Keep Calm and Do Yoga

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When pushed to do something, Yoga has always been my exercise of choice. After I had my son I started classes at Rodney Pavilion (as it was known then) in the back studio (which is now the resistance room).  It was 1994 and yoga was still considered a bit “hippy”. There were only about 8 people in the class and we all looked at each other self-consciously as we were encouraged to chant our “OMMMs” as an energy release.  I loved it. It suited me with its calm, serene philosophies and gentle movements.  I enjoyed the feeling of “stretch” that your body was left with after a session and the fact that it was mindful, working with your own breathing rather than weights or equipment. 

I’ve dipped in and out over the years, priding myself on always picking up the techniques quickly and never really losing my ability to twist into strange positions or hold a down-facing dog for a count of 10 breaths.  My flexibility, even at points of overall poor fitness levels, has remained intact.   Of course, I’ve heard all the “yoga isn’t really exercise” arguments from (in no particular order), my son, my weightlifting addicted friends and marathon running individuals.   One entirely unenlightened male friend refers to it as “women who eat lentils bending over chanting”. 

Over the years I have laid down challenges to these people, smug in my toe touching capabilities, and defended Yoga’s place in the fitness world.  I am a fan. I have been looking forward to this article and was considering the time spent researching a “treat” to be enjoyed.

YOGA- downward poseGiven my ‘bendier than she looks’ track record I started back at Yoga with a Monday morning, 7.30am, POWER YOGA class aimed at intermediate level.  I had been away for a couple of years but as I said, my experience has taught me that yoga is like riding a bike – you never really forget. 

I pushed open the doors of Live Active Rodney’s Hall and there in front of me was the instructor for the class, Cathy.  Now anyone who has taken a yoga class in Perth in the past 30 years will know Cathy. She is to Perth yoga what Terry Wogan was to Eurovision. An icon! Cathy taught me at Rodney Pavilion 19 years before – my very first yoga class.  She has no second name I’m sure – “Cathy, you know, yoga Cathy.” - and she looks exactly the same. Small, smiley and a voice that would calm a raging bull.   She knew me instantly.

Power Yoga is a slightly faster-paced class based around Ashtanga Yoga.  The aim of this early morning offer from Live Active Leisure is to energise and wake you up in their 45 minute class.  There are a lot of sun salutations with variations for those people who are not as flexible.  Cathy is calm, focused and wills you to do well and push yourself without ever raising her voice much above an audible whisper.  

For me, exercise is as much about getting in some “me time” as it is about the fitness.

The class moved at pace – as advertised! – and it turns out that 20 year old experience is not quite as useful as you’d think; mainly because, and here comes the rub, it turns out that forty-four never came by itself.   I have heard my mum say this over the years but I never truly understood what it meant until now.  I tried to twist my body to look in the opposite corner and found my torso refusing to stretch; I tried to balance on one leg, holding the other up in front of me before reluctantly admitting I had to take the low option on this one.

Cathy is a great teacher though, helping with technique and reminding everyone about to engage and breath. She moved silently between the small class helping with stretches that required you to hold and breathe.  45 minutes went past in a flash and I as I was lying in rest position trying to empty my mind all I could think of was “when did I get so stiff?!”

The power yoga ticked a lot of boxes for me - I would recommend that you have some (proper / this century) experience as it does move quickly between quickly from one position to the next and there is an assumption made that you will understand the moves.  I did remember names of positions – it was just that my body didn’t quite remember how to get into them!

I enjoyed the style and I’ve been a few times since that first day, determined to master the twists and balances. Intermediate and advanced yoga goers will love the pace and the focus

Cathy was as flexible as ever, knees almost touching the floor in lotus, I wondered at how many years she had been practicing this ancient art. I had a great chat with her afterwards, catching up, both of us dumbfounded that almost 20 years had gone by.  “How long have you been teaching?” I asked. “Oh… over 30 years ago I took my initial training… 1983, yes.”   I told her about my stiff old bones and she tells me it won’t take long for the flexibility to return.

YOGA- NamasteFor me, exercise is as much about getting in some “me time” as it is about the fitness.  I know that’s a bit of an overused phrase these days but everyone from busy parents to under pressure career people (and for some, both!) needs time to stop and do something for themselves.  Back to Yoga, I realised that on very few occasions do I just stop… That is, unwind, think clearly and really slow down.

After years of dismissing it, I’m finally beginning to understand what a balanced approach to exercise means and how to get the most out of a membership.   Get your heart racing at a body pump, burn those calories off. Lie on a mat, thinking of your breathing while trying to get your head between your knees.  There is a rightful place for both and if you can fit it in, you’ll find that instead of combatting each other, they actually complement each other perfectly.

You will find Yoga classes to suit all abilities throughout Live Active Leisure venues.   

Click on their POWER YOGA page here 

Click on their YOGA page here

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