Did you see what I did there with the title of the blog ? No ? Didn't get it ? Ok I'm making a statement that the item in the photo is the best yoga mat in the world , except it ain't no yoga mat - you dig? It is in fact a zafu more commonly known as a meditation cushion. And not a rectangular shaped piece of fabric that one would use to bust out some yoga postures on. So what gives I hear you say - what on earth am I on about ... Well I guess I'm having a little fun mainly at the expense of the interpretation of a famous yoga scripture 'The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali'. The Yoga Sutras is the bible for Ashtanga Yoga students like myself - I've read it a bunch of times , never quite grasped it but persevered with it - mainly due to the fact that when I stated practicing Ashtanga all my peers would wax lyrical endlessly about it. Anyway I don't want to open the can of worms debate about The Sutras having naff all to do with physical yoga postures -and is actually an esoteric instruction manual for meditation allegedly written by some bloke called Patanjali in the second century  - I'll leave that to the yoga academics and their pals. What actually interests me a lot more these days is why there aren't more people practicing meditation. It kind of dawned on me that folk are either lazy or impatient or perhaps a little of both - I know I'm both. The late great Ashtanga Yoga Guru Sri K Pattabhi Jois would say that all types of people could practice Yoga - fat, thin, tall, small, old, young even poorly people ! The only folk who couldn't practice Yoga he would say are 'lazy people'. But what about meditation - coz basically all one has to do is 'sit down and shut up' ( as my Zen teacher Brad Warner would say) that might be a bit of a struggle if you're a chatterbox or you've got a boil on your backside but other than that it's a sinch ! So why can't people do it ? It can change your life for the better - it changed my life immeasurably. I think the problem lies in my above statement about people being impatient. When you start practicing yoga the benefits are so much more tangible - you might not even be able to see your toes when you start. But after a few short weeks of practicing the postures you are able to start touching your knees, then shins then 'hallelujah' toe touching happens ! With meditation you can be practicing for like ages and it feels like absolutely nothing is happening , impatience sets in and the next thing you are putting the following advert on eBay...
For Sale 1 Zafu like new - might be broken as my life didn't get better after a ten minute meditation session.
But the thing is , things are happening - but very subtly. It's hard to see it at first it's a bit like one of those puzzles where you have a picture hidden in lots of dots and you have to adjust your eyesight to see the picture- well same same ( but different !). Meditation is a practice that has to be done every day - like brushing your teeth. So don't delay sit down and shut up and meditate today !   If you're interested in starting meditation Yoga Manchester is now hosting '1 day introduction to meditation' workshops - the next one is on Saturday 18th March - click this link for more information.   Matt Ryan teaches Yoga and Meditation at Yoga London Club.      
Yoga Manchester are very excited to announce details of an annual sponsor a child link with the amazing Operation Shanti charity in Mysore, South India. As many of you know Yoga Manchester's chief Yogi Matt Ryan has worked with Operation Shanti over the past 10 years or so - raising money via charity events and also helping out at the charity's H.Q. Karunya Mane Orphanage when he makes his annual pilgrimages to Mysore to study at the KPJAYI. In 2014 Matt received ambassador status at the charity - he called this honour  'the single most important achievement I've ever made in my life ' .   prajwal operation shanti charity So for the next 12 months Yoga Manchester will be sponsoring 12 year old break-dancing genius Prajwal. The money  will help to pay for the his educational needs, basic daily living, and medical expenses. Read Prajwal's letter to Matt below. For more information on Operation Shanti please click here to go to their website.   prajwal operation shanti charityprajwal operation shanti charity prajwal operation shanti charity
