The word yoga means "union" in Sanskrit (an ancient Indian language). We can think of this union occurring between the body, mind and spirit.
In classes we use Yoga in the form of physical poses (asanas) breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation to achieve physical and mental wellbeing.
Anyone can practise yoga! All too often we hear people saying "Yoga?! But I can't even touch my toes!" Yoga is not about being super bendy or super flexible, it is about working with your own body and your own mind to achieve unity. Yoga is about what it feels like, not what it looks like and everyone will feel different in every posture.
Ashtanga Vinyasa style yoga is a dynamic form of yoga that focuses on postures (asanas), breathing and focus (dristhi or gaze point). The practice moves through a sequence of postures which aim to co-ordinate breath with movement and help to purify the body, nervous system and mind.
Regular practice builds up strength and stamina, improves posture, cleanses the body of toxins, improves circulation, and lets the energy (prana) run efficiently throughout the body. The Ujjayi breathing or 'victorious' breath used during the practice calms the mind and the nervous system and helps us focus internally.
Yoga is about becoming aware of your own body and using this awareness to identify what your body needs and to practise safely.