It’s pretty common to look for ways to get fitter in the run up to your wedding, and if your chosen fitness method can help you keep calm whilst wedding planning too, that’s even better! We asked Lumi Power yoga teacher Rebecca Foster to tell us everything about yoga for beginners, and how it can help with your wedding planning.
What is yoga?
Patanjali’s definition of yoga is ‘the calming of the fluctuations of the mind’. It is a practice that’s been around for hundreds of years – but it’s only in the past century or so that it’s become more of a physically focused practice, particularly in the West.
However, physical poses are only one small slice of the yoga pie. Yoga is a choice to live in a way that honours your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you. Yoga is an adherence to a certain set of ethical standards. Yoga is a willingness to do a selfless good deed, just for the sake of putting that positivity into the universe rather than expecting any reward in return. Yoga is the way you live you live your life – the possibilities are endless!
How can yoga help me whilst wedding planning?
If we take Patanjali’s definition of yoga, as above, yoga is a practice that can help to calm a busy mind when the monkey mind starts chattering and thoughts are flying in all directions. Yoga – both the physical practice, plus meditation and focused breathing (known as pranayama) – is a great way to step back and calm your thoughts, before stress starts to creep in.
If you’re already feeling stressed out about keeping your wedding planning on schedule, yoga gives you the chance to step back, observe where you’re at and slow everything down. It gives you that moment of space you need to take the heat out of what you’re experiencing and come back to a place of equanimity. When we act from equanimity, we have more control over our actions, rather than reacting in snap judgements and decisions that may not serve us in the long-run.
What if I’m a total beginner, how do I start and what do I need?
What you need is your breath. If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. It’s all very well twisting your body into funky, pretzel-like shapes, but unless you have a steady flow of breath while you do it, you’re not doing yoga – you’re doing gymnastics.
Watch Rebecca’s morning yoga routine from our IGTV channel here:
If you’re just starting out with your physical practice, it’s helpful to have a mat – especially when you’re practicing on hard floors – but it’s not essential to begin with. I like to keep a cushion close to my mat, too. I can pop it under my head and relax when I am lying down in the final relaxation or use it as meditation cushion so that I’m more comfortable and less inclined to fidget.
What you don’t need is expensive designer leggings and a membership to a pricey studio. If you can afford that stuff, great, but it’s not the be all and end all. You want to practice in comfortable clothes where you can get a full range of motion without feeling restricted (that’s why I like practicing in my pyjamas!).
Studio memberships are great for when you really want to advance your physical practice with the attention of a good teacher, but if you’re just getting started, there are so many options online (many of them free). The internet is a great resource for discovering what style of yoga you’d like to delve into more deeply.
Of course, if you are practicing at home, I have to say it… be safe! It’s common sense – for instance, if you’re just starting out, trying to squeeze your body into an upside-down lotus (or whatever) isn’t ever going to be a great idea.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Physically – increased flexibility, increased muscle tone, increased strength around the joints (this last one is especially important if you’re already a bendy Wendy!).
Yoga is marvellous for the circulatory system (you breathe more consciously and send more oxygen to the cells around your body that need it), the lymphatic system (we need to move the body to move the lymphatic fluid around, because this system doesn’t have a heart to pump it around), the nervous system (deeper breaths tap into the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the opposite to the system that gets activated when we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode. What that means is that long, deep exhales help us to relax).
Mentally, the benefits are increased concentration (especially if you’re meditating as well), increased clarity (especially when you’re making decisions) and an increased sense of calm.
When I started practicing yoga, it was for physical reasons, to complement martial arts training. It was after about a year of regular time on my mat that I realised I was healthier, happier and had more vitality than I’d ever had before. Of course, the change is not instant – you won’t see the results after one session.
Start by making yoga a habit – 10 minutes, every morning when you roll out of bed. It’s better than doing one hour in a single block a week.
What does yoga do for your body?
On the outside, of course there are the obvious benefits like increased muscle tone. The powerful forms of vinyasa yoga offer cardio exercise, too, depending on how they’re performed. However, there’s a bunch of benefits that happen on the inside that’ll boost your overall health from the inside out.
How often should I practise yoga?
Incorporating yoga into your daily life is a great way to build an awareness of your body over time. An awareness that allows you to catch yourself when you’re making decisions that might not be the best for your health. 10-15 minutes a day is wonderful – but I understand this isn’t realistic for everyone.
If you start at three times a week, you’ll soon notice that you want to be on your mat even more! Doing short, regular sessions will allow you to see the differences more than if you do one hour-long session per week. Even if it’s just a couple of sun salutations in the morning or some gentle stretches before bed.
What if I’m out of shape?
Whatever the physical condition of your body, yoga gives you an opportunity to be kind to yourself. Design your own practice to suit what you need. We all have to start somewhere, and the first time we step onto the mat is the first step of the journey.
You can take that step right now by pausing reading this article, taking a deep breath and having a big old stretch up and out of your desk chair, or away from your phone. Get onto YouTube and look up a five minute tutorial on yoga for beginners. Start with five minutes, then up it to 10, then 15, then so on. If you’re concerned about over-doing it, consult your physician before beginning an intensive course of exercise.
Yoga isn’t like going to the gym and slogging away on the weights or the cross trainer for half an hour. That kind of blast exercise often leaves you craving big – and sometimes naughty – meals to make up for all the energy you burned. When you do yoga, it has the opposite effect. You will want to continue honouring your body by eating all the good stuff, colourful fruits and veggies, drinking loads of water, and generally just enjoying the experience of being in your physical body.
What are the basic poses and the benefits of them?
The basic poses are:
- Standing up in tadasana. Improves posture and structural alignment in the body.
- Down dog with soft, slightly bent knees – allows you to lengthen the spine.
- Backbends (cobra pose, up dog) – opens up the chest and improves posture.
Can I do it with my partner?
Yes! I went to a couples’ yoga session with my partner (who hates yoga) several years ago. This wasn’t so much about the practice itself, but more about my connection to him.
Sharing that space together felt so intimate, and I came out of there feeling this incredible rush of trust and love. (Of course, he hated it though and we’ve never gone back… but that’s not the case for all couples!)
Read more: 143 date night ideas for couples
Anything else yoga newbies need to know?
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Take a deep breath, nourish your body with movement and by making choices that allow you to feel your best.
If you’re looking for more ways to remain calm when wedding planning, make sure you read our guide to de-stressing as you plan your wedding!