Popularised by Winston Churchill, the Black Dog metaphor for depression is a powerful image for this most disabling of mental health conditions. With spring nearly sprung, the sun is coming out and there is lightness of step again after the long grey of the Manchester winter. So let’s lengthen the leash a little on the Black Dog of depression and run him around the metaphorical park through the metaphorical daffodils. This blog has been harder to write than my previous one on anxiety. Anxiety is full of energy, albeit misplaced energy with an inappropriate direction. There is a certain dynamism to anxiety, which when redirected can turn around quite quickly. Depression is more like an oil tanker (I know I am mixing my metaphors but indulge me…). It is much slower to react and to readjust. Sitting heavy and low in the water the captain knows to change direction; the steering wheel is on full lock but it is aeons later that the most imperceptible shifts start to happen. So how to make those changes when feeling overwhelmed, sapped of energy and crushed by the weight of depression? Well as a GP I have discussions about depression all the time, perhaps even on a daily basis. People use a variety of strategies to cope. Increasingly they choose to get on their yoga mats. One of my patients suffering with depression, let’s call him Winston, has given the gift of sharing his experiences and talks about how yoga has helped him. Winston’s Black Dog is a heavy, shaggy, energy-sapping mutt. He never noticed him creeping into the room but once the Dog is there he resides resolutely on the mat immovable and stubborn. He is brooding, resentful and passive. His negativity wafts around and is tangible not just to Winston but also to all those around him. So without going into all the gruesome details, Winston has had his fair share of the usual interventions for depression. Medication, talking therapies, self-help materials, boundary setting and hiding under the duvet for weeks on end… They all have their place and sometimes a combination thereof was required. But for Winston, getting on his yoga mat has become his therapeutic intervention of choice. When depression bites the world closes in. He couldn’t imagine coping with all the responsibilities of daily life. But after trial and error with a variety of depression busting methods, he came to understand that what works for him, is to get himself onto a yoga mat. Even the simplest of tasks in this mind state can be daunting. The thought of doing a full session of practice seemed overwhelming. So Winston didn’t approach it with such goals in mind. He just used the yoga as a framework to stand, to breathe then to move through one posture at a time. Soon he’s linking postures together and things start to flow. He gets just as far as he gets, with no self-recriminations.  But as time goes by his motivation to do a deeper practice starts to grow and the sessions get longer. While he is on the mat moving and breathing, his Black Dog depression is temporarily banished. So Winston explains “I feel good when actually doing my yoga practice, but initially my mood slides away and it feels like I am back to square one by the next morning”. But experience tells him that he is not back to square one. As he does his practice day by day, his dark mood lifts little by little, confidence grows and the changes move off the yoga mat into his day to day. For Winston, the act of bashing out a few sun salutations gets him on his way. The discipline of yoga pays dividends over time.  It is by no means a quick fix. Just like the slow-to-turn oil tanker, the practice of yoga can steer you back to a healthy balanced mind and perspective. It might take weeks or months but trust that it always will. The Black Dog can be turned into a down-dog and maybe even an up-dog.      
Dr Matt Joslin’s open letter calling upon the NHS to put yoga on prescription had me banging my fist on the table and saying, “Yes, yes yes!” Not because I see yoga as the panacea to treat all health ailments or because I want more students (although that’s always nice). Rather, I know first hand how empowering the practice of yoga is and the transformation that occurs physically and mentally. Let’s look around our current situation. Obesity is sky rocketing and resulting illnesses such as diabetes, heart problems, cancers are following suit. On the other side of the spectrum, eating disorders such as anorexia amongst teenagers and young adults are increasing with the mental effect of such illnesses diminishing vitality and health both now and in later life. Depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia - most of us have been afflicted by at least one of these states at some point in our lives and we have to face up to the fact that in large part, these have occurred through the life choices we’ve made. My partner, Christoph Seiland, who is a yoga teacher and doctor recalled his year in vascular surgery. Involving the amputation of feet, hands, and limbs, he said that nearly all patients lying on the operating table was there because of the choices they had made. It may seem like an extreme example, but the snowball effect of one single choice can result in chronic poor health. As I write this now, overworked junior doctors have gone one strike for the first time in 40 years against a proposed contract that will see them working longer and harder. It’s easy to blame the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for imposing such a contract, and sure most of the blame lies at his Whitehall Door, however, what about