Yoga – a beginner’s journey

Posted in yoga on March 28, 2013

Thinking about taking your first steps into yoga? Adrian Kowal, yoga instructor and co-founder of the Evolve Yoga and Wellness Centre talks us through his beginner’s journey…
A substantial pool of stinky sweat has pooled on my mat right underneath the ends of my trembling fingers which I’ve been commanded to “offer” to my reflection in the mirror. My eye keeps roaming to the attractive blonde two rows back who wears a small black sports bra and bottoms which barely cover her modesty. The instructor barks via his radio mic for us to keep our “drishti” (our attention) on ourselves and orders us into a toe-stand. Not wanting to look soft I ignore the screaming from my left knee cap – until I hear a ‘pop’.
Like many before and after me I began my yoga journey on the repulsively odorous mats of Bikram studios across London. That was until I injured my knee, which took four years to recover. ‘Proper’ yoga was always preconceived as a bunch of vegans, chanting in strange tongues whilst pretzeling themselves into the shape of balloon sculptures. All the incense and woo-woo-ery seemed a little too contorted for any real benefit to my good self.

Fast-forward a few years and I enrolled onto a Hatha yoga basics course, which armed me with the fundamentals of yoga, and I soon realized that much of what yoga is all about doesn’t have anything to do with the physical element on a mat.  The way that yoga differs from almost all physical activities is the depth and breadth of the practice.

From deep full breathing techniques, which can either reinvigorate you or ground you, to a holistic philosophy around nutrition, mind and spirit – yoga offers a fully complimentary system for those seeking support in areas often untouched in traditional education.

Since re-beginning my ‘proper’ yoga journey, my mind functions on a calmer and more effective level. With the discipline of a regular on-the-mat practice my body feels energised, toned, clearer of toxins, and I enjoy a much greater connection to the physical sensations of my organs and muscles. The coolest thing however is that I can stand on my head.

From a practical perspective the way in which yoga integrates itself into my daily and often hectic city life, is to offer me a selection of useful techniques and practical applications in different situations. If for example someone is confrontational during a business phone call, instead of reacting straight away I pause – take deep breath from the bottom of my stomache – and then reply in a much calmer and often more considered way than I used to in the past. Before I take to the ski slopes, 20 minutes is dedicated to spinal twists and other yogic stretches that will ensure my body will be supple and prepared for a thorough day of skiing, and will alleviate that lower-back tightness that used to dominate my body.

Whatever your fitness level, spiritual inclination, or mental condition, yoga is a wonderful tool to support you in living a healthier, more grounded lifestyle in the often stressful conundrum that is modern-day living. The best place to start is to find a beginners level course or class to ease yourself into what can be a life-enhancing practice.

Details of Adrian’s classes can be found here.