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.

Where's your head at ?

‘Samastitihiii’ Guruji would bellow from the depths of his soul at the start of class, this mountainous sound reverberating around the shala in Mysore and into our hearts and minds. Just remembering being witness to this instruction from the Ashtanga Yoga Guru makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. For me Guruji’s whole personality & teachings are embodied in this simple Sanskrit phrase. The word samastitihi just means same or equal (sama) standing (stitihi) but it goes much deeper than standing up straight on your mat. I can remember going to my first couple of yoga classes and the teacher regularly castigating me for not having my feet perfectly (big toes and heels touching) together. At the time I thought he was just being a little bit anal retentive and boy oh boy I so wanted to tell him to take the bug out of his ass and leave me alone. But thankfully I never did and it was only when I started teaching yoga myself did I truly understand exactly what he meant. These days when I’m teaching I can be far, far more tetchy than my first teacher ever was with me when I see regular offenders with their feet apart. (So beware if you ever come to my class – I’ll be on your feet.) When teaching a ‘led’ class the samastitihi instruction is used plenty of times, it’s usually the first thing an Ashtanga teacher would announce –even before the opening chant. And as mentioned above the meaning goes way deeper than the physical. Once the body is in samastitihi we can then move into the realms of the mind by allowing both the inhale and exhale to express the instruction. The resonance of the inhale becoming equal to the exhale, even permitting for the pauses at the ends of the breath to do the same. When a student first comes into the class room their minds can be jumping around buzzing with thoughts about what they’ve been up to that day or what to have for dinner after class and if there’s nothing in place to for them to help drop these ‘fluctuations of the mind’ their practice becomes unfocussed from the word go. Once the body and breath are equal, all is good we are ready for practice. At the end of each sun salutation and also at the finish of each standing posture the student returns to samastitihi, making sure each time that the feet are together and the breath is equal. Sometimes in class I like to make a comparison between the cosmic mudra (the positioning of the hands) in zazen (the Zen form of meditation) and samastitihi. When sitting zazen the student places the left hand in the right hand and allows for the tips of the thumbs to touch to make an oval shape – see photo. cosmic mudra zazen zen ashtanga yoga If the thumbs ever become separate from each other it’s a good indication that the mind has drifted off into dreamland territory. Similarly if a student ever steps back to samastitihi with their feet apart to me it’s a sign that their focus has drifted off somewhere else. I remember reading about a Zen monk asking his teacher what the essence of the (zazen) practice was. ‘Attention’ came the terse reply from the teacher. Again the student asks the same question expecting perhaps a slightly more informed answer, this time the teacher ferociously repeats the same word three times ‘ATTENTION ATTENTION ATTENTION’! I.M.H.O. (yep I’m down with the social media acronyms kids) samastitihi is the yoga version of attention. The whole practice can be contained within its simplicity: the asanas are the physical expression, the breath the mind counterpart. Samastitihi is attention to a steady body, a steady breath, a steady gaze. Once we get these 3 working in union with each other we can hope for a steadier mind. A steady mind means an open mind and if you want me to get really cosmic (man) , the mind and body are mirrors for each other , so an open mind is an open heart.   Read Matt's other Experiments with Ashtanga Yoga Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4  
Well international yoga day showed that yoga can get plenty of butts on mats. The pictures of the crowd tens of thousand strong on Rajpath in New Dehli packed a punch. I think we may still have an image problem here in the West though. Ask Joe Public and I suspect candles and incense will be evoked with the impression that breaking a sweat is unheard of. Think again! What is great about yoga is that it is all-inclusive. Any one can do it at any age with any ability. Different styles suit different people so the more styles out there the better, in my opinion. Here is a style that will blow your mind. Black Yoga & Metal Yoga Bones are new movements from across the Pond. Imagine Vinyasa flow meets heavy metal. Why should your yoga practice soundtrack be restricted to OMs, waves and wind chimes? Clearly it shouldn’t. If tracks like Blood Swamp, Chanting the Low Shadow and Pale on Pale move you to salute the moon then bring it on sister. Class might start with freestyle vocalisations to release anger and inner darkness. Maybe replace your opening chant with a howl to Satan. The aim is for the practice to be grounding, uplifting of spirit and raising a sweat as Hellfire makes your muscles burn. Counter intuitively for me as a non metal-head, research from the University of Queensland showed listening to extreme music can regulate sadness and enhance positive emotions. Someone had a lot of fun doing that study. This effect coupled with a yoga practice sounds like a winning combination. This may not resonate with everyone but surely that’s the point. Some of us may feel alienated by Yoga’s real or perceived image. Step outside the confines of how you think a class ought to be presented then you may open it up to a whole new mind set and welcome new people to this amazing practice. 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.
 

Class : Vinyasa Flow Fallowfield Every Monday 7pm-8.15pm

Teacher : Lianne Daly

 

The Class

This class is held in the Holy Innocents Church in Fallowfield every Monday. Usually when a class is advertised as ‘in a church’ it’s located within a back room or side building. This class however is actually held within the church, pews moved aside, smack bang in front of the alter. As you can probably imagine it’s a huge space; with high ceilings and ornate stained glass windows. It’s grand, calming and visually stunning. yoga fallowfield manchester We began the Vinyasa class in relaxation; lying back on our mats, opening our hips and connecting with the breath. As ‘Vinyasa’ translates to ‘connection’ this relaxation period helps us all connect with our bodies, breath and mind, setting us up for what will be a very fluid class. Music plays throughout the class to ensure we remain in sync with one another and, more importantly, ourselves.  

