YOGA has a huge number of reported benefits for health and wellbeing.
However I had only done it once or twice and remember a few years ago when an instructor looked down at me struggling and said: “You’re not very flexible, are you?”
Stung by her no-nonsense approach I avoided the ancient practice for a long time but this year I’ve decided to try and get a bit healthier – and hopefully a bit more bendy.
The long list of advantages includes relaxation, increased immunity and reduced blood pressure.
With my eyes gleaming at the promise of improved physical prowess, I went along to a Hatha Yoga session run by Lisa Bird in St Mary's Church in College Road, Bromley.
We did various poses – some standing, some floor-based – and meditation-style exercises.
A lot of the positions look easy but are surprisingly intense and definitely gave my muscles a workout. There is one where you just stand and raise a foam block above your head but it is somehow ridiculously hard to maintain.
However the class was not too strenuous and I think is well suited to novices like me who need a gentle introduction or those recovering from injury.
Lisa was an encouraging teacher and always suggested alternatives in case the original position is too difficult.
I got the sense she knew the other attendees well and took special care to ensure they avoided injuring any weak points.
She emphasised the importance of controlled breathing and reminded us not to hold our breath as we hold positions – something I realised I do a lot.
This 90 minute class gives ample time to stretch muscles I never knew I had as well as enter deep relaxation.
My favourite bit was where we lay down and practiced mindfulness techniques (I also recommend putting on layer upon layer of the available blankets so you are perfectly cocooned).
The other participants clearly enjoyed going regularly and it was a sociable class. They said first of all they occasionally heard the sounds coming from the rest of the building but now they never noticed– surely a sign of how continued practice encourages deeper relaxation.
One man told me after how he first went along to get over an injury and how much it had helped him recover. He said: “I wished I’d started it years ago.”
I think the class helped me reconnect with my body which may sound strange but when it is covered with swathes of scarves and gloves and bundled under a desk for most the day, it is easy to become sluggish and forget what your body can do.
I left feeling revived and - happily - a bit more bendy.
Hatha Yoga with Lisa takes place each Wednesday (term time only) between 10am and 11.30 am at Buchan Hall by St Mary's Church in College Road, Bromley. It costs £8.
There are mats, blankets and blocks available and it is best to contact Lisa before attending to discuss any past injuries.
For more information, visit hathayogawithlisa.com or call 07753 230782.