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I am now going into my second year of university but I have been practising yoga and meditation on and off since I was about six years old. Back then my main motivation for doing yoga was the free dried mango at the end of each class and being referred to as a ‘yogi bear’ by our kid-friendly teacher. Now, I practice yoga and meditation in order to deal with any anxiety or tension I may be carrying and as a way to switch-off for an hour during the day without taking a nap.

I am nowhere near the standard of yoga that I should be for someone who started out so young.  After trying a higher class-level, I realised that the only pose I could actually do was the downward dog whilst everyone else was in headstands. So I only attend beginners classes but as they say, yoga is very personal. However, one day I hope that I will be able to reach a higher level. Equally, meditation takes a lot of discipline and practice; a skill I am still trying to master.

There is a stigma that yoga is easy and does not require much energy, but if you ever hear someone say that, ask if they would like to join you in a hot yoga class and their opinion may change rapidly. Yoga, usually entails meditation at some point, and requires not only physical power but also can be a workout mentally which is why I believe it to be one of the only ‘full-body’ workouts you’ll find on a gym timetable.

Read more: What Are The Benefits Of Hot Yoga?

Over the past year I have made it my goal to attend at least one yoga class a week and try a home meditation practice, usually one I find on YouTube. But obviously I do have lapses and I have found that the best way to keep up is to do at least five minutes of my favourite yoga poses before listening to a calming guided meditation just before going to bed.

I have loved attending yoga classes at my gym but I have also been to some at ‘Yoga West’ which are fantastic! I have managed to try a range of different types of yoga which I will review below.

Read more: How Should You Prepare For A Yoga Class?

Yoga has improved my strength, agility and stamina which have in turn improved my level and intensity of workouts in the gym. This has translated into pretty much any activity I am doing, whether I am weight training, in a spin class or running. I have become more physically capable but also more aware of what my body is telling me, and tracking my breathing. I have found using yoga breathing techniques in the gym have made exercising and stretching easier and often less painful.

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Yoga and meditation have also really helped me reduce my levels of anxiety and stress, which were becoming a major issue for me during first year of university, and it became the perfect way to reset myself into a positive mind-frame. And therefore I feel it has not only conditioned my body but also my mind. I feel the poses are empowering and as I make progress I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in my body.

Just by adding a few yoga poses into the end of my gym sessions, I am less sore (they do act as good stretches) and feel more energised, which is worth it even if I look a little odd on the gym floor!

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Here are some of the forms of yoga and meditation classes I have tried over the past six months and my thoughts on them;

  1. Vinyasa Flow (fast-paced/fitness yoga)
  2. Yin Yoga (yoga in slow motion)
  3. Hot Yoga (detox yoga)
  4. Meditation and Mindfulness for Beginners
  5. Gong Bath (Intense Meditation)
  6. Les Mills Body Balance (a mix of yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi)

Vinyasa Flow

This is my go-to yoga class, and usually the most popular. I find it is the perfect mix of exercise and meditation. By the end of a class I feel I have worked out,  but instead of being exhausted I actually feel more energised and mentally refreshed. I would recommend this class for any beginners wanting to add yoga into their weekly workout schedule as it is perfect on its own or to compliment a post workout routine.

Yin Yoga

I think this is one of the more mentally challenging forms of yoga. Essentially, you have to hold each pose from anywhere between one to five minutes. It is tough. You really have to discipline your mind and body in order to power through and hold the poses for such a long time and maintain your focus. However, although hard, I have found this to be one of the more rewarding classes. You are able to really listen to what your body is telling you in the different poses and react accordingly. It also allows you to perfect poses and deepen them as your body relaxes into them. I would recommend this yoga class for the morning when you want to energise yourself or for the evening as more of a way to reduce any lingering stress from the day.

Hot Yoga

In all honesty, this is not my favourite. It gets sweaty. However, it is an extremely good way to help feel detoxified after a ‘cheat’ day. It makes the yoga a lot harder so would also be good for anyone who wants more of a challenge.

Meditation and Mindfulness Course for Beginners

I went along to this with my father and we both loved it! This was a two-hour masterclass teaching the basics of meditation followed by a few sequences of yoga. Before this course I had only ever meditated in yoga classes or listening to apps guiding me to reduce my stress or fall asleep. And although meditation helped me defeat my insomnia I essentially never gave meditation the attention it deserved. This course helped me grasp the basics of meditation and inspired me to add meditation into my everyday routine. The benefits are brilliant! I still meditate with guided tracks or music as I find this helps me concentrate but I would highly recommend going to a course like on their journey to mindfulness.

Gong Bath 

This was given to me as a present, and a very memorable one. I have never experienced anything like it, or felt two hours pass more quickly. It is essentially a bath of music. Leo, our brilliant instructor played a whole array of musical instruments; different gongs, a conch shell, bells …. Creating, as he explained in the introduction, binaural beats.

After the session many said they felt an almost ethereal outer-body experience, I did not feel this way, but I definitely felt I had experienced something very calming.

Les Mills Body Balance 

I absolutely love this class for a Sunday night wind-down. It allows me to explore different practices (the yoga part is still my favourite) and see how easily you can flow from one form into another. For me, this is one of the more ‘fun’ classes, as personally I don’t think it is that much of a workout (maybe I’m doing something wrong) but I do think it’s a great way to unwind and prepare my body for the week ahead. This class is perfect for anyone who wants a taster into yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi.

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By Siena Barry-Taylor

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