by Emily Taylor

I started yoga practising yoga two years ago after years of telling myself I should go to a class, and I wish I’d started it sooner! Yoga has really helped me deal with stress and anxiety. It has also allowed me to become more aware of my body and its needs; allowing me to appreciate and care for it better. Along with all this I have realised the importance of having a healthy body, mind and soul, not to mention it’s so much fun!

During a yoga class the movement between the poses is linked with the breath. The focus is always on the breath, and although it may sometimes be hard, especially when you are just starting out in the practise, at times you are so focused on the class that the mind calms and worry is lost, even if it is for a moment, you get that relief. Though moving with the breath, you can feel stress being realised with each exhale. In the classes I teach, I like to tell my students to exhale any tension in the body. I tell them to bring themselves into the room and onto their mats and that nothing else matters other than the practise and the breath for the duration of the practise. To me yoga is a form of self-care; taking time out of your day to breath, find some head space and stillness within the crazy world.

A lot of people are put off from attending yoga classes because they are “not flexible enough” or “haven’t done it before so I won’t be able to follow the poses”. But I would encourage you to attend the class anyway, with continued practise, you will learn the postures and you will become more flexible. But yoga is not about being flexible, yes, it’s cool when you finally get into new and exciting poses and start to build enough strength to start trying inversion postures, but yoga is about the body and the mind working as one and can be used as a tool for relaxation as well as fitness.

Yoga is my release from the daily stresses of life and of my PhD. Regular yoga practise builds your ability to calm, focus, balance and relax yourself. All of which are really important for living healthy lives, both mentally and physically. Simply breathing allows your body to slip back into the “rest and digest” state, allowing our minds and bodies relief from the “fight or flight” state we are in when we are stressed.

So maybe next time you are feeling stressed or anxious, try taking a few breaths and a few moments of stillness. Taking this time could make all the difference.

If yoga sounds like something you would like to try, try a beginner’s class! Or I teach free yoga classes with Mind Your Head every term, so keep a look out for upcoming classes. Yoga has changed my life, maybe it could change yours too.