The TriYoga instructor reveals how you can improve your posture, confidence and wellbeing through the ancient practice of yoga.
Raise Your Game: What is yoga?
Jane Kersel: Yoga is an amazing form of physical practise. It helps calm you down emotionally and mentally, and has a profound effect on how our organs and nervous system works. It's a really ancient practise and for it to still be popular says something of its quality and integrity.
RYG: How did you first get involved in yoga?
JK: I used to be a fashion designer and I worked in India for several years. I was under extreme stress and pressure to get clothes made and brought into the UK. Luckily I stumbled upon the Indian form of yoga, which was much less of a physical practise and far more seated and about meditation. This class managed to help me unhook from all the stress and all the madness that I was facing at the time. I loved it so much that I began to study more.
I was one of those really nervous teenagers at school, really shy who wouldn't have stood up in class and said anything, but through yoga I found that I had a sudden increase in confidence and an ability to really want to connect with people. So I decided to go on a teacher's training course so that I could teach others about yoga.
RYG: For young people, who might feel self-conscious about taking part in sport, what benefits can yoga have for them?
JK: Yoga is for everyone. You don't have to be naturally athletic or naturally flexible. Interestingly, on a psychological level, the more inflexible you are actually impacts on how well you set your own boundaries.
One of the best things about yoga is that it's not competitive so you don't have to be good at it. I remember when I was at school and we all used to have to wear those ridiculous brown gym knickers. You either looked good in them or you didn't, and the only thing that shone out was whether you were a good runner and could do something well.
School is a prime age to be teaching young people, especially young women, how to empower and make them feel good about themselves so that they don't think they have to look like and be like everyone else. Yoga teaches you about yourself.
RYG: What clothes can people wear to do yoga but also look cool at the same time?
JK: All you need is a soft baggy pair of pants or a pair of shorts. If you're conscious about your body then wear longer lengths. As long as you can move and feel fluidity in your body it doesn't matter what you wear. Actually I think it's cooler not to buy into all that kind of packaging and marketing.
RYG: How important is correct posture?
JK: When we are feeling low our body reflects a depressed state, which is inward, introverted and shy. Yoga encourages you to lift your spine, to open your heart in an energetic and positive way. It's very hard to be depressed when you're like this. Positive body language means a positive mind.
RYG: How important are things like a healthy diet, nutrition, and getting the right amounts of sleep?
JK: Yoga helps you get in touch and make friends with your body, rather than feeling it's an alien thing. The more you get to like your body, the more you're going to feed it well. Then you begin to feel healthier and more motivated to move instead of vegging out in front of the TV and tucking into convenience food.
RYG: Can you suggest any relaxation techniques to calm us down and take the stress out of a situation such as at exam time?
JK: First of all you've got to get a good night's sleep. There's a whole sequence of poses in yoga that you can do prior to going to bed that will calm your nervous system and induce a better night's sleep.
When you get to the exam room it's about focus. Often we're so worried about final results that we can't even be present for the exam questions straight in front of us. You've actually got to just sit and be in that moment, read the questions and just take it as 'This is this moment right now'. You will then give your complete energy to it.
One of the key techniques is to watch how you are breathing. When we are under stress we tend to take shallow breaths and you almost feel like you're having a panic attack. Take a moment to close your eyes and take everything inwards. Place your hands onto your stomach and lift your hands upwards as you breath so that you feel like you're lifting the breath all the way up the spine. Count for five or six seconds and then you feel the exhale even longer.
When we exhale longer than we inhale, it actually has been scientifically proven to calm the nervous system. Whether it's schoolwork, exam pressure or parental pressure, exhaling releases that tension and lifts that negativity out of you.
RYG: What would be your advice to a young person looking to take up yoga?
JK: Yoga actually teaches you that everyone's body is different. It keeps you in contact with your inside and it's saying to yourself "This is the shape I am." It's accepting who you are, the gifts that you do have, and the fantastic bits about you that you probably ignore because you're so focused on the things you don't like.
Just come to yoga, have an open mind and a willingness to learn. Don't look at the person next to you who's probably really flexible. Take the journey for yourself.
Unless you try you're never going to know what you're able to do.
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