us? What can we do? Let’s start by looking after ourselves, treating our wonderful bodies with the full respect they deserve. And this is where yoga comes in. In yoga, we have a mat and a body. We listen intimately to the signals of the body conveyed through muscles or the breath, and we learn to see the discrepancy between what the mind tells us is and isn’t possible and what we are actually able to do. No machines required, the mat can be rolled out at any time, simply manipulating the body to create leverage, weight bearing, and cardiovascular elements. Slowly we cotton on to how bloody brilliant the body is, regular practice takes our hands closer to our toes, and we realise that our volition pays dividends as vitality from within and not an outside substance leaves us feeling lighter, more alert, and most importantly, empowered to make more beneficial choices. It is this empowerment to make the right choices that cuts through the snowball effect of choices that lead to bad health, and ultimately a strain on NHS services. Whilst living and teaching in Berlin, I noticed a huge contrast to the UK: people are generally leaner and are willing to invest in their health regardless of their income. Recognising the health and mental benefits of yoga, the German health insurance companies (private and state run) reimburse almost 80 percent of the yoga class fee every year or two years. For them, the reimbursement acts as a preventative measure and helps to reduces the costs of hospital stays and treatments - this is probably a huge factor in why so many people in Berlin practised or taught yoga! I truly believe that optimum health starts from within, and whilst yoga certainly does not make us immune to ill health, it does make us more empowered to be aware of what we are saying yes and no to, and provides a space in which to offer ourselves respect, love, and vitality. We have one body and one life, it is up to us how we choose to live it. #PrescribeYoga    
Dear NHS, When I write to the National Health Service, really I am appealing to you as its users. But you users are also the care providers, administrators, managers and policy shapers. In this country our health service is part of the lifeblood of society. I am proud to be part of that despite the current challenges facing us. So many of the news stories about the NHS currently sadden me. Services are cut back, patients are let down by the system, individual health care workers are overwhelmed and stretched to breaking point. The health of the nation raises cause for concern and we reflect on the trend of living longer but with doubt over the quality of that life in our more senior years. There are many ways that we as a society and providers of health care could address these problems and I want to bring Yoga to the table as an intervention on an individual and public health level that offers positive and sustainable improvements to health across the board. Before scepticism prevents you from reading further, please consider the following. On a personal level I came across yoga 15 years ago to help me with back pain. My terrible posture and lack of exercise due to most of my week being spent sat at a desk was taking its toll. Subsequent to this I suffered a bout of depression, which nearly resulted in my leaving the medical profession. Unexpectedly, I found that rather than the well-pushed interventions of talking therapies and medication, it was my yoga practice that sustained me and helped me get back on track. As time goes by the many facets of yoga practice become more apparent to me. It is so much more than just exercise and now, with confidence from personal experience I recommend yoga to my patients. Every day in my job as a GP I think of the potential of Yoga. Yoga could have a positive impact on almost every health related situation that comes into my consulting room. It comes up in discussions about weight loss, anxiety, back pain and depression, pregnancy, cancer, cardiovascular health and ageing. I could go on. The more I consider the role yoga has for an individual person coping with a particular health concern, the more I see the potential for Yoga to become a public health intervention that society could opt for to bolster the health of the nation. From a public health perspective, if a Think Tank was trying to devise an intervention that had potential to improve physical and mental health parameters across all age ranges with great accessibility and appeal, with little outlay for the individual in set up costs, I challenge you to find a better intervention than Yoga. I want to see whether there is a way to marry the amazing healing sustaining practice that is Yoga with the services offered by the NHS. The NHS already sends people to the gym and to swimming pools. Find me a physiotherapist who doesn’t think yoga is a good idea. It is time yoga became the default option to get people moving, improve strength, flexibility and posture and while