A beginners guide to yoga

I saw some friends this month when I was back in the UK and told them I was going to yoga festival. “You said you’d never turn into one of those yoga girls!” one of them said to me. 

CRINGE! I cannot remember saying that but to be honest it does sound like the kind of thing I would come out with.

Slipping from healthy eating blogger to crazy hippy girl is exactly the sort of worry I might have had when I started all this, and certainly the kind of thing I would have tried to reassure friends wouldn’t happen to me when I started changing my diet.

That’s because yoga has always been a no-go for me. When people asked if I do yoga (apparently you should say “practice” not “do” it!) I’d turn up my nose. “Absolutely not, if I’m going to go to the trouble of getting into my gym gear then I want to sweat!”

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And until this month I really believed that yoga was more about relaxation than exercise. I’d only ever tried yoga twice: once was on a leadership course and once as part of a detox/cleanse week I did at my gym in London.

Both times all I can remember is everyone in the class around me falling asleep and snoring. How can this be exercise?! I thought. We seemed to spend more time lying on our backs, imagining balls of light and drifting off into a slumber than actually warming up and stretching muscles. Not for me.

Then the universe conspired to change my opinion.

Do I want to join these crazy looking people doing yoga in a tent?! Yoga happening at Soul Circus

Do I want to join these crazy looking people doing yoga in a tent?! Yoga happening at Soul Circus

Firstly I won tickets thanks to Nutritional Therapist Jodie Brandman to Soul Circus, the UK’s latest wellness festival dedicated to yoga.

And secondly I was approached by the lovely people at Yogi2Me to collaborate on an Instagram campaign looking at what a yogi eats.

Yogi2Me’s app allows you to book a yoga instructor to give individual or small group classes at your home or place of work: think Uber for yoga. As part of the partnership I was treated to a 1-to-1 lesson in my own home, would this change my opinion of yoga?

I'll be able to do this after my session right, Yogi2Me?! 

I'll be able to do this after my session right, Yogi2Me?! 

So I couldn’t avoid it any longer. Yoga had to be faced head on and I wanted to give you, the Pantry readers, an insight into how I got on.

I’ve got so much to say on the subject (as usual!) I’m turning this into a two part-er.

Firstly I’ll tell you about my lesson with yoga instructor Fleur via the Yogi2Me app, and in the second instalment I give you a little round up of my thoughts from Soul Circus. It was quite the week and it’s most definitely changed my opinion of yoga forever.

Yogi2Me 1-to-1 lesson

I booked my lesson through Yogi2Me's app which is super easy to use. I chose to have a lesson with Fleur P who is one of Yogi2Me’s key instructors. The Yogi2Me app and website have video introductions with all their instructors so you can choose someone right for you. 

When she arrived Fleur had a little box with her and apologised for not having arrived sooner. Inside the box was a baby bird that she’d found in the road injured. So far very yoga…

It reminded me of a chapter I read in William Dalrymple’s book Nine Lives featuring a Jainist nun who adheres so strictly to the principle of non-violence that she sweeps the insects in front of her out of the way with a fan as she walks so as not to tread on them. We popped the box outside and when our lesson finished we found the bird had flown away safely! I'll get my fan... 

How do I look?! Yoga beginner here... 

How do I look?! Yoga beginner here... 

We set up for our yoga in the living room which provided plenty of space for me on my mat and Fleur to practise in front of me. Fleur let me use a Yogi2Me non-slip mat cork on top of my own (they’re total gorgeous, have a look here). 

After setting up a little speaker with some music Fleur got straight into the yoga. I had a fantastic session, here are my three take-aways from the class:
 

1. Yoga words aren't so scary - and vinyasa might be my favourite

Fleur told me afterwards what we did was a Vinyasa Flow session. I know zero about yoga and all these seemingly intimidating terms. But 'vinyasa' might well have become my favourite (only!) yoga word. Here's a little description from verywell.com:

“Vinyasa, also called flow because of the smooth way that the poses run together, is one of the most popular contemporary styles of yoga. It's a broad classification that encompasses many different types of yoga, including ashtanga and power yoga.

Vinyasa is also the name of a move and something I am so glad I learned before I went to Soul Circus because every instructor used the phrase "and take your vinyasa of choice." More on that in the second instalment here

Fleur showed me how to do a vinyasa properly so I felt confident going into the weekend. There's a little breakdown of how to do the move on the Yoga Outlet website here. 

Downward dog - you knew that one already, right?! 

Downward dog - you knew that one already, right?! 

 

2. You don't breathe out like you do at the gym

In the world of gym classes (which is where I usually get my sweat on!) you're constantly told to remember to breathe "in through the nose and out through the mouth." But you don't do that in yoga. 

Vinyasa yoga combines a breath with each move and I would automatically go to breathing out like I was in a kettle-bells class. Fleur taught me to exhale through the nose rather than the mouth; something more to think about which felt a little against the grain to begin with but I picked up quickly.  

 

3. Yoga is actually really hard work 

I should probably have seen it coming... but the hour class was a real work-out.

Each of the yoga positions was held just the right amount of time for me and having a 1-to-1 session made me really focus and stay determined to do everything that was asked of me.

Different from a group session where I might sneak a look at someone else and think "ahhhh they've given up - so can I!", instead working on my own with Fleur I was pushed to take and hold positions I might not have tried otherwise, including a headstand (with a lot of support!). 

 

I can't recommend a 1-to-1 yoga class more highly. It was the perfect introduction for a beginner like me to really get the techniques and positions right with someone coaching me through each step. If you're London based check out the Yogi2Me app and book yourself a class to your home or work at a time to suit you. 

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Ad disclosure: I was offered my 1-to-1 yoga class at home by Yogi2Me in exchange for an Instagram collaboration of five photos. All opinions are my own.

You can see the photos based on 'What a Yogi Eats' on my Instagram account. And check out my tofu berry puddings that were inspired by my yoga experience. I talked to Fleur about yogi food and use a new yoga word 'yama'... read more

For more yoga inspiration check out my yoga inspired board on Pinterest. 

Part two of my yoga journey heading off to Soul Circus is now live on the blog here