- An initiative by the Yoga Pilgrim Lodge
Yoga is an ancient practice that brings together the mind and body. It incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress. The purpose of yoga is to build strength, awareness, and harmony in both the mind and body. While there are more than 100 different types – or schools – of yoga, most sessions typically include breathing exercises, meditation, and assuming postures (sometimes called “asana” or poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups.
A common misconception surrounding the practice of yoga is that one needs to be extremely flexible to master the poses. This is far from the case because there are so many different kinds of yoga practices, and it is possible for anyone to start. Whether you’re a couch potato or a professional athlete, size and fitness levels do not matter because there are modifications for every yoga pose and beginners’ classes in every style.
The Yoga Pilgrim Lodge hosts a series of yoga classes both beginners and intermediates can enjoy. The classes are held at Independence Square from 6.30 a.m. to 8 a.m. every Sunday, so one can relax and unwind, while soaking up some gentle morning rays. Jeewanthi Perera, a yoga teacher at Yoga Pilgrim Lodge, who has a 300-hour yoga teacher training certification at the Pranashama Yoga Institute, stated that they aim to touch the spiritual body and then the mental body with their classes.
Benefits of yoga
Yoga helps deeply with balancing out a stressful life, explained Perera. In fact, multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Stress is not necessarily caused by a problem; even issues such as neck aches or back aches that occur regularly could add to one’s stress levels, which yoga can help ease.
In addition to improving your mental health, practising yoga may reduce inflammation as well. The health of your heart is an essential component of overall health, and certain positions in yoga can help get your blood pumping and supply tissues with important nutrients.
Perera also stated that the relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can also lessen chronic pains such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome, in addition to lowering blood pressure and reducing insomnia.
Types of yoga
There are many types of yoga. “Hatha”, a combination of many styles, is one of the most popular styles. It is a more physical type of yoga rather than a still, meditative form. Hatha yoga focuses on “pranayamas” (breath-controlled exercises), which is what Perera will be focusing on during these classes. These are followed by a series of “asanas” (yoga postures) and end with “savasana” (a resting period).
The goal during yoga practice is to challenge yourself physically, but not to feel overwhelmed. At this edge, the focus is on your breath while your mind is calm and accepting.
Perera explained that there are eight yoga postures, out of which they have created their own styles, which is what will be taught at the classes.
Reconnect with nature
Yoga studios typically don’t have mirrors. This is so that people can focus their awareness inwards rather than focusing on how a pose or how the people around them look. Yoga is a practice born to become more aligned and in touch with nature around us. Many of the poses in the practice are named after animals and their movements. Outdoor yoga benefits your body and mind, making you feel more in tune with yourself and the world around you.
Being outdoors fully awakens your senses. “There is nothing like a cool gust of wind, the smell of blooming flowers, the song of birds, and the noise of the wind to make you present. Taking your yoga outdoors will open your mind up to what’s around you,” Perera said.
Yoga in Colombo is held at the early hours of the morning, where the rays of the sun are bursting with Vitamin D, which is a great mood booster and keeps your bones strong and muscles healthy. With these classes, you’re healing, maintaining, and improving your body with Vitamin D from the sun.
Practising yoga outdoors gives the space you need to check in with yourself. You can move your body the way you need to, or stretch wider and further than you have before. Many studies have found that those who practised yoga were more aware of their bodies than those who didn’t practise yoga. Yogis are more likely to be satisfied with and less critical of their bodies. For these reasons, yoga has become an integral part in the treatment of eating disorders and programmes that promote positive body image and self-esteem.
How often should one practise?
Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centres attention, and sharpens concentration. Body and self-awareness are particularly beneficial because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.
“Yoga should be practised as often as you brush your teeth, for at least 20 minutes a day,” Perera said, adding that it shouldn’t be viewed as a chore but something that brings your mind and soul together.
She explained that an easy practice to do at home, besides from the usual Sunday classes, would be sun salutations, which is basically a breathing exercise that will help you start off your day with a more positive outlook.
“Yoga is such a beautiful practice and one that can be taken up any time, with minimal equipment and minimal time,” she concluded. Right now, more than ever, in these trying times, we need that time to check in with ourselves, move our bodies, and enjoy the outdoors when we can.
Check out their Facebook page (@yogapilgrimlodge) for more information on how you can participate in these classes.