you’re at it, to bring a helping of mindfulness to promote mental health. This idea has credibility is gaining momentum. Just last autumn The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group reported on the evidence and best practice of mindfulness. It plans to develop policy recommendations for Government with respect to applications in health, education, the workplace and the criminal justice system. Mindfulness is an integral part of Yoga, which has the potential to offer yet more benefits in those domains than just mindfulness alone. Yoga is not new to the UK. Manchester in particular has very strong links to the yoga tradition with international expertise. The yoga infrastructure here grows year on year. Should the users of the NHS wish it, we can capitalise on this base of expertise and offer it as tool to improve health care. Essentially I am asking you to consider offering Yoga on prescription. GPs have been put centre stage in the process of commissioning services. What strikes me is that in this process we should be representing the needs and wishes of the community when commissioning a service. This is a unique opportunity for you, as consumers of the NHS to have a voice and help shape a service if you want to. Share this letter via any medium you choose. Open up the debate. Do you see a role for yoga in your health care? Do you have questions or reservations? If you show your interest and get a conversation going, we can encourage the NHS to drive this forward. I truly believe in this idea. I hope you see its potential too. Yours Sincerely Dr Matt Joslin GP Manchester
Being a GP gives me the very special privilege of being a fellow traveler for a time in people’s lives. This perspective has allowed me to reflect on the diversity of joy and challenge that life may bring, and that if we choose, there is a place for yoga in all facets of our personal journeys. I may see you in my consulting room to manage minor ailments, or in your own home when you are brewing appendicitis. In previous incarnations as a junior doctor I will have seen you in hospital clinics to optimize your diabetes and on the wards while you were having dialysis. I have delivered babies and had afternoon tea in nursing homes. When the time comes I may be invited to be there in your final hours. All these places invite yoga. Sometimes it may be the jumpy invigorating energetic kind. Oftentimes it is the more reflective mindful aspect that fits the situation. Nevertheless every health related encounter strikes me as having elements where a perspective of yoga can help. So this last week, with my patients, I have found myself inquiring “have you considered yoga to help with that?” This line of questioning wasn’t planned. I wondered if asking would seem contrived, but so many situations cried out for the question to be asked. The answers I got have reinforced for me the concept that whether we know it or not, yoga can and should be part of all of our lives. Among many, I asked the question to these people. The new mum wanting her pelvic floor back and seeking an hours respite from the constant demands of a newborn. The surgeon in training who is constantly striving to achieve more yet wonders why he feels anxious. In addition he struggles with poor posture and gets back pain when standing for long period in the operating theatre. The retired university lecturer who has just been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer and is looking for a strategy to help with her sadness and navigate the uncertainties ahead. If allowed and embraced, yoga can be a constant presence in our lives. The practice itself being resilient to the passage of time, yet subtly changing emphasis depending on the needs of the individual. For me this yoga practice is my time machine. In my younger days the physicality of the postures was to the fore, freeing up my stiff body. Currently the same yoga gives me endurance and commitment to keep me in good shape for the years to come. It is also introducing me to a mindful way of being. I hope that this time machine in the future will have helped to preserve my joints and strength yet also will have given me clarity of thinking when the mind otherwise begins to dim. The health of the nation is in everyone’s thoughts. The NHS is taking a battering and we are all rightly worried about whether we can afford the looming medical bill as the nation ages. There are always new medical advances to help with particular illnesses. But sometimes the old ways are the best. Yoga can play the role of prevention and alleviation. It is not problem specific, indeed there doesn’t even need to be anything to fix. Yoga can just be a companion, cradle to grave should we choose. Many of you know this about yoga already. If so share the message. Bring a friend to class, encourage family members to try yoga, or revisit your own practice if it has slipped a little. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain.    
