YOGA - Body, mind, spirit

How to live well

Health, wealth and happiness on our stretch of the Thames

RiverTribe reaches out to its yoga gurus for the latest on an ancient practise.

Here Sarah Tucker writes about the enduring attraction of a form of exercise which is a way of life.












The philosophy of yoga centres on listening to your breath, then strengthening, lengthening and deepening your breath in order to learn mental and physical focus. That is the keystone of yoga practise.

There are many techniques about how to discipline the mind. Mindfulness will work with one person, while running a marathon will work with another. Yet yoga remains, to me, the most effective way to achieve mental resilience and tranquillity.

It has always been the case that exercise experts like to deliver the top ten tips on how to get fit for life, but these are always cyclical while the techniques which help you calibrate your breath have remained constant.

We have all seen fads come and go. High impact aerobics endorsed by Jane Fonda in the 70s evolved into low impact aerobics of the 80s, probably because high impact exercise completely bashed the knees.

Often I teach yoga to many of those who damaged their knees taking part in relentless, high impact aerobics classes - some of which I used to teach myself. Aerobics was really designed for people who were already fit to maintain and enhance their fitness, not for those who weren’t fit to get fit.

Then there was the Step, which was brilliant for toning the butt, until teachers decided rather than focusing on the exercise they would focus on the choreography and it became more a test for the memory and the brain than the abs and gluts. It became a badge of honour to have as many rises as possible underneath your step, so that one was for beginners and if you had three or four you were a ‘step expert’. However, if you tripped up, not only did you go flying off into another stepper but so did your equipment.

Then there was urban rebounding on the mini trampolines. It was hilarious, seeing uptight control freaks try to loosen up without their bladder doing so. I enjoyed that phase the most, feeling like a born again Tigger allowed to bounce up and down, grinning from ear to ear.

Then, kick boxing arrived. This was brilliant for strengthening the back, the butt and lengthening the limbs. But it ignited aggression rather than alleviating it.

Spinning, in a darkened room, to music, is still in fashion but the idea of cycling and going nowhere has a psychological effect, as if you are running around a park and ending up in the same place from which you started.

Yoga is now very much back on-trend. But the western world has morphed it into something competitive and gymnastic. We should not forget its origins are to do with the breath and nothing but the breath. That is why it works.

If you do not listen to your breath, you are just stretching to music and if you are stretching to music you might as well be in the cool down of Jane Fonda’s aerobics workout, feeling the burn rather than listening to the breath.

Yoga is a complex and powerful form of mental and physical effort. There is no short cut. We practise yoga because it is the journey of a lifetime.

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©RiverTribe Magazine 2017