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If you’ve never tried yoga, where have you been?

As well as being a great way of getting that much needed ‘me’ time and zoning out of the everyday pressures life, regular yoga practice can change your physical and mental capacity, whilst preparing the mind and body for long-term health.

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We have been speaking with Vicky Holmestock, Results with Lucy Yoga Expert, about just what yoga is and how to get started.

What kinds of yoga are there?
There are several different forms of yoga but all ultimately have the same aim which is to lead the practitioner to enlightenment.

In the west the most popular form of yoga is Hatha yoga, the practice of postures known in Sanscrit as Asanas. The postures are practiced to enable the practitioner to be able to sit comfortably for long periods of meditation. There are several styles of yoga that have been developed around the practice of Asana. The main styles you might come across are;

Hatha is a gentle form of yoga where participants rest between poses. It can be very relaxing but will still work the muscles hard and develop strength. All other forms of physical yoga are developed from the hatha yoga postures.

Astanga Yoga is a stronger practice that uses a set sequence of poses. You jump from one pose to the next making it quite physical. Classes are generally 1.5 to 2 hours.

Vinyasa and Dynamic yoga have been developed as a combination of the two. You flow from posture to posture, the main difference to Astanga is there is no set sequence.

Bikram and Hot Yoga are practised in a room heated to 105 degrees. Essentially hatha yoga poses are practised in the heat, Bikram uses a set sequence of postures. It is said the heat helps the body to detoxify and improves flexibility and potentially increases weight-loss. Although the latter has not been proven.

What is your advice for new beginners looking to incorporate yoga into their lifestyle?Yoga is said to be the only form of exercise that when practised leaves you with more energy than when you started. It is a lovely complement to an existing exercise regime or can be done as the main form of exercise. It will help you to develop flexibility, strength and power and the more dynamic forms also offer a cardio vascular workout. Alongside the physical benefits you will learn to relax and feel energised and balanced.

I highly recommend a twice-weekly practice to really feel the benefits. With online programmes like Results with Lucy it is now possible to enjoy 15 min practices that are easier to fit into your schedule although classes can be an hour long with great benefits. You have the added benefit of being able to work with world-class teachers whose sessions you might not normally be able to get to.

What equipment is needed for new beginners?
The lovely thing about yoga is you don’t need any equipment and very limited space. You can do it anywhere in the world and keep up your practice whilst on holiday, travelling with work or at home.

Ideally you would use yoga mat which has the benefit of being non slip but in the absence of a mat a towel is great too. Yoga mats can be purchased from as little as £5.

How is yoga different to Pilates?
Yoga is quite different to Pilates as it is a spiritual based practice that works on both the mind and body.

There is a strong focus on the breath in yoga, which aids the focusing of the mind and energises the body. The breathing in Pilates is also important but tends to be the opposite to yoga in terms of the inhalations and exhalations and movement of the abdominal wall.

In a physical sense yoga poses tend to be held for 30-90 seconds whilst Pilates utilises short repetitive motions. This difference means the muscles are worked very differently.

How long should you do yoga for at any one time for it to be of benefit?
Any practice is better than none. If you are short on time 15 minutes twice per week will still be great. If you have more time a complete session of an hour will work the whole of the mind and body and give time for a relaxation at the end. The relaxing is as important as the postures.

What are the different types of yoga taught on RWL?
Results with Lucy has a really varied yoga offering, there are relaxations, breathing exercises, dynamic flow sequences, 3D Yoga (a form that incorporates functional movements and is great for injury rehab and prevention) and traditional hatha yoga.

Are there any food types people should avoid before and after doing yoga? If so, why?
It is best to avoid eating 2-3 hours before a class. The postures are designed to massage the internal organs of the body and will aid digestion, on a full stomach it can be uncomfortable to get into some of the forward bends or supine positions.

A lot of yogis follow a vegetarian diet but this is not essential to your practice and is something to explore as you develop.

So what are you waiting for, yoga seems to have something for everyone with some great benefits.

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