So after my last blog ‘The Supreme Ashtanga Yoga’ my wife asked me the question, ‘So why do you practice Ashtanga ?’ Her emphasis was on the ‘why’ and to be honest she knows 100 % why I do Yoga. But her point I guess was that I often write about how amazing Ashtanga Yoga is and how I always bang on about its many physical and mental attributes but I’ve never really gone into too much detail about exactly why I practice. Yes I’ve mentioned I’ve struggled in the past with anxiety and stuff which led me to the mat but I’ve never been so open about what those anxieties were exactly. So here goes. In my late teens I used to do this very strange thing of starring at myself in a mirror- for long period of times. Now yes you might think that the words teenager, mirror and long periods of time is not strange at all but perfectly normal. Except I wasn’t checking my hair out or how many spots I had or even pretending to be Johnny Marr. I was ‘freaking’ myself out – literally going ‘through the looking glass’ and finding myself in the most strangest of head spaces where I no longer felt normal or real or even like a human being- just for kicks (man!) These sensations only lasted momentarily but long enough to scare the shit out of myself, and the only way to get back to ‘normal’ again I had to go and play the guitar or watch TV – I had to distract myself out of the weirdness. I never talked to anyone about why I did this or what exactly was going on when I did do it. I used to refer to it as my mirror feelings. Fast forward a couple of years to my early twenties – I was living the night-life in Glasgow (that’s a whole other story that you don’t need to know about) I would be out every weekend living it up (I’m not going to go into too much detail about living it up , if you’re unsure what I’m talking about here google house music culture early nineties ) On the back of one particular heavy night I can only describe what happened to me as a minor panic attack. Now the minor panic attack whilst being extremely unpleasant at the time, turned out to be a walk in the park as to what was to follow. Over the following weeks I started to feel more and more strange, weird – detached from everyone including myself. Yes it was the exact same symptoms as the mirror feelings, but this time it wasn’t going away and the weirdness got worse, and worse and well before long I was in a state of complete and utter terror. Now unless you’ve ever had a panic attack or similar or perhaps a bad trip (man) then you probably have no idea what I’m talking about or can get a sense of this state of mind. This went on and on and on for weeks then months until I ended up having to move back to Manchester. I saw more psychiatrists and psychologists than you can shake a stick at – I was prescribed like a million different types of medication that did NOTHING! I even spent 3 days in the psychiatric department at Stepping Hill Hospital – no kidding – the doctors were at a loss what to do with me so they admitted me for ‘observation’. The only good thing that came out of this ‘observation’ was that I observed that I wasn’t as nuts as some people! Oh and one other thing I finally had a name for the condition I had.. it was called ‘depersonalisation’ (DP). No-one in the medical profession really knew exactly what depersonalisation was. There wasn’t any particular reason to why one person gets it and one doesn’t. A troubled childhood probably contributed to why I got it – and ‘dabbling’ with recreational illegal medicines (ok drugs!) didn’t help either. Depersonalisation Google will tell you is ‘a state in which one's thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself, or in which one loses all sense of identity’. But to be honest, that doesn’t do it justice. It is pure and simple ‘hell on earth’ I kid you not – ask any of my family or close friends. The philosopher Sartre wrote a book about it – aptly called The Filth , Hollywood made a film about it , Numb* starring Matthew Perry. If you’ve got half an hour to spare read this for the low down. So thus began a pretty awful part of my life battling with my mind. Apart from traditional western medicine I tried pretty much most eastern ones too. Acupuncture, homeopathy even drinking rain water that had been taking from Stone Circles – I kid you not. If someone had said to me ‘Hey Matt, stick these hot pins in your eyes it will help you’ I would have not even questioned it I’d be writing this blog with an eye patch. I got to the age of 30 with no clear signs of progress with either therapy or treatment when a friend suggested I try Yoga. This is absolutely true – I had no idea what Yoga was, but given that I was up for trying anything, Yoga was to be my next hopeful attempt at achieving some kind of sanity. My first class with my very first Ashtanga teacher Mike Nevitt nearly broke me – I have no idea what made me go back to be honest. Well apart from that I noticed a very small change of perspective. I think initially it was the pure physicality of the practice that helped. Depersonalisation is neither depression nor anxiety, but the utter terror it created made it a bit of both. You feel completely unreal which was very anxiety inducing which made it worse and in turn created more anxiety – a vicious circle. I remember talking to one rather patronising doctor who was asking me if I was a little depressed to which I replied ‘The only reason I’m depressed Doctor is because I’m feeling fxxking unreal’ ( Apologies for expletive but I wanted to make the quote exact). The physical nature of Ashtanga would literally wear me out, so that the anxiety had nothing to feed on. Over the next few months I started to practice Ashtanga Yoga more and more, and no it wasn’t all of a sudden life was peachy again, it was more like the feelings were slightly less intense. I remember after 6 months a friend of the family asked me what type of yoga I was doing – I literally had no idea that there were more than one type of yoga. This person had to describe a few different yoga disciplines before they started talking about this form of yoga which require a lot of jumping about – ‘That’s it’, I can remember saying ‘The jumpy one’. Within 12 months of starting Yoga I had my bags packed and was off to Mysore to study with Guruji and the rest they say is history. I wouldn’t say that Ashtanga Yoga was this miracle cure but it wasn’t far off. I still get bouts of the DP now and again but I’m ok with it – I do my practice and it helps to keep the wolf from the door. So I know I bang on a lot about Ashtanga Yoga being Supreme but there you go I think I’ve got very good reason to. That’s why I practice Ashtanga. * The director of this film Harris Goldberg also had chronic Depersonalisation and wanted to draw public attention to this little known disorder he was suffering from. In a very ironic quirk of fate the marketing ads for the film got changed from Matthew Perry (the main character in the film) having depersonalisation to him being chronically depressed as Joe Public could understand what depression was but not depersonalisation.  
