Aching muscles and relaxation on 1.5 m²
Dog, cat, cow, fish, camel, cobra, crow – I feel as if I’m at the zoo. I look around in bewilderment. No, I’m not at the zoo I’m standing in a completely overcrowded university gymnasium, where 70 other students around me (most of them female), are following the trainer’s instructions on almost perfect synchronisation. After an hour full of strange names and contortions, I leave the gym with a befuddled head and a body in pain. Somehow, you see, I had imagined this yoga as something rather different.
The (still sceptical) yoga holdouts are probably now thinking: “Yoga, that’s just meditation and stretching, isn’t it, how can that be effortful?” But all those who practise yoga regularly will presumptively have similar memories of their first yoga session and agree with me: yoga makes your blood pressure soar, and not infrequently your aching muscles remain as a souvenir of the session.
Many paths lead to a yogi
No matter what style of yoga is involved, the goal is always the same: the practice is designed to link together your body, mind and soul in synergised harmony. The paths to this are many and various: meditative approaches focus on the mind, others prioritise asceticism. Probably the most widespread form is Hatha Yoga: a method that combines physical sequences, called asanas, with breathing and meditation exercises, while pursuing a primary goal: pushing you and your body to your limits.
The challenge and the contrast involved are the incentive for me to attend a yoga class twice a week. After all, I spend most of my day sitting down: driving to the office, working at my desk, and in front of the computer or eating – mostly I don’t get enough exercise. But it’s our body that takes us through our lives. So it’s all the more important to offer this valuable integument only the best. Flexibility, a sense of balance, and strength are the principal focus in all asanas. And if you faithfully follow all the trainer’s instructions, then yoga is above all one thing: incredibly effortful.
´”Don’t forget to breathe …”
Would you like a small sample? Warrior 1 looks like a simple sidestep, and is performed a dozen times during every session, For all the newcomers, of course, the yoga instructor provides detailed instructions: “Take a long sidestep, right foot forwards, the knee forms a right angle precisely above the ankle, the left leg is stretched to the maximum, and both feet turn towards each other (“A movement that can’t be seen from outside, but you’re definitely going to feel it,” as my yoga instructor often says with a grin on his face.). Here, you tense your arms and stretch them vigorously upwards – and breathe in and out deeply and calmly, lowering your thighs towards the mat every time you breathe out. Everyone who’s now standing in front of their computer like a sprinter and trying to imitate this position needs reminding: Warrior 1 is a simple basic exercise! Not infrequently, you’re asked to stay in this position for up to ten minutes with burning thighs, while the arms and the torso move forwards, sideways or backwards – without losing the tension on your legs and the relation on your face, of course. And when at last I hear the redemptive words of the yoga instructor: “Place your arms in front of you on the floor and adopt the Dog Looking Downwards”, then the pleasure is short-lived: because now it’s the left foot’s turn …! When you then proceed to more demanding exercises like the wheel or the headstand, then even experienced yogis come up against their physical limits. But it’s precisely this challenge that I find fascinating.
Yoga is booming
Three years have meanwhile gone by since my initial experiences with yoga. After only a short time, I was hooked. Meanwhile I find my yoga time-out at courses in the fitness studio. As do a lot of other women and men (!), who, armed with their mats, are on the search for an hour of challenges and want to switch off from their everyday routine. Besides the studio classes, now and then I attend special courses in the yoga studio, and on a seaside holiday a yoga session is just as much part of my daily agenda as eating and sunbathing. But that’s not all: in the summer, I even travel together with a group of colleagues to Lake Schliersee, to familiarise myself with and try out different styles in a three-day yoga event there. The options for practising yoga are multifaceted, and demonstrate unequivocally: yoga is booming.
But what’s the reason why yoga has meanwhile evolved into what’s almost a national sport? There’s probably no one simple answer to this question. For me, it’s the mixture of physical effort and inner contemplation: keep my balance, support my own weight on my hands, first tie my limbs in knots and then stretch them as far as they will go. When I’m doing yoga, I forget my everyday life, on my mat I explore my own limits, and I finish every yoga session with a smile on my face. For me, this inner satisfaction is perhaps the most valuable gift of all.
Julia is so passionated about yoga, that she even did some Asanas for our Lightweighting brochure