The Teacher

Lianne sits at the front of the class as her students enter. She’s surrounded by candles and wears an inviting smile. She’s softly spoken and has a calming influence over the room. She’s already arranged people’s mats in a semi-circle around the stage to ensure all her students can see her. She stands on the small stage and draws everyone’s attention towards her as the class begins. She takes us through the warm up sequence, all the while making sure we remain connected to our breath. She wanders round the large room to ensure we are all in our most beneficial postures -yes, what’s right for me probably won’t be right for you! The class isn’t too fast-paced but as it’s all about the fluidity of your movements it’s worthwhile intently listening to Lianne’s instructions. She announces each movement in descriptive detail so you don’t have to come out of postures to find out what the heck’s going on.  

The Ambience

As this class is held in Fallowfield my first thought was it would be filled to the brim with uni students (it is Manchester’s student centre after all). However the array of attendees varied; there were advanced yogis rolling out mats next to complete beginners, students next to pensioners and men next to women. As everyman and his dog are in some mad rush to get nowhere faster nowadays it’s not unusual to see people from all walks of life turning to the yoga mat to find a 60 minute air pocket of stress free bliss, and this class is no different. Everyone wants to learn how to reconnect with themselves again, to learn how to take those deep breaths into the boardroom and learn how to not lose your mind during exam season or when the kids are on an e-number induced rampage. That’s what the feel of this yoga room was - a mixed group of people learning how to be the best possible version of themselves off the mat.

The Challenge

This is the first Vinyasa flow class I’ve done in about 8 years so I’m not preaching from a place of yogic superiority when talking about this class. I’ll happily own up to having no knowledge of this sequence, I’m basically a beginner! However, I can happily say this sequence is easy to follow. If you’re new to yoga this is the ideal introduction to an ancient tradition. You’ll learn some challenging postures partnered perfectly with relaxing pauses and calming sounds. If, like me, you’re coming to Vinyasa flow from a particular style of yoga (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Yin etc.) then you’ll find yourself at home on the mat whilst still experiencing new and challenging asanas. Ashtangis’ especially will be familiar with these postures but the sequence will not be what you’re used to. It’s useful to remember that if you want to explore different aspects of your mind then you need to challenge your body to do something different. This class is the perfect place to start.        

Class : Withington every Thursday 7.30pm- 9pm

Teacher : Paul Jones

 

The Class

I’ve been a Yoga Manchester student for 12 months yet Paul’s Thursday class in Withington was new territory for me. It’s held weekly at the Methodist Church on Wilmslow Road, this could not be in a more prevalent location yet I still drove past it three times as I waited for my Sat Nav to catch up, geography isn’t my strong suit! There is a car park for the church just down the road on Edgerton Crescent. As I did absolutely no research before arriving I was unaware of this and parked across the street. I guess I make these errors so you don’t have too! The Methodist Church is like no other I’ve practiced in, it’s really modern, and as you walk in you’re faced with office doors and notice boards in place of pews and alters. The entrance is actually an extension onto the original church so the pews and alters do still exist, phew! The room for the yoga class is upstairs and it is so beautiful! I was the first to arrive so got to see the space in all its glory. Two huge windows either side of the room allow the rare Manchester sunlight to beam through. If it wasn’t for the original stained glass windows and 4ft cross this room could easily be mistaken for the latest trendy yoga studio. Paul lit incense and played calming music as I got myself ready for practice before the others arrived.

The Teacher

Paul said the class wouldn’t get too busy so I rolled out my mat at the front, another first for me as I generally practice at the back of a class (force of habit) and waited for the other students to arrive. Now I’m not sure if this was a one off or whether Paul’s and my ‘not very busy’ differ greatly, but a continuous stream of people began to flow through the door. I moved my mat three times so others could practice comfortably. This class is definitely popular with the locals, however that doesn’t mean lack of teacher attention; Paul easily makes his way around the room; adjusting people, asking if they’re okay, pushing those who want to go deeper and helping those that want a rest.

The Ambience

The array of yoga students differed greatly; from older women in jazzy yoga leggings to sporty university students in grey joggers and football shirts. I noticed a few level two class students as well, so although Paul’s class is level one that’s not to say the diehard Ashtangi’s will be left twiddling their thumbs! Far from it! It’s a relaxed environment and it’s clear everyone has the same aim: to unwind, stretch, breathe, relax and learn something new.

The Challenge

It’s a full Primary series class with traditional terminology used to call the postures (Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, anyone?) Do not let this put you off if you’re new to Ashtanga, Paul gives full demonstrations at the front of class.  As we moved our way through the sequence the heat began to rise and the sweat began to drip. This is a real workout but Paul continues to remind us to focus on our breath. He didn’t count the asanas (generally held for 5 breaths), which was new for me. Everyone’s five breath count is different and I find when I’m practicing alone my five breaths are someone else’s three. In Mysore classes you’re left to count your own breath so Paul’s class really helped me to understand how I should be breathing in my personal practice. In this class you can push yourself as far as your body and mind want to go. One of the hardest things to learn (at least for me and my big ego) when starting your yoga journey, is to hold back in postures. You see the flexible folk around you contorting themselves into pretzel like positions and you want to do that too. It’s better to listen to your body and feel good than copy someone else and feel pain. You will get there eventually, and you’ll have learnt patience in the process. Win/win! This is the perfect class if you’re looking for a new challenge; you’ll learn the asanas of the Ashtanga Primary Series and you’ll gain great foundations to develop your own practice in your own time. Just enjoy the journey!   Review by Sarah Later I was 19 years old when I took my very first yoga class - not only because I wanted to be uber fit and bendy but because I was anxious and stressed about everything I could find to be anxious and stressed about. For a little over a year now I’ve been a student of Matt’s and each day I grow a little more obsessed with this practice. So, I obviously jumped at the chance to practice with every Yoga Manchester teacher and then write about my experiences with each. I hope one of these reviews ignites enough curiosity in you to try a class; maybe you’ll fall in love too.