Alison the Founder of Kutira Yoga shares her insights and poses with Fit Fab 50 plus…
Author of this article: Alison Edwards the Founder of Kutira Yoga.
Have you ever had a look at any #yoga type links on Instagram? If you have, I wouldn’t blame you if you have been scared off completely. Endless pictures of young 20 somethings holding impossible yoga poses against a dreamy backdrop from their travels around the world. Alternatively, in their home yoga studio with an extremely cute small dog alongside them. Until I started my IG site, I didn’t realise that all this was out there.
Then I think back to my Friday evening Yin Yoga class at my local no-frills gym, that is such a tonic at the end of the working week. 30 people running in after their hard weeks, men and women, 18 to 80 years old, cyclists who are about to do a 60 mile ride the next day, marathon runners, ladies who lunch, people advised to do yoga by a doctor, people using yoga to get over a serious injury, tattooed, overweight, some extremely stretchy and flexible and some who groan and shriek at every new move.
This is more like the old yoga joke – yoga is 30 people in a class for an hour trying not to fart!
I absolutely can’t knock the IG yoga community that I now find myself in though. It is friendly, supportive, and quite wonderful. I have offers of hospitality from yoginis around the world if I travel near them, I receive positive feedback on my attempt at poses that might fall quite short of the ideal, yoga challenges bring new contacts and push me way outside my comfort zone, opening up new ideas of yoga areas I can develop into.
“It’s not about being good at something, it’s about being good to yourself”
The reality is, there are so many different types of yoga and so many variations of poses it’s really there for everyone who wants it. There are no textbook poses, it’s not a competitive sport and every yogi or yogini is on a journey, experiencing the benefits of regular practice and seeing the freedom this provides their bodies and enjoying the progress they can make in poses over time.
Tadasana - Mountain Pose
This is a deceptively strong pose, with your feet firmly placed on the floor, your legs and core strong and your arms straight overhead. Try to relax your shoulders as these should not be up around your ears.
If you put your hands together over your head and bend back slightly you have a fantastic salute to the sun that can be done early in the morning.
How did you get into Yoga?
Quite by accident really.
I have always liked the idea of things that relate to yoga – meditation, joss sticks, India, short dabbles into Buddhism, you know the thing. But when I joined a gym about 15 years ago, I ran across a class and decided to give it a go. I was well into my 40s at this time and I had put my back out very seriously about 5 years previously, so I was very nervous about doing anything to reverse the progress I had been making and was still experiencing on and off pain from my back.
I also have joint hypermobility, which means that I need to strengthen the muscles around my joints to support the joints. This means some gym exercises and equipment that play heavily on the use of certain joints cause me pain.
“Yoga doesn’t take time – it gives time”
Yoga was a revelation. The ability to do a class, to my own ability, with clear explanations and no competition other than with myself, was amazing. You use your own bodyweight to build strength, it seems gentle, but is massively beneficial and over the course of time since my first foray into yoga, I have moved from that Iyengar class to my regular Yin class and now I am at the point where my back is not a concern other than I want to know how I can increase its flexibility so I can do some more advanced yoga poses.
I am 57 now and feel fitter than I have done in years. I think anyone in their 50s will have certain injuries or aches and pains. If not, if you don’t, please let me know, I would love to hear from you and find out how you did it!
But age is just a number when the 80-year-old in my class can do the splits whilst the rest of us just look on in awe, then this is made quite clear!
Vrikshasana - Tree Pose
This is a great pose for balance, so long as you are on one leg, it doesn’t need to be as high as mine is and can be resting against your calf. Just don’t rest it against your knee.
Likewise, hands can be in prayer pose at your heart and not over your head. Advanced yogis (or surfers as we have in Scarborough) can do this with eyes closed, bending backward, twisting and it can be very impressive. I can turn sideways, but not when my husband is taking photos as he makes me laugh!
How do others get started?
Simple – find a local class and go along.
They usually last 45 minutes to an hour; wear something comfortable and stretchy, take a mat if you have one, but gyms do have their own you can use and you will be able to borrow blocks and straps. Classes can get booked up and quite difficult to get into at first, but be persistent, nobody with a regular place can get to every single class and it is often possible to get on a waiting list in case of cancelations.
