Over the years I have tried yoga a couple of times but these sessions seemed to be made up of fairly easy stretching for an hour or so. As a result, I definitely compartmentalised yoga as a ‘yummy mummy’ sort of workout and didn’t believe it would get me out of breath enough to feel like ‘real exercise’ like a jog or swim. However, after a back injury two years ago I have experienced reoccurring back issues, and a close friend recommended yoga – specifically Astanga yoga at Brighton Natural Health Centre.
They assured me from experience that it would help with my back and build up my body strength and flexibility. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed, so I signed up for the beginner’s course run by Anna Jones on a Tuesday evening.
For ten weeks of 90 minute sessions, I was pleased that initially the course seemed good value for money. And I wasn’t disappointed once I began attending the sessions.
The Brighton Natural Health Centre is a welcoming place with a very calm vibe. The facilities include a changing room, toilets, halls and reception, and for your class we were each given a yoga mat and block (if required). The room we worked in was a very relaxed space and this helped with the meditative aspect of the course.
The first evening Anna focused on introducing us to Astanga, which dismissed any illusions I had that this form of yoga would be too easy.
It was great to hear about the origins of the practice and how it is still an ingrained part of Indian culture. Although we weren’t expected to remember the names or language, Anna spoke the Sanskrit words and sang a chant that people in India would also do.There was no pressure to remember or join in, but this meant that we were given context for Astanga and gained a healthy respect for it throughout the whole course.
By learning this context we could understand what each move was supposed to achieve physically in our bodies and the purpose of the position.
There was about 10 of us in the course, both men and women, and we soon learned that each of us had strengths and weak areas we needed to work on.
Astanga was originally designed for younger people, including men, so any preconceptions I had of the easiness of the practice were quickly overthrown! Anna helped us recognise this and gave great advice and support – there wasn’t any point you were left feeling confused or pushed beyond your limit.
She took time at the beginning of the course to get to know us and chat through any injuries or concerns we had, which meant that every move we practised was done under her guidance, so there wasn’t a worry about hurting ourselves.The atmosphere of the lessons was very open and friendly, and we were encouraged to ask questions as we went along – nothing was too silly and no concern was brushed aside.
As we progressed we learnt more and more of the asana (the movement sequence), and were even introduced to things above beginner level so that, if we were to attend a led class, we could keep up and not feel left behind.
I couldn’t get over how bubbly and positive I felt after every lesson.
I think this is because whilst you’re working through the physical movement that is all you can really think about, so any worries or stresses from your everyday life seem to drop away for that time period.
You also feel a fantastic sense of achievement as each week you are able to push yourself that tiny bit more – but more than you thought you’d ever be able to do at the beginning of the course. The group got on really well and everyone seemed sorry that the classes had come to an end.
I attended the drop in session the following week and have been practising myself in the mornings – I am now hooked!
Not only am I much more cheerful and full of life afterwards, I am using muscles in my body that I wasn’t aware existed before!
I’m an Astanga advocate.