Time Out takes a look at the ancient art of yoga and asks if it really can improve our posture and reduce stress levels
Time Out Bahrain staff
Worn and weary from the lack of a good night’s sleep and a spurt of running mania, I was prepared to try just about anything that would offer me any sort of boost. So it was that I turned to the Art of Living Centre, lured by their promise to ‘recharge and revive your energy levels’.
Truth be told, I am not one to be bowled over by fad anything’s. If it promises you results that sound too good to be true, chances are they are. However, dressed in comfortable clothing, and armed with an open mind, I decided to give yoga a chance.
Dating back over five millennia, yoga is best described as a union of body, mind and soul. ‘Anxiety stemming from hectic work schedules and other incidents beyond our control tend to disrupt the balance of our functioning,’ says Rekha Baloor, a certified instructor of Sri Sri Yoga who has practiced it for over 18 years. ‘Just as a guitar loses its rhythm when a string is broken, so our entire body is affected by external occurrences. Yoga is a way to re-tune our system.’
For the uninitiated, yoga is a combination of postures (asanas), deep breathing (pranaya) and deep relaxation (meditation) that finds its roots in India, although with the help of followers like Madonna, it has caught on in the west – and in Bahrain too, I discover, when I attend a class at the Art of Living Centre.
The class kicks off with a warm-up routine comprising light stretches to loosen up the muscles, gradually moving on to more rigorous movement. Popular postures include the Sun Salutation, Cobra, Camel, Tree and Lion, all of which target different areas of the body and can be likened to engaging in an intense game of Twister.
Throughout the exercise, students are instructed to call attention to their breathing, which is the crux of yoga. ‘Deep, controlled breathing helps to fuel the organs with oxygen and in doing so promotes positive energy,’ Rekha tells me.
Stretching complete, we settle into the quintessential yoga position – The Lotus. Coupled with rhythmic humming and breathing, the body and mind is drawn into a state of complete relaxation, as the instructor leads students to tune out all ambient sound and focus on specific areas of their anatomy, starting at the toes and eventually working up to the crown. While some claim to reach a Zen-like state through this stimulation and activation of chi, meditation is definitely not for the restless, myself included, and I become twitchy and fidgety.
I learn that this is normal for beginners, and that this feeling will pass with time. ‘When people begin yoga, their body and mind are resistant to change,’ says Beloor, ‘but when their muscles become limber and their mind gets used to relaxing, they are motivated to achieve more. This is when I advise them to listen to their body and be aware of its limitations.’
It feels kind of easy and I question whether it can make a real difference to my body. Surely it can’t be as toning as a serious gym workout? Beloor tells me that while it might not always cause you to break a sweat, the stretches and postures incorporated into a 60-minute session help to strengthen and tone ligaments as well as aligning the vertebrae, improving flexibility and aiding weight loss.
I stand corrected. The ancient practice also made news recently when the results of studies showed that yoga helps to combat anxiety and depression by modulating stress response systems through its ability to reduce the heart rate, lower blood pressure and ease respiration.
It’s also believed to enhance the functioning of endocrine glands, and offer relief from chronic illnesses such as gastro-intestinal disturbances and high blood pressure, which is attributed to its ability to promote a sense well-being and greater energy, says Beloor. So it’s not scientifically proven then, but as they say, health is just a state of mind, right?
Stepping off the mat I am a bit disappointed to feel pretty much the same as when I walked in, if slightly winded. But the next morning I do wake up feeling a bit more chipper than usual, a feeling that lasts until the Sitra causeway comes into view! Disappointed, I remind myself of Beloor’s insistence that yoga’s not a quick-fix solution, but rather a way of life that eventually permeates every aspect of your functioning. I’m guessing it will take a lot more than an hour’s session to help combat an advanced state of road rage. The Art of Living Centre (36 641 677) is located in Al Burhama on Budaiya Road; a five-day intensive yoga workshop costs BD30. Yoga classes are also available at Bahrain Wellness Resort (17 795 961); Bayoga Centre (17 725 027); Jacques Dessange (17 713 999); World Beat Fitness Centre (17 612 576).
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Our yoga instructor is a 200 hour certified yoga teacher with yoga arts (recognized by the yoga alliance).
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Milkana Palavurova Jun 20, 2009 06:40 am
Please note that the only yoga center in Bahrain that is registered with USA Yoga Alliance and Bahrain Ministry of Health is Lotus Yoga Studio. Please be so kind to display this information as it is vital for real yoga practitioners. For more details visit www.lotusyoga.cc