Yoga Made Easy

Yoga is not only good for mobility, but can help improve mental health, too

Fitness Georgina Maric E Breath awareness ven before Madonna waxed lyrical about the benefits of yoga in the 1990s, this ancient holistic therapy had been practised all over the world. In recent years, though, it has surged in popularity. Now, a new concept Gentle Years Yoga is on the cusp of being included on social prescription on the NHS, much like arts activities and gardening, according to Gillian Osborne, vice-chair of British Wheel of Yoga and a Gentle Years Yoga teacher. The physical practice of yoga helps to alleviate stress and tension in the body, which is beneficial to wellbeing, says Osborne. It is difficult to achieve equilibrium in the mind if the body is very uncomfortable. Yoga helps to ease physical tension using calming breath practices and relaxation, which help to bring equilibrium to the mind, while gentle mobilising movements bring comfort to the body. All-round benefits Gentle Years Yoga has been developed to help people living with more than one long-term medical condition. With a pilot carried out in 2016 to test its benefits, it is now being taught nationwide. Gentle Years Yoga, or GYY as its known, has a holistic benefit, says Osborne. Studies found that, although the practice may not affect the level of pain someone experiences, it does affect how they deal with it. Some report feeling less pain, while others feel the same pain, but feel better able to cope with it. Gentle Years Yoga encourages people to explore whats possible, physically. We would not encourage anyone to go into pain, but people with long-term conditions may develop a fear of doing things and that can prevent them from trying. GYY has an excellent record as its very specialised, encouraging gentle joint mobilisation exercises. People often find they can do more than they thought and, once other postural aspects are addressed, it can help someone to place less strain on their joints. Often, when someone is in pain, they change the way they do things to compensate, which can have a knock-on effect. GYY can help people to change these unhelpful habits. / tommaso79 Yoga made easy People often find they can do more than they thought and GYY can help someone to place less strain on their joints The right training Teachers of GYY must be qualified yoga teachers and are required to take an extra, in-depth anatomy qualification. You might have six people presenting with six different health issues during a GYY class; the teacher knows in advance, as the participant has to complete a medical declaration, and they will plan the lesson around those different issues, says Osborne. Its really rewarding for the teacher, as well as the person taking the class. Socialising is also worked into a session, as people with multiple long-term conditions are often isolated. After the yoga, there is the opportunity for social interaction a virtual tea and biscuits, where people go off to get a cup of tea, bring along pets, have a natter. This is really important to people who are increasingly isolated, especially during this pandemic. Gentle Years Yoga was developed for face-to-face classes, pre-pandemic. But it has been successful on Zoom, despite it being targeted at the older adult population, says Osborne. Once people have got over any initial tech issues, it has been incredibly successful. Give it a go Breath awareness is a mindful exercise that is a big part of yoga practice. The idea is to remain comfortable and easy within the self, regardless of whats going on, says Osborne. Breath awareness takes attention away from the external world and enables you to just focus on yourself, and that can be very calming. Older people have a lot of worries; you do become more prone to anxiety as you age. The pandemic will be something that keys into that emotion even more. Breath awareness There are four parts to the breath the in breath, a tiny pause, the out breath and the out-breath pause. Close your eyes and pay attention to each part of the breath, noticing how long they are in relation to each other. Be aware of the in breath and notice if it is the same as the out breath and be aware of the in-breath pause and whether it is the same as the out breath. Do this for a couple of minutes a day. It might be helpful to write down what you experience, and notice if it changes. MORE INFORMATION For more information British Wheel of Yoga Gentle Years Yoga classes, online or face to face, email: Movement for Modern Life movementfor Art of Living MORE INFORMATION