The art of yoga is one that is often misunderstood. The word conjures up images of people wearing items of soft cotton, breathing deeply, surrounded by incense.

An article in The Guardian recently heralded the emergence of ‘yogasms’, rather interesting sensations (ahem) that are said to occur during the practice of the warrior pose and the like.

As yet, I don’t quite understand how one would reach that particular state of nirvana whilst posing in a deep stretch position on a mat in a room full of other people, but I can vouch for the serenity and enjoyment that the practice of yoga can bring.

I learnt with horror of the existence of ‘Mother and Baby Yoga’, being unable to imagine anything less constructive than the scream of a small child during this precious hour of calm and stillness.

Yoga is an incredibly versatile discipline, being practised in many forms. Here at Sussex, there are a number of different types. Dynamic yoga differs from the more general yoga in that it focuses more on movement than breathing and relaxation. Hatha yoga is often described as ‘the yoga of postures’, whereas Yin yoga looks at strengthening the connective tissues of ligaments and tendons, and postures can be held for up to five minutes. Although this summons images of knee shaking and one footed wobbling, this enables a greater range of movement due to the fact the joints are strengthened and toned.

Common yoga postures are ‘down dog’, in which the back is arched and the balance is on the hands and feet, ‘child’, a kneeling pose that stretches the back, and ‘the tree’, balancing on one leg with the other foot resting as high as possible on it.

Hearing these bizarre terms is initially bewildering, but after a few classes, the command of ‘child into cat into down dog into pigeon’ will not seem so strange…

Although it may seem an intimidating discipline to take up, yoga is in fact one of the most rewarding forms of exercise, with marked improvements clear to see with each class taken.

You may begin being unable to touch your toes, but after a few weeks of hard work, you will surprise yourself with the positions you are capable of bending into.

At this time of year, with deadlines on the horizon and pace of study ramping up to new levels, a few hours of yoga might just stop you having a nervous breakdown. It’s proven to alleviate stress, along with many other health benefits, and if nothing else, at least your new found flexibility might allow you unlimited use of every available limb when time is on the short side.

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