PEOPLE across Gwent are using yoga techniques to help them keep fit and supple and manage their stress, as KEILIGH BAKER found out.
THERE is an outdated misconception surrounding yoga involving hippies and houmous.
The reality is yoga is more a way of life – a philosophy which encourages the calming of the mind and the refocusing of energy, which is particularly relevant now more than ever.
In the time-poor, work-heavy days of the average nine to five, despite our best efforts it can often seem we are living to work, rather than working to live.
In Britain in particular, work-related stress is on a consistent upward trajectory. Yet in Gwent, yoga classes are seen as an increasingly popular way for people to detach themselves from the stress of their hectic lifestyles.
In Monmouthshire and Newport in particular there are a myriad of different yoga teachers detaching different types of yoga and across Gwent in general there are any number of classes to suit everyone.
In 2012, workers in the UK took an average 5.3 days off work in 2012, according to the 2013 CBI/Pfizer Fit for Purpose survey, with stress, anxiety and depression given as the main causes of absence.
So the sense of well-being, renewed focus and calmness that comes after a yoga session is not something to be sniffed at.
There is a different type of yoga for every age, fitness level and size, from Bikram and Ho yoga to Ashtanga and Vinyasa.
One of the most popular types of yoga practices is Hatha yoga. Hatha Yoga is perfect for beginners as there is a lot of focus on breathing – you may not think you need help breathing but the techniques you learn can be applied to everything from helping you to sleep better to stressful situations in your life. Furthermore they are perfect for helping you to clear your mind and establishing a sense of calm.
Liz Davies is a Newport-based yoga instructor. She has practised yoga since she was 18. In 2005 she completed The British Wheel of Yoga Teaching Diploma Course. The British Wheel of Yoga is recognised by the Central Council for Physical Education (CCPR) and Sport England as the National Governing Body for Yoga.
Ms Davies teaches Hatha yoga, and all her classes start with a short relaxation and breathing exercise before moving onto posture (asana) work and finishing with breathing (pranayama) exercises and a final relaxation/meditation.
She is keen to emphasise that yoga is for everyone, and tailors her classes so that they are suitable for all students no matter their age, fitness level, flexibility or weight.
She even gives modifications for each posture to students if necessary as they progress on their own.
Ms Davies says she draws her influences from many teachers and different styles of yoga from all around the world. She keeps her teaching evolving as she constantly strives to bring a fresh awareness to her students. Therefore, she says no two sessions are ever the same, but every week is different with a common thread running through all the classes.
She said: “There are a lot of different types of yoga and different teachers teach in different ways – it’s a matter of finding one which suits you.
“Yoga is not about being a human pretzel. Yoga is more about standing on your own two feet than standing on your head. And it’s the sort of thing you can do until you drop off your peg.”
Ms Davies has been teaching yoga for seven or eight years . A former garden designer, she is inspired by nature and when the weather is nice will take her classes out into her garden, which she opens to the public when it’s warmer. She also has a small studio in her garden where she teachers beginners and private lessons.
Ms Davies says she teachers Hatha yoga, looking at it from a Western perspective.
She said: “I’m drawn towards the rhythm of nature and working with the spine, which she believes goes well with her passion for gardening.
Ms Davies teaches the Scaravelli style of yoga, invented by Vanda Scaravelli, who was an Italian teacher, originally trained by Iyengar. She went on to develop her own unique approach which she described as ‘awakening the spine’. As a result, Ms Davies has been invited to Italy to teach there.
She said: “A lot of people come to my classes because they are very stressed and tell me they need to learn how to relax. That’s one of the main reasons they come – how to relax and take a step back from life.
“With this misconception of yoga, people don’t realise how it makes your body stronger. It’s a really good way of strengthening the body. The breathing exercises help you to relax and still the mind and connect with the inner self.”
Ms Davies believes in stilling the mind and body as it helps people to focus and relax, and rather than slowing you down, it actually helps people to focus on what is important in their lives.
Her favourite type of yoga is Ashtanga. She said: “It’s a really good work out,” she said. “It makes you very strong and supple. Some people are born supple and some people are not.
“That’s why it is important to listen to your body and find the stillness within you. It’s a long journey but it does change you for the better.”
At the end of her classes, Ms Davies encourages the class to relax for a few minutes before they head back to their hectic lives.
“People do not often get the chance to lie there and just do nothing,” she said. “Your mind is constantly going all over the place, so in many ways this is the hardest position of all – just trying to quieten and calm your mind, and observe your thoughts without judgement.”
Ms Davies holds classes every Monday and Tuesday from 6.30pm to 8pm at St Basil’s Church Hall in Bassaleg. She also runs classes for complete beginners on Sundays.
For more information or to book, visit www.lizdaviesyoga.com or call 01633 894057.