1 - I was so worried about waking up early and getting up at 5am that I didn’t sleep at all the night before. I kept tossing and turning and checking the time to make sure I didn’t over sleep. By the time the damn clock actually went off, I was exhausted and in a deep comatose state. The alarm didn’t even register on my consciousness. 2- Even after a coffee, nauli and good 10 minutes doing Pashasana practice on the throne I just couldn't get my digestive system going. No pooping, no bandha , no practice. 3 - I put all my things out for Mysore the night before (so I could have an extra five minutes snoozing). It was all ready to go: yoga kit, change of clothes, towels, hair gel , keys, breakfast snack, coconut water etc etc. Well, during the night the cat must have found the interesting pile of goodies. He wreaked havoc and spread all my stuff around the apartment. It took me 2 hours to find my car keys which were eventually located behind the cat litter tray. 4 - I heard that the shala in Mysore used to be closed on a Saturday because that's the day that Pattabhi Jois and his wife would go shopping. Well I know it's Tuesday but I need to go to the Trafford Centre later and I don't want to mess with tradition. 5 - In my dreamlike state at stupid o’clock this morning I switched on the kettle which was empty. It boiled dry causing it to explode, setting off the fire alarm and fusing the whole house. I am still waiting for the electrician to arrive. 6 - I have a terrible cold. It is not the feeling unwell that’s the problem. I always try and do a little gentle practice (honest) when I am under the weather. Rather I was worried about doing pranayama whilst having such a snotty nose. I tried to do some alternate nostril breathing and I nearly suffocated myself. 7 - My new tattoo is a bit weepy and sticking to my vest top. It’s really sore reaching up to do sun salutations. I asked my tattoo artist and they advised me not to come. 8 - During the last session I sweated so much that my mat got really slippery. I accidentally dropped into Hanumanasana much further than I intended. My groins haven’t recovered yet. 9 - I need to work on my hip flexibility, open my upper back and build up a relationship with my psoas. So I decided to warm up with a few exercises I found on YouTube before coming to practice. I started at 5am with a few inspirational demos from Kino to get me in the mood, then I came across 'Pets interrupting yoga' (hilarious!) and before I knew it I was watching a cat dressed as Princess Jasmine riding a Roomba disguised as a flying carpet and then it was time to go to work. I just don't think I have time for Mysore. 10 - Last time I forgot to bring work clothes to change in to after Mysore. Immediately afterwards I had a very important meeting and presentation to give that I could not miss under any circumstances. Much to my embarrassment I had no choice but to attend in funky yoga attire. I am now suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 11 - Saturn is moving into my moon sign (I can tell because the M56 was in gridlock again and my pitta imbalance created tension in my upper trapezius). I thought it would be too dangerous to come to yoga so I went to CrossFit instead. 12 - I’ve made it to Mysore three days in a row and now all my yoga kit is sweaty and smelly. I have been so tired that I haven’t had a chance to wash it. 13 - I ate a cheese burger yesterday and now my Yamas are all in a twist. 14 - I did my first drop back yesterday and I think I've awakened the Kundalini so I don't need to come to yoga anymore. 15 - My body feels much stiffer when I practise in the morning, in comparison to the flexibility I have later in the day. I was worried that if I did intense practice too early I would overstretch and injure myself. 16 -  Yesterday in the Mysore room I saw a woman doubled over and waddling down the mat as she looked at her lady bits. It was so bizarre, I asked the teacher what she was doing and they said Titty-assana These people are taking the piss, I'm not going anymore. 17 -  My chitta vritti's were all over the place yesterday. I need to go on a retreat, somewhere warm where I can get more flexible and drink fair-trade coconuts. Then I'll be ready to come back to practice. 18 - I’m practising jump backs and jump throughs right now. Mysore made me so tired that I can’t lift up any more, so I thought I’d have a day off to recuperate. 19 -  I'm trying to balance my gunas. I just couldn't bind in Mari D yesterday and I've been able to do it for three weeks solid. What's wrong with me? I felt so rajas. When my alarm went off this morning I felt that it was best to meditate upon my current tamasic state. I think that if I balance my energies in this way I'll be feeling more sattvic by the end of Friday. 20 - Sorry teach my heart was feeling rajastic but the nerve fibres in my buttocks were in a perpetual state of tamas. My Physio did say my gluteus medius muscles were under-active. I've been on a Sanskrit course and it looks like I’ve got a severe case of Tamassic buttocks ( which loosely translates as " I can't get my arse out of bed" )   Thanks to Matt Joslin and Marie Harris.      
