This month I tried... Vinyasa yoga

Moneybags journalist Ashleigh Brown tried out Vinyasa yoga to find out the benefits of this type of exercise and what the sessions entail.

And breathe in…

I was rather in a rush to get to the yoga studio on time, and so wasn’t thinking much about the upcoming session. I knew that I was a bit stiff, and that (hopefully) yoga would help me stretch it out. But Vinyasa yoga was not like any other yoga I had tried before.

The YogaZone studio, who specialise in both Vinyasa and Bikram yoga, located on the 10th floor of the Picbel Parkade in Cape Town city center, was simple, and small. I was given a mat, and a towel, and told that I can go and lay down and wait for the session to start.

Time for a bit or relaxation, I thought, before being hit with a heat wave as I opened the studio door. Vinyasa yoga involves doing stretches in a heated room. This, says Fulvio Grandin, the director of YogaZone, helps to not only prevent muscle injury, but means that you literally warm up a lot quicker.

As you, and your muscles are warmer quicker, you can go into deeper stretches, explains Grandin.

Not only does the heat help with the stretching, but sweating cleans out the impurities in the body. The heated poses are not only stretching out your sore muscles, but also getting rid of all the bad toxins in your body.

Of course, one session will not work miracles, and you have to stick with yoga – like anything – to reap the full benefits.

The session was an hour long, but within the first 15 minutes I was dripping with sweat. Keeping my breathing under control, and moving from one pose to the other without falling on my face was proving difficult.

And breathe out…

Even though I was huffing and puffing, the heat made me concentrate on my breathing more. This is another benefit to Vinyasa yoga – you are learning to oxygenate your body properly.

Adding to that, the most obvious benefit of yoga is flexibility. I can barely touch my toes without having a sickly feeling crawl up behind my legs, but learning to stretch properly can help with that.

There are also a whole host of other benefits that can be found from more flexibility.

“Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture,” explains the Yoga Journal.

I was certainly feeling the tightness of everything, as I was reminded by Grandin to tuck in my tail bone, stretch up, and most importantly, to breathe.

Everyone else seemed to effortlessly twist their bodies into impossible shapes, while gliding between poses. I, on the other hand, was struggling. For me the workout was intense. I had sore muscles that just would not turn that way and the heat made me feel like I was trapped in the desert.

Grandin’s voice was calming as he guided everyone from one pose to the next. The most disconcerting thing about the session was not trying to get my body to bend into the poses, but rather watching myself look like an uncoordinated flamingo in the big mirrors of the studio.

I am not ashamed to admit that I did not make it to the end of the session. Instead, I lay down on my mat, closed my eyes, and let my body return to a more natural state.

Once I had started breathing more normally, I felt better. My legs, stiff from walking more than four kilometers every day were stretched out. My neck and shoulders, always tense, were relaxed. And even my headache was slowly fading away.

Maybe there really was something to this heated yoga. I was frustrated that I couldn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else seemed to. But, I suppose as with most things, it takes time and dedication to get used to it.

There are beginner classes, and I would advise anyone who would like to have a go, to try them. Whether just as a stress reliever, a form of exercise, or just wanting to try something new, yoga can help with it all.

For more information on YogaZone’s beginner special, click here.