In sanskrit and translated, yoga simply means 'union'. There are many different explanations given for this if you google it, I believe it is hard to explain until you experience it. 'It' is something you will feel from the first time you start to practice the sequence of choreographed breathing and movement sequences that combine balance, strength and mobility. Some of these movements seem very basic and others are more complex but they are all achievable especially when in the hands of an expert.
In this article, London based yoga yeacher Vicki Bauman shares her incredible journey into yoga after she had a serious accident. Vicki is a long term pupil to a Sri Lankan yogi whom she still trains with today, and she now herself teaches students to all levels. Having been through physical trauma, Vicki is not only a testament to the healing power of yoga but also understands how our bodies need coaxing and gentle guidance to keep everything working smoothly and develop our practice with confidence for lifelong wellbeing.
Yoga retreats are an opportunity to escape the grind and practice every day. At Kalukanda House we tailor design retreats for groups to combine daily classes with experiences and gorgeous food so that our retreaters can escape into nature and themselves. Our yoga retreats at Kalukanda House have been "life changing" and the effects felt long after returning home, more are planned for 2021 Freedom Yoga at Kalukanda House.
Although this almost didn't happen if it had not been for a helping hand from a wise friend...
My journey with yoga began many years ago with a false start. Being an avid team sports player and fit, I mis-guidely believed I could snap into yoga and booked myself into an intermediate class with no experience. I was quickly disillusioned. I had no idea of the terminology or the sequences and bending like the others was out of the question. Luckily, a trusted friend took me to a beginners class and the beautiful world of yoga opened up to me almost immediately.
Being shown how to breathe through basic asanas and then quickly building strength through repeat classes, I found a way to 'work out hard' and simultaneously build mental strength. I felt a union between my physical strength and mental focus, I gained control over worries and I could deal with problems with much more ease. My head and body were re-connected for the first time in years.
As this ancient discipline has grown in popularity, you will find numerous stories of Rugby and Football teams amongst others integrating yoga into their training programs to build physical and mental strength. Manchester United star Ryan Giggs became a yoga devotee and says his football career was extended to the age of 40 because of yoga.
The benefits of yoga are documented far and wide and finding someone who can start you on the road to discovery and guide your learning is all you need. Vicki shares some valuable tips and her details are below.
August 2012 – the first week of the London Olympics – I was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic foot injury. “A life changing injury”. That one sentence was a make or break moment for me. I decided that it would be the making of me.
A year later, following two surgeries, weeks of ‘foot above heart’ bedrest, many months of gradually building back up to walking again unaided – I was ready to start living my life to the full again. I realised that the only way to get completely back to fitness, to regain my strength and flexibility, was to return to my yoga mat.
I had practiced yoga for many years, but in recent years my work-life balance had been completely out of balance – meaning I hadn’t been able to ‘fit’ yoga into it. I decided that this had to change, and completely changed my priorities. My passion for yoga was never greater, I was attending 4-5 classes a week – I could see it mending me from the inside out.
In 2017 my yoga teacher – who continues to inspire me every day - encouraged me to train to become a yoga teacher. It wasn’t easy, it challenged me at every turn but, in July 2017, I graduated and have not looked back since. So much so that just three years later, I have left a 30+ year career behind me to teach full-time.
My passion for teaching is more than I could ever have imagined. Hearing my students say I have inspired them and provided them with a safe and encouraging space makes me so proud. One such student said: “I thought I wasn’t flexible enough to do yoga and wouldn’t be able to do the poses. You taught me that there is always an option so you can do it...always progressing.”
Being a catalyst for others to discover the joy and benefits of yoga, realising they are stronger, more flexible and their bodies so much more capable than they ever imagined – it’s an incredibly joyful and humbling experience.
A few insights on the benefits of yoga and what you and your students “experience” through doing yoga specifically.