Balancing upside down gives a novel perspective. I like to do this frequently even though my family finds it odd and even embarrassing. For example I have been known to tip up into a headstand whilst out and about on holiday. My daughter then disowns me and extorts heavy financial compensation before she will again admit that we are related. Wall space at home gets commandeered for elbow balance and handstands; there is a tide-mark where sweaty heels have left an impression. Once the tussle with the physical unusualness of the situation settles down I do get moments of reflection. The other day whilst head standing and contemplating the fluff that had accumulated under the sofa that otherwise I would not have seen, I was thinking about how to balance. This refined itself to an awareness of balance in general. Lots of yoga is about balance. There is the obvious headstand, handstand, elbow balance thing. Initially it’s a struggle to get up and stay up. After time, when the body seems to know what it is doing some stillness may come. But you don’t have to be upside down for balance to come into play. Just standing in Samastitihi requires equanimity. Left side has to equal right side, weight evenly distributed across the toes and the heels with evenness of breathing. Apply this concept to some more challenging one-legged standing postures and awareness has to be balanced between the grounding of the standing leg and the work of the lifted leg. After spying a bit of Lego and one child’s sock under the sofa from my new vantage point, I thought some more. There is a balance required in any posture, seated, supine, standing or inverted, between the intensity of the muscle work required and the softening and release that allows you to deepen a little. In twists the attention is drawn to the side to which you turn, but this has to be balanced with the release on the other side. These subtleties are particularly important injury prevention. Overworking and overstretching can cause grumbling tendon inflammation, muscle tears or joint pains. The art is to challenge yourself beyond what is cosy and comfortable to the full capabilities of the body yet balancing this with a softening in the intensity. Taking a look at the practice of yoga as a whole there is balance to be considered here too. I notice there are times when I do more practice and other times when I do less. Life can get in the way of yoga! If I practiced every day for as many hours as I would like to, the impact of yoga on my life could swing in the wrong direction. I have a wife, children, friends, a job, colleagues and many other facets of my life to consider. If I over commit and try to squeeze in as much practice as I can, or I push and try too hard, then friction builds. My coping mechanisms for stress and worry management go out he window and trying to do yoga can become a problem in itself. I notice if I get the balance of practice right then other areas of my life jog along quite nicely. From a professional point of view, my yoga practice helps me to help my patients. The physcial health benefits aside, it is the mental composure that is one of the benefits that can have the biggest impact. Of all the hundreds of thousands of GP appointments that take place very day in the UK, more than 25% of them have a significant mental health component. Using the balance of yoga and its inherent mindful approach is one tool available to help manage the stresses, anxieties and worries that assault us all. So I’m nearly ready to come down now from my inverted perspective, but what occurs to me is that I need to turn this balance idea on its head. I am not doing yoga to learn to balance in postures that I practice in class. The lesson of balance that I achieve in my yoga practice is actually something I need to apply more widely in my life. Yoga helps me bring balance to relationships, to the intensity which I do any activity. It teaches equanimity from moment to moment.  
