Jeff Phenix

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"It's experiencing yourself at a deep level which gives you that self-confidence and strength," says the TriYoga teacher.

Raise Your Game: What is yoga?

Jeff Phenix: Yoga is a holistic program which means it is about the 'whole' person. It was devised by enlightened seekers and saints, many thousands of years ago, who wanted to create vibrant, healthy bodies and minds. So a physically stronger and more supple body enables you to feel comfortable in the world.

In essence, yoga is about transformation. It's about understanding and discovering our essential nature. A place of calm, peace and stillness that we can all access but gets kind of buried and lost when we get caught up in the outside world.

RYG: Are there different styles of yoga?

JP: There's a whole range of different styles from really strong athletic, where Olympic athletes would get a serious work out, to the more gentle and slower paced yoga which emphasises meditation and stillness.

The natural tendency as we age is to get tighter and stiffer with quality of life diminishing. Yoga can free ourselves up to create more space, more freedom, more ease in our bodies. From baby yoga to kids yoga to teen's yoga, there's a whole wide spectrum of different styles and emphasis.

RYG: What are the physical and mental benefits of practising yoga regularly?

JP: Yoga compliments a lot of different sports. If you think about skiers or surfers, these athletes benefit from practising yoga because it develops balance, grace and co-ordination.

Runners and cyclists tend to get complaints of bad backs, tight quads and hamstrings. Yoga works on the muscles but also the skeletal system to strengthen the health of the spine. It also helps with the unbalance of one-sided sports such as tennis or golf.

Jeff Phenix in a seated yoga pose

Mentally, yoga is a good antidote to release the stress of modern and urban living. It works on the body, mind, spirit and the emotions. Many illnesses and health problems, such as asthma, tuberculosis, high blood pressure, digestive problems or ailments, can be helped with appropriate yoga practise.

RYG: How can you get started in yoga?

JP: The best thing is to dive in and start. There are a number of great yoga books that you can use to get an idea about getting started on your own, but ideally if you come to a yoga centre, where they have really great teachers and beginner focused courses, you can grasp the basics and start at a really slow pace. It's understanding how to work the body safely.

RYG: How important are things such as diet, nutrition and rest for our wellbeing?

JP: What we take in, the nutrition, the food, makes us. It's important to have the right balance of ingredients and vitamins, as this can affect how we think and even our breathing. The quality of our diet affects how we feel and it's vital.

RYG: What are your top tips for relaxing?

JP: Close your eyes for a few moments and sit still to allow yourself to connect to your breath and to slow down. The quality of the breathing is key to yoga and is one of the oldest meditation techniques. Once you start to do that, everything takes care of itself.

In yoga you find the sanctuary within yourself. Everything else melts away and you get to know, accept and love yourself, which is wonderfully liberating. You don't need other people to say how great you are or that you're ok or cool. It's experiencing yourself at a deep level which gives you that self-confidence and strength.

RYG: What is the key to finding the class that suits you?

JP: You need to explore and try. You wouldn't necessarily go to one restaurant and make that the only meal you ever had. There's a wide range of classes and different styles to suit. It's important to find a good teacher, someone that you click with to create more peace and freedom in your life. People have described experiences of calm, peace and tranquillity almost like a yoga high and it's a wonderful feeling. So it's worth trying to find that.


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