Kathryn Davies

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The yoga instructor reveals how yoga can help improve your flexibility, strength and confidence.

Raise Your Game: Is yoga difficult to do and do you have to be silent?

Kathryn Davies: No, in fact it's quite the opposite, and that's why I started. I was quite frantic as a person, I still can be quite frantic, but yoga helps to deal with anxieties or worries and helps to channel any negative thoughts. You become more aware of the preconceptions and self-limitations that you have about yourself. You begin to feel like you are in control of your mind so you can do what you want.

RYG: How did you get started with yoga?

KD: I was working in quite a busy job and I found I used to get tired and stressed so a friend of mine introduced me to yoga. At the beginning I didn't get it. Why would I want to lie down in a room listening to tinkle bells? However, eventually I started to feel more relaxed, more calm and I started to enjoy the postures.

Yoga helped to raise my energy levels and physically I felt much better. My flexibility and strength improved and it helped with other forms of exercise that I was doing. I felt more in control of myself and when I was feeling stressed I was able to stand back and just feel a lot more relaxed.

RYG: Is yoga for all shapes and sizes?

KD: Absolutely, and that's what I love about yoga, it's for anybody. Whatever your goals are, whatever you want, it just helps you to fulfil your potential. My first yoga teacher was 82-years-old!

RYG: If I came to one of your classes for the first time, do I need to wear anything specific?

KD: The main thing is to be comfortable and most classes usually provide mats. The yoga teacher will explain the full class, so you've got nothing to worry about. You come in, you relax, and you do a couple of postures.

Kathryn Davies

With yoga you always take it to your own level, you never push yourself. It's always about taking it exactly to where you want to take it. You're never forced to do anything. It's all about being kind to your body and learning what your limitations are. There's no competition. It's all about you and your goals.

RYG: Would yoga suit someone who had a busy lifestyle?

KD: The thinking behind yoga is that the breath connects the mind with the body and there are many breathing exercises that we do.

One of the exercises is abdominal breathing. You just breathe deeply into the belly and it really trains us to focus on our breathing. By breathing more deeply, the mind naturally starts to calm down and it helps to relax the system.

The poses in yoga also bring you into the present moment, so the mind's not constantly thinking 'I've got to go here, I've got to go there, what did I have for breakfast?' It centres you and you're able to focus on whatever you're doing in that moment.

RYG: Can we use these relaxation techniques in other areas of our lives such as sitting an exam?

KD: Absolutely. You can use the yoga tools in any situation, especially when you are feeling anxious such as going to the dentist or taking an exam. Use the breathing and meditation exercises to quiet the mind and to calm down the body, so you're able to then feel more relaxed.

The main thing about yoga is that is releases tension from the body and the mind. Instead of thinking negatively or worrying it brings a sense of mental focus, concentration and clarity, so you're able to come closer to who you really are and what you really want.

RYG: Is yoga popular with young people?

KD: Yes, definitely. I think we forget that young people and even children actually get quite stressed. Yoga just brings about that sense of playfulness. It helps young people to keep a sense of creativity and allows them to be themselves.

They can then use these tools to help them deal with situations that are new or that they feel frightened of or stressed about. It's just bringing together the yoga techniques but presenting it in a fun way, so it's just really enjoyable and it helps them to completely express who they are.

RYG: Do you think yoga should be introduced into schools?

KD: Definitely. I really think that every age could benefit from yoga, especially young people because they're naturally flexible and naturally strong. It helps them to know who they are, physically, mentally and spiritually. It's for everybody.

RYG: Can yoga build confidence?

KD: Yes, even if you have never tried yoga before you can just go to a class, start really gently and start to tune into your body. It's so different from other physical exercises because it brings the mind into the equation as well. You're focused on what you're doing, listening to your body and your taking it to your own limits.

RYG: How can yoga help with other forms of exercise?

KD: You can maximise your lung capacity by using the yoga breathing exercises. Breathing more oxygen into the body will prevent the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles and also helps to prevent injury because we're working on every major system in the body.

Flexibility, strength, posture, balance and agility are all improved with yoga. It also helps with mental focus, giving you more endurance. By focusing more on your breathing your body's more relaxed and you're able to just focus on winning that race or enjoying your job.

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