I am going to find it hard to limit my thinking to only 5 reasons for why you should go to a yoga class today. The more yoga I do, the more benefits I recognise. But for the sake of simplicity and for those new to the idea of yoga I’ll stick to some headlines. Hopefully if you are curious, these ideas may get you on a mat to experience the benefits for yourself. If you have an established but lapsed practice, may be this will encourage you to get back in the groove. One of the main reasons for being a doctor surely is to help people feel better. To feel better physically, emotionally, psychologically, in whatever dimension you care to evaluate. No matter what the condition, problem, illness or lifestyle we are considering here, if you can make someone feel better, that has to be a result right? So I want to shout if from the rooftops. Get to a yoga class today! And here’s why:  
  1. It just makes you feel good
Who doesn’t feel better after a yoga class? … … … … Deafening silence. After one only class, there is pretty much a cast iron guarantee that you will feel great when the session is over. Getting to class on time may be tough. You are pushed for time, shoulders and back are tight after being hunched over a desk all day. Worries about the day gone and tomorrow’s challenges are buffeting your bruised mind. Get through class and without knowing how, all these problems are dissipated. Limbs glow comfortably from the physical work and your mind sits on a cushion of calm deep steady breath. Quite rightly you can feel smug about what you have achieved. Yoga just makes you feel good.  
  1. Anyone can do yoga.
No matter your age, size, fitness level, mobility or ability; there is a Yoga Manchester class for you. You monitor your own progress at your own pace. It doesn’t matter if the person in front can get their leg behind their head. I certainly can’t. There is no goal other than your personal journey of wellbeing.  
  1. Yoga is exercise and so much more
We all know exercise is good for us right. We all know we should be doing a little more than we manage every week. Well if you can commit to more than the one class that made you feel good, then you can build on the benefits of yoga. The exercise element itself has research behind it demonstrating it to be one of the most effective ways to treat low back pain and other musculoskeletal problems. It will also help reduce weight, and to decrease your risk for heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and more. Guys, I can also tell you with confidence it reduces the incidence of erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer. That’s just the beginning of the list. For the more psychologically minded, yoga is a powerful tool to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.  
  1. There are no excuses
Other than a mat, and arguably you don’t even need one of them, very little equipment is needed. You can do yoga Martini style: “any time, any place, anywhere” (apologies to those not old enough to remember that reference). If you need some structure and motivation to get you to class then make some friends with fellow yogis. We are a welcoming crowd. The social aspect is a really important element to keep you on track.  
  1. The physical practice is a gateway to so much more.
If you get into the rhythm of working your body through the sequence of postures, changes start to happen. Self-awareness comes to the body and the breath. This may open your thinking to a more mindful perspective. Yoga can be a 100 year practice: its influence and impact grows with you. It may become a lifelong companion to help with whatever challenges cross our paths. So Yoga is an all-rounder, no-brainer amazing activity to boost your wellbeing. If you were to design a new treatment for any medical condition, physical or psychological, yoga ticks so many of the boxes. It brings exercise together with a mindful and social approach that is accessible to all. What’s not to like? Get on a mat and give it a go today.   Matt Joslin
I am proud to be a GP settled in Manchester city centre after having trained and worked in Cambridge, London and Brussels. Being a family doctor is one of the best and most varied jobs. The world with all its problems can walk through my office door and I am invited to collaborate in helping out. In recent years yoga has become an increasingly significant feature of my life. As well as getting me in the best physical shape it has helped me through stresses and depression. I attend several Yoga Manchester classes on a weekly basis. More and more I share my experience of yoga with colleagues and patients. It has become a lifelong friend.