I started doing yoga because I wanted to stay fit and because it was hip. However, I have come to appreciate how complete it is as an activity: it engages my physical strength, my flexibility and my mind. In this article I will walk you through my experience with yoga and meditation exercises and maybe it can help you decide if it is something you want to try out, especially during times like these, when exercises you can do at home and by yourself are being promoted, even more so if they can contribute significantly to your mental health.
How it all started
During the summer I turned fifteen, I signed up for yoga with one of my best friends because we wanted to be fit, and I was curious as to what it was like since it had become so popular. My friend hated it because she wasn’t coordinated and had absolutely no flexibility. I found it was quite easy for me because I had done ballet when I was younger. To my surprise, it was both relaxing and a good workout. I had always pictured it more like a deep stretch but every morning after class I felt it really activated me for the rest of the day. When I attended evening classes, the experience was a bit different. I found the exercises were a lot more relaxing and I felt I slept like a baby afterwards.
Yoga at the University of Manchester
In Manchester I started going to the yoga sessions offered by Sporticipate and I loved them. They were held at St Peter’s House Chaplaincy and the instructor had a soothing voice which was very calming to listen to. She designed exercise flows at an intermediate level but offered some variation options if you were a beginner. Also, the classes were free! They were held early in the morning, which meant I started every Wednesday activated and ready to go. Moreover, I recently attended a mini yoga retreat by “Floga” here in Manchester. It was a full Saturday morning of yoga exercises and meditation, and vegan snacks afterwards. I found out about the retreat because the instructor teaches some of the yoga classes here at uni as part of the Fitness Classes offered for a small fee.
And now, during the lockdown…
With the recent turn of events and the cancellation of face-to-face activities on campus, I have gone back to exercise routines published on social media. A long time ago I signed up for the free trial of an app called “Sweat”, which included yoga sessions by a fitness blogger called Sjana Elise. Before this I had never tried out self-paced workouts via apps and I absolutely loved Sweat! I was specially surprised how easy it was to follow on my own. I now have several of the fitness bloggers part from the Sweat app on Instagram, however, with the current uncertain situation that changes day by day, I felt I needed yoga much more than the home workout routines. I therefore went on to Sjana’s YouTube channel where she has many yoga flows you can access free-of-charge (always keeping in mind my limited student budget, of course!).
At first yoga was more about exercising and staying fit. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how relaxing it actually is for me. I have only recently started to really enjoy the meditation part. I started becoming interested in meditation when I first arrived at uni, when I signed up for the Wellbeing Challenge and one of the tasks entailed downloading a meditation app. So, I signed up to Headspace, which was included in my Spotify student package. I started listening to 5 minutes of headspace every so often before I went to bed. I usually fell asleep before the 5 minutes were over, but the app helped me wind down and relax before a good night’s rest.
I then started attending Mindfulness Meditation drop-in sessions, which are part of the Counselling Events offered by the university on a weekly basis. Since these also stopped due to the cancellation of all on campus activities, I am now looking for other options to start meditating again. I’ve watched a few videos from Sjana Elise’s YouTube channel and others posted by “Floga” on her Instagram and YouTube channel, but still have not gotten into the habit. However, I think the current situation requires special care of our mental health and even though right now I am not personally feeling overwhelmed, sometimes it’s better to nourish your mind regardless.