There are also numerous videos on YouTube, that you could use to give yourself an idea. I love Sarah Beth Chapman and Boho Beautiful. (The latter is one of the thin and blond yoginis on a beach, but her yin yoga videos are great!) I haven’t tried Yoga with Adrienne although she is extremely popular currently (she has a small dog). Have a look at a few and see what you think. Everyone has different styles and some you will like, others you won’t.
“Yoga isn’t about touching your toes, its about what you learn on the way down”
As I have mentioned I do a Yin class, however, another one at a local gym that I attend occasionally is just Yoga, with no label. In case you have a choice and several classes to attend here is a quick explanation of the main types of yoga that you are likely to find.
Yin: This is a slow-paced form of yoga with poses based on the traditional asanas that can be held from 30 seconds to 20 minutes. It involves positions that stretch connective tissue, that you can breathe into and extend over the time you hold them and in this way also makes fascia more flexible.
(Fascias over time become inflexible and that is what can decrease mobility as people age).
Iyengar: Another type of yoga that involves holding poses for longer periods of time, whilst extending into them as you hold and breathe.
Lockdown measures have left us socially isolated, anxious, and in some cases, unemployed. But never a group to give up, the 50-plus crowd has found creative solutions to the pandemic’s difficulties.
Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog
You will find this pose used regularly at yoga sessions. Hands should be strong with the weight in the palms and fingers, get your hips high, and let your head hang between your arms.
Feet can be flat on the floor (I wish!) or as far as is comfortable towards the floor
Hatha: In Sanskrit, Hatha is an umbrella term for all yoga positions and this can be a good starter form of yoga as it is usually slower than other types. It will introduce you to classic yogic breathing.
Ashtanga: Is a strenuous form of yoga that uses dynamic systems that coordinate breathing and movement and very often incorporating vinyasa flow that is explained below. It will balance strength and flexibility
Vinyasa Flow: Movement coordinated with the breath, a variety of poses, sometimes held for short periods of time, linked into flowing movement and repetition. Possibly the most athletic of all types of yoga.
Kundalini: Yoga more linked with meditation, chanting, and spirituality. Core work with fast-moving postures and breathing exercises.
Bikram: This is the hot one – in rooms heated to about 41%c – therefore not for the faint-hearted and not for beginners. There are 26 poses – 24 asanas (I will explain this below) one pranayama or breathing exercise and one shatkarma, which is a purification, I have never done anything like this and I think rather than going to a gym in a temperature that replicates the Indian climate I would rather try yoga in an Indian yoga centre and experience the real feeling that this can create!
What are Asanas?
Asanas are body postures which were originally seated and used for meditation but have become more varied as time progressed to include any type of pose, whether standing, inverted, twisting and balancing. I have seen that there can be up to 84 of these but looking at 8 basic asanas that will help you at the beginning of your yoga journey, I am demonstrating these below.
“Yoga gives our body freedom. We are flowers – it enables us to blossom”
All these poses come under the category of strength building. Most use the core to hold the pose, most use strong legs and foot posture. I am demonstrating them and giving a bit of information about each one, but explain in much greater detail how to do them on my Instagram and Facebook site. Also, in my blog, which focuses on various angles of how yoga can benefit everyone.
Trikonasana - Triangle Pose
Triangle pose is one of my favourites. The main thing to remember is when you bend from the side, your back should be straight, heart open and you don’t rest on the downward hand. This hand can be where mine is or balanced on a block, but it is your abs, not the hand that take the weight.
Naukasana - Boat Pose
As you can imagine, the boat pose is great for abs. Don’t push your legs to straighten beyond the point where your abs are holding you and not your back.
As a starter, bend your knees, wrap your arms around your bent legs, lean back slightly so your feet come off the floor and you have a particularly good beginning ab strength pose.
Kursiasana - Chair Pose
From Mountain Pose, sit down. Pretend there is a chair in place, but there isn’t!
Keep your back straight and ideally, you should be able to see your toes beyond your knees when you look down.
This is great for leg strength.
Author of this article: Alison Edwards the Founder of Kutira Yoga.
I hope you have found all this interesting. Yoga is a great world to be part of, great exercise, friendly people, peaceful and relaxing.
Don’t forget, “Yoga puts years on your life and life in your years!”