Stretch your way to happiness

Feeling down, stressed or unfit? Yoga could be the easy answer, says Gabrielle Fagan

IT’S easy to assume that yoga is simply a fashionable pastime for celebrities who hanker to contort their bodies into weird shapes.

Lawyer Jonathan Sattin was worried about his health and stress levels but the only action he took was having an occasional herbal tea and relying on regular games of football to flush out toxins from drinking 14 mugs of coffee and smoking 40 cigarettes a day.

All that changed the day he was persuaded to go to a yoga class.

“I knew somehow on that first class that yoga was the key. I began practising once a week and slowly, without my noticing, my life began to change,” says Sattin, co-author with Victoria Woodhall of Everyone Try Yoga: Finding Your Yoga Fit.

“Within weeks, I’d given up cigarettes and coffee. I felt sharper and more focused and I started feeling able to trust my instincts as a lawyer.”

Finally, 12 years ago, he set up Triyoga, a chain of centres teaching yoga and pilates.

“You don’t need to be a supple, size six, 25-year-old female who eats tofu. It’s for everyone — including the stressed-out parents, the desk-bound workers, and those who play sports but paradoxically can’t touch their toes.”

The book, accompanied by a DVD, gives a guide to the myriad different yoga styles, from fast-paced Ashtanga yoga, to Bikram, as well as its many more gentler forms.

A healthy punch

Many scientific studies have validated yoga’s anti-ageing benefits, including the Lifestyle Heart Trial undertaken by San Francisco cardiologist Dr Dean Ornish.

He found that in a group of advanced heart patients, a combination of yoga and a low-fat diet could help shrink the fatty plaque deposits which were progressively blocking their coronary arteries.

Stress buster

Yoga helps us relax and one of the secret weapons that distinguishes it from most other forms of exercise is the breathing.

“The breath is perhaps the most important tool in yoga practice,” says Dr Timothy McCall, a contributor to the book.

Kick bad habits

Yoga makes you want to do what’s good for you by waking up your ability to feel your body, says Dr McCall.

“I can tell people as a doctor, Don’t eat that, it’s bad for you’, but when it comes from your own body, that’s extremely motivating.”

- Everyone Try Yoga: Finding Your Yoga Fit by Victoria Woodhall with Jonathan Sattin, Kyle Books, priced €17.12. It includes a yoga DVD.


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