Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that is largely based around performing different postures called asanas, connected by flowing sequences called vinyasas, sometimes accompanied by rhythmic breathing and often ending with relaxation.
Yoga is truly a mind and body exercise, it has been shown to improved strength, flexibility and balance. In addition, it has a strong focus on breathing, which is proven to improve mental health and wellbeing.
There are various types of yoga: Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa (flow) or Power to name but a few.
Pilates today can be either be based on a mat or reformer (resistance bed), and uses body weight or small equipment such as resistance bands or exercise balls. It aims to strengthen your body overall with the emphasis being on improving core strength and stability, whilst performing movements from a stable base. The health benefits of Pilates include improved posture, muscle toning and better balance and mobility. Evidence also suggests that Pilates can be beneficial if you suffer from back pain.
Tai Chi: was originally created as a form of martial art. The essential principles of Tai Chi include the integration of the mind with the body; control of movements and breathing; the generation of internal energy and mindfulness. The ultimate purpose of Tai Chi is to cultivate the life energy (qi) within us to flow smoothly and powerfully throughout the body. There are various styles of Tai Chi which differ in speed and the poses you are required to hold.
These exercises are very popular because they help build strength and balance. They can reduce the risk of falling, as well as ease the symptoms of various health conditions. Many of the movements and poses involved can also be adapted for people with disabilities, including wheelchair users.
There is evidence that suggests these activities can be beneficial if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains, including some types of arthritis, as well as mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress.
While you can do most Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi exercises at home yourself, with the help of an app, You Tube, book or DVD, it is advised that you start by going to a class and learn with a fully qualified instructor.
Since anyone can set up Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi classes please ensure you check your instructors level of qualification prior to commencing a class. Whilst classes held in established gyms and recreational centres generally require their instructors to be qualified to a certain level, plenty of other well organised classes can be found running out of village and church halls.
A good instructor will always request you fill in a pre-participation health screen, in order that they are able to take into consideration any health conditions and adapt exercises to your individual need. They will also be able to signpost you to the most appropriate class to get you started.
An instructor led class will be able to correct any mistakes you may make, and advise on stretches, poses and manoeuvres best suited for you. In turn, this will reduce the chance of strain or injuries compared to practicing by yourself, and enable you to get the most out of the activity.
As for equipment, you will need comfortable clothing which allows you to move and stretch freely. You may also need a mat, as some classes require you to bring your own.
Yin Yoga is a slow meditative practice aiming to stimulate our energy pathways (following Traditional Chinese Medicine meridian lines) and to compress/ stretch / stress our deep connective tissue which includes ligaments , fascia, tendons. This practice helps increase our flexibility & bone strength by increasing circulation in the joints. Most poses are floor based held from 1 min to 20 minutes. Our mind as well as body is challenged trying to remain still in challenging positions.