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  5. I don’t do yoga but I have read about the benefits of it. I would love to try, its just that I don’t have much time to spare. I know you have to commit ample time to do yoga and meditation. Time is a luxury I do not have right now.

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  6. I tried Yoga for the same reason as you, but I had the worst teacher. She was mainly focused on what she was doing and, because I was new, I ended up injuring myself, presumably by doing something wrong. I enjoyed it in principle though and your experience has shown that with the right guidance it can be a positive step towards fitness.

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  7. So glad you found your way to yoga! I think it’s the one practice that has single-handedly changed my life, especially with regards to anxiety and mental health.
    And good on you for making the choice to hit up a Hindu temple, so that meditation and breath work aren’t left out for the sake of getting abs (not that there’s anything wrong with abs, but yoga is just so much more).
    Looking forward to reading more about your yoga journey 🙂

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