Yoga was first practiced to make the body strong enough, and mind still enough, to be able to sit and meditate for long periods of time. Anyone who has tried it without practice, will know that to sit, unsupported, even for a few minutes is hard! Your back starts to ache. Your knees, ankles and hips may start to complain. It takes time to master. Whether you are sitting in full lotus or ‘just’ cross legged is hard. You need to have a strong back, strong core, be flexible in your hips, knees and ankles.
Today, probably the vast majority of people start yoga, not to meditate – but to get fitter, stronger, more flexible – and often following injury.
For me, I had been a yoga student for many years before I suffered a traumatic foot injury that left me with no flexibility through the foot and ankle, a much weakened leg and loss of muscle from weeks of bedrest.
Yoga, has given me back my strength. My flexibility. My ability to focus on my breath and remain calm during very stressful periods. And, whilst my left foot will never be as strong and flexible as the right – and will always ache and pain – I am ‘fixed’. My spirit and energy is full, my body and mind strong.
What top 3 basic moves would you suggest for a beginner at home?
If you are just starting out and wanting your own yoga practice at home, then I would always recommend the following:
Learn to sit. Sit on a block. Use a blanket or cushion. Try and sit on the floor with your back unsupported as much as you can, this helps ‘open up’ our hips and makes us use our core.
Master the Cat-Cow sequence. This provides a flexible back; opens the heart; enhances the breath; provides strength through the arms, shoulders & back; strength through the wrists. Whilst this appears a simple sequence, done correctly and regularly will provide these great benefits.
Practice the Savasana, corpse pose. Actively relaxed, focusing on the rise and fall of your belly breath and each time you notice the mind start to wander, release them, bring your focus back to breath and relax.
From start to finish of these three exercises can take no more than 20 minutes.
What is the best time of day to practice?
I love to practice early in the morning, it starts my day with positive energy and stress free – but equally I am happy after a working day – allowing me to ‘let go’ of any stress, stiffness in my body from sitting at a desk. It is a matter of finding your ‘time’.
Tips on the space to set up a yoga mat in the home
In an ideal world, we would all be able to practice outside in the warm, with fresh air and the natural sounds of nature surrounding us. The reality for most of us, is probably that we are practicing indoors in our homes – especially in this current time of Covid-19 where mostly we are attending online live-streamed classes. So try and place your mat where you can look outside with a window open for fresh air – or it you are lucky enough, outside in your garden. Once we are able to be back in a studio, hall or gym – it’s nice to find one with plenty of space, light and air – or perhaps find a class in a local park during the warm Summer months.
Personally I don’t practice, or teach with music, I like the peace. Where you can focus on your breath and flow – where nothing else exists.
Why yoga over anything else?
I have been a swimmer – happily swimming for an hour or more at a time and I’ve been a runner and now a yogi. For me yoga is the ultimate. You are a forever-student. It is a whole. The mind, the breath, the energy, the physical and the spiritual. You are forever learning, discovering things about your body, your mind and your capacity to let go of the outside worries whilst you are on your mat.
I teach private 1-2-1 in client’s homes; run group classes; workshops; ladies yoga & relaxation retreats in the UK and Kalkan, Turkey and also group/1-2-1 within the workplace. Currently, all my teaching is online live-streamed during the enforced shutdown across the UK. I’m proud to be able to continue to provide continuous practice for all my students at a time when it is needed more than ever.
Ursula got in contact with me after struggling to rehabilitate after a Grade 2 calf tear in May 2018. She had attended months of physio and chiropractor but was still in pain on a daily basis. And struggling to sleep which was affecting her ability to concentrate at work.
After just 8, weekly one-to-one yoga sessions she is pain-free and sleeping again.
Bev started yoga due to suffering with a bad back. After a few weeks she could already see improvements. A year in, she was mastering pushing up into wheel with a strong, flexible back. Now two years later, she is still enjoying the classes, attending two to three times a week.
Kayhan “I started yoga to get stronger and flexible. I have osteoporosis running in the family and was told yoga could really help that. I have been going now for over a year and definitely feel stronger in my mind as well as body.”
Insta, FB & Twitter: @yogawithvickib