Yoga is not only great for fitness and flexibility, but it can also help you lead a fuller and happier existence.
Julie Smerdon owner of Shri Yoga says she first started dabbling in yoga in the early 1990s when a life-long battle with an autoimmune illness culminated in heart surgery and the removal of her colon within five weeks of each other.
“That, combined with the shocking death of my mum at age 59 a short time later left me so shattered both physically and emotionally that I was literally unable to take a shower without lying down to rest in the middle,” Julie says.
“It was the darkest time of my life. At one of the gyms where I worked there was a yoga teacher who had been classically trained. She showed me the simplest things with gentle movement and breath and I was blown away by the impact they had on how I felt.
“I couldn’t get enough, and in the end I knew that yoga was largely responsible for my recovery, both physically and emotionally. Once I was ready to work again, I knew I had to share this amazing practice and found a teacher training course.”
Julie says no other style of exercise can compare to yoga, as it’s so much more than working out; it filters into every aspect of your life.
“After you practice your senses are heightened, and your experience of the world is sweeter because of it. Your capacity to relate to everything and everyone in your life with more compassion and clarity is enhanced, because you are thinking and responding and making decisions from a perspective that’s been refreshed. You feel expanded and whole and better and you begin to relate to the world from this place of feeling good.”
“For me personally, the biggest benefit has been the shift I’ve noticed in how I relate to myself, to the people in my life and to the world. Yoga has taught me to love my battered body. I feel more alive and more connected to myself and others. Yoga is a holistic practice that gives you the sought-after physical benefits of flexibility and fitness, and, whether you intend it or not, impacts you on a deeper level as well.”
Julie says daily practice is non-negotiable. Here Julie takes us through the poses she does every day to wake up and welcome the world…
“Start with some gentle warm-ups, Child’s Pose, Cat/Cow and Downward Facing Dog, ending in Tadasana (Mountain pose) with some shoulder stretches and arm swings.”
“Next do two to three rounds of gentle Surya Namaskar (sun salutations), really focusing on breathing with each movement. Handstands are a GREAT energiser - Kick up a couple of times and hold it at the wall or in the middle of the room. Challenging yourself by timing your holds is really fun!
“Standing Poses are really grounding and they get you anchored in your body after sleep. My favourites for morning are Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2), which is one of the most grounding standing poses.”
“I also love a variation of Anjanayasana (with the back lifted it’s called Crescent Lunge), Prasarita Paddotanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend), Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose).
“After standing poses hit the floor for some core work. Navasana (Boat Pose) is great, and you can drop back to Ardha Navasana and come back up to Navasana several times to spice things up.”
“Eka Pada Bhekasana (Sphinx Pose with a Thigh Stretch) is both a backbend and a great opener for thighs and hip flexors.
“From there do the Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) or a deeper backbend like Urdvha Danurasana (Wheel Pose), followed by Pigeon Prep and a seated twist like Ardha Matsyendrasana.”
“I end my morning practices with a time of meditation. Movement and breathing are great preparations for that.”
Visit the Shri Yoga City or Teneriffe studio to get your technique right before you tackle these poses at home.