Yoga - to do or not to do? 

By Karen (Your Yoga Cardiff)

Top 10 tips to help you decide.

Contrary to popular belief the physical benefit of Yoga is not about looking good on Instagram – well ok, if I’m honest for some people it’s all about looking good on Instagram but beyond the teak coloured, scantily clad, elastic limbs throwing all manner of impossible-looking poses, there is a real-world of real people doing Yoga without posting about it.

In my experience, these real people come from all walks of life, across a variety of ages, of varying gender, and mixed ability. They have, however, one thing in common - they recognise the regular practice of Yoga asanas (that’s poses to you and me) can help with mobility, flexibility, and strengthening.

Physically they don’t need to stand on their head whilst practicing origami with their knees. They have much simpler desires - such as wanting to be able to tie their own shoelaces, without having to sit down to do so; wanting to be able to reach up and put the fairy on top of the Christmas tree without pulling a muscle; wanting to sit at a desk and use a computer without the risk of developing poor posture from slumping shoulders and shrinking hamstrings; wanting to lift their pets/grandchildren/new designer suitcase without asking for help – in other words, they are just like you, trying to live the rest of their physical life as the best of their physical life.

As a teacher and yoga practitioner of almost 10 years, you would expect me to champion the benefits of regular practice, and of course I do, but I also recognise the world of Yoga has many illusions and for those yet to step on to a mat, I can completely understand why there may be trepidation.

I hope this top ten checklist will help to allay some of the fears that newcomers may have and if you are already practicing it may be useful to consider if any of these resonate with your own Yoga experience . . .


Tip 1: Yoga is not for everyone

Gosh, horror, yes, I’ve said it. I don’t believe in the well-worn expression ‘if you can breathe you are doing yoga’. You may try it and not like it and that is fine, totally and utterly, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are plenty of other exercise options available.


Tip 2:   Try lots of different classes

You can only use Tip 1 as a reason not to do yoga if you have tried at least five different classes with five different teachers. Why five? My first class was a total DISASTER (you’ll have to get in touch if you want the details) suffice to say it was almost 30 years ago and I actually had a little wet patch on my pants I was laughing so much because it all felt so silly - Lion’s Roar – really???!!!

My second was totally awesome and super tough (at the time I fancied myself as a Halle Berry stand-in for her role as Jinx Johnson in the Die Another Day Bond movie and was training hard to achieve this). I subsequently pushed myself too hard, as per the teaching instructions, and hence was injured.

Yikes, that’s not good!

My third was approached with a huge amount of reservation (I’m so not a yoga person I heard myself saying) but a patient and caring teacher earned my trust and respect and got me hooked.

My fourth encounter was a ‘pick n mix’ selection across a few months of lessons comprising of three different teachers across the yoga styles of Lyenga, Sivananda, and Ashtanga – wow so many options, who knew? I had mixed emotions, probably fair to say as a result of the different teaching personalities but I have avoided Lyenga ever since, nuff said!

My fifth choice was the annual OM Yoga Show held in London in 2016 and I experienced several workshops across a selection of styles and teachers – some good, some not so, and some so amazing I booked and went on a week’s retreat – twice!

Hopefully, from my story you can see yoga is like cake and wine – there are lots of suppliers and lots of varieties – take your time to try more than one before you make your mind up as to whether it’s for you or not.


Tip 3: It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel

Distorting your body into weird shapes for the sake of saying, ‘I do yoga’ will not be welcomed by your joints or muscles.

I believe it’s important for students to understand what the pose is about to enable them to make judgments relevant to their own bodies. In my experience, this is a safe way to practice and will help to ensure you avoid pain and injury.

If you are just instructed into poses - Down Dog, Triangle or Warrior are some of the favourites, without any explanation of which muscles and joints are involved or what’s being stretched or strengthened, then how can you determine if you are doing it correctly?

Please ask your teacher to explain anything you do not understand – this will help you to have a totally fulfilling practice.


Tip 4: Don’t take yourself too seriously

Yes, Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice but it’s also fun. After all, you’re paying to practice, so you’ll want to enjoy it. When I am teaching, I often advise my students to pretend they are children trying out the pose.

Children think it’s so funny to fall out of tree pose! Adults on the other hand can become quite irritated with their inability to ‘nail it' the first time around. Frustrated trees, however, will not balance - the tension doesn’t help you to plant a solid foundation. Instead, laugh at yourself and this will help you to relax - relaxed trees love to sway in the moment.


Tip 5: You do not need a fancy outfit

Honestly, coordinated leggings and a Lulu Lemon top may make you feel good but it’s more important to just turn up and do the practice. Your teacher will not be bothered about how much you spent on your clothing. What he/she will want is for you to be comfortable and to able to move freely. Bare feet are the usual for a Yoga practice as there is much engagement of your toes, balls, arches, and heels but if you can’t bear (pardon the pun) to practice without socks then please choose non-slip toe-sox


Tip 6:   It is worth investing in a decent mat but decent doesn’t have to mean expensive

As a beginner, however, if you want to try a few lessons before any expenditure but would benefit from using props you can always substitute a block/brick for a sturdy book or rolled towel/blanket and a dressing gown cord will make a suitable strap.


Tip 7: Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach but that does not mean a starved body

Sure, I would recommend the avoidance of practicing on a belly full of lasagne but you will need energy so refrain from eating two hours before your practice but make sure you are not running on empty.


Tip 8:  Yoga brings mental and spiritual benefits too, aside from the physical aspects

For most of us life can be a chaotic existence and whether you savour the calm and serenity of 75 minutes all to yourself on your mat or you visualise your meditative state through your 3rd eye there is much to explore in experiencing the full integrity of these aspects of yoga practice.


Tip 9: The F word is often associated with Yoga, either red-faced with embarrassment, secreted with subterfuge, or giggling amusement

Don’t get hung up on your botty burps!

There is actually an asana known as Pavanamuktasana (pah-van-ah-mook-tahs-uh-nuh), the wind relieving pose. It happens to us all (yes, even teachers) and like all botty burp moments you deal with it at the time – there are no rules!

Don’t let it put you off attending but maybe you might want to give the baked beans a miss for lunch on yoga class days.


Tip 10:   Practice is important

I’m always amazed how many people expect to be able to do Yoga after their first lesson. If you sign up for Spanish lessons, you wouldn’t expect to attend one class and be fluent, would you? It’s not called Yoga practice for nothing – practice, practice, and practice again.

This is how you teach your body to do Yoga.

This is how you gain a greater understanding of your body’s ability and inability.

This is how you learn to progress poses.

This is how you understand how to adapt poses.

This is how you improve mobility, increase flexibility and develop strength.

This is how you learn to love Yoga.

And there you have it.

A little guidance that I hope will help to open up your mind and generate some thinking for you about whether or not to do Yoga.

Happy to answer any queries or questions you may have.

I wish you Namaste



Your Yoga Cardiff