For those who don’t know their ‘yoga’ from their ‘yoda’, Claire Rampen and Ruth Parcell take a look into the alternative exercise world of Yoga and Pilates

YOGA

From great sex to relieving back pain: the practice of yoga has clearly had spectacular effects on some. Others feel it lacks those endorphins half an hour on the cross-trainer is sure to achieve. Opinions on yoga range from boring to stimulating; a great way of relaxing to an intense workout; is it totally useless or a life altering experience? The yoga apparel chain Lulu Lemon goes as far to claim that yoga can change the world. Could this ancient practice ever really have such an impact, or is that just hyperbolic advertising? Whatever the answer, it has certainly made a mark (if not a profit for Lulu Lemon).
Having flirted with the practice on previous occasions, I have come to realise first-hand how vast yoga practice can be. There are so many different ways of practicing, and each practice varies with every teacher. Whether you want to lose weight or clear your mind, there are many types being practiced in the Western world. Among them is bikram yoga, or “hot yoga” as it is commonly referred to. This is the practice of 26 postures in 40 degree heat – a type of yoga that was synthesized by Bikram Choudhury and began gaining popularity in the 70’s.
The first few classes can feel a little intimidating, as postures are often repeated in the same order each week, which at first makes you feel like the entire class are already experts. The initial breathing exercises fill the studio with rather odd sounds. But do not be deterred, as according to instructors it takes just three classes for your body to learn the poses, and ten for you to be able to develop them. The recommendation is that you attend a minimum of ten classes a month to really feel the benefits of the yoga. As a yoga-sceptic and Scottish girl who swelters in anything over 20 degree heat, this was really beyond my comfort zone. However, after the best nights sleep of my life following my first class, I was hooked. This type of yoga is not for meditation, although staying focused and trying to unite body and mind is a part of it. You will be strongly encouraged to push yourself and the instructors will make sure you remain alert and energetic during the class. It is a far cry from being boring and it is most certainly a good workout – a Bikram yoga blogger claims to burn 1289 calories per 90 minute class.
Understandably, our small university does not have bikram yoga facilites and our town does not have the most diverse yoga scene. It could be hard to find the class for you. But don’t write it off just yet –finding a class that suits you while you are at home or elsewhere can equip you with the skills to practice alone. Go to a one off class or try-out week: think about your goals and if that specific class can help you achieve them, or how you could adapt it to your aims.
Like any lifestyle decision there are sceptics and converts, but before you make your judgement put it on your list of things to try. CR

Photo: Supplied

PILATES

Pilates became popular as a choice of exercise in the last decade, but what exactly lies in the system that has got women (and men!) all over the globe embracing Lycra? Can anyone do it or is it just for middle aged women attempting to fight the flab as their metabolism dwindles?
Pilates is most certainly not ‘just a fad’ – it is far from it. Created by Joseph Pilates, it is based on the idea of Controlology in that it aims to control the body from its core, focusing on reshaping and toning.
The beauty of Pilates is that it is for everyone, it is not only for those who exercise regularly, it can also benefit those of you out there who do not willingly partake in exercise. Pilates provides a baby step onto the exercise ladder, for those who are not used to exercising. And, if you are so bold to do so, it will ease you into exercise through the basic methods of focusing on your core muscles that help support the spine and vital organs.
For those who regularly exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle, why not take an hour out of your workout and substitute it for a Pilates class? Yes, it’s great that you can run 10k in an hour, but all this high intensity exercise puts strain on the joints. Pilates goes beyond mere toning of the muscles obtained by regular cardio vascular work; it improves posture, reduces physical pains, improves balance and promotes limb sculpting.
The idea that Pilates is for everyone and anyone can be seen in its mental health benefits; it relieves stress, calms and clears the mind through the breathing exercises it incorporates. Even if you are not looking to improve on your physique, it still provides an effective way to wind down and de-stress after that demoralising essay is finally handed in. Pilates tends to be dominated by women, but Joseph Pilates was a boxer. If he himself, being a macho man, believed in the methodology behind Pilates it must have inherent effects for men. He claimed that “there is no hope for world peace if the members of the United Nations cannot do my first five mat exercises” which shows how deeply he believed in his regime.
In a university where sports are offered in abundance and with the new energise membership scheme set up at the university sports centre, there is no reason why one shouldn’t have a go at Pilates and see if they feel (and look) better for doing so. Take a friend and make the trip on these dark winter nights, we now find ourselves facing, that bit more bearable, have a catch up, work out and revel modestly in the fact that you’ll look that bit better in your Christmas ball dress..or be it tux!   RP

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