Yoga is popular among all athletes these days looking to stay trim and flexible. It also helps prevent injuries while playing sports. The Yoga Burn program is especially popular with tennis players. Let’s take a more in-depth look at Yoga Burn and some of its movements.
The surya namaskar exercise involves 18 movements and 18 breaths: hang your head between straight, locked arms with your bottom in the air and try to lay your feet flat.
Bend one knee and bring the foot between your arms, rise and balance with arms outstretched in the warrior position.
Go down again and do the same on the opposite side. As I stand red-faced after the three or four minutes this takes to complete, our teacher, Paul Laurenson, tells the class the original yogis would repeat the posture “an auspicious 108 times”. He lets us off lightly with five.
Yoga has many purposes and hundreds of variations. First brought to the UK during the reign of Queen Victoria it boomed in the Sixties and Seventies before disappearing along with other hippy trends during the Eighties.
But in the health-conscious Nineties yoga programs like Yoga Burn are experiencing a renaissance, particularly among tennis players.
They are realizing not only the physical and mental benefits of this ancient form of exercise but have also been attracted by a new stronger strain, known as power yoga, which is finding favor among top athletes here and in the US.
Warming to the idea I attend an astanga vinyasa class (one of the more strenuous types) at the City Yoga Center in east London.
Even though this is a beginner’s class I am told that, being pregnant, I must follow modifications of all the movements demonstrated by Lynne Pinette, who taught Jemima Khan before the birth of her son Sulaiman last November.
Expecting a few gentle stretches and relaxation techniques I find myself unprepared for the demanding levels of physical exertion and concentration required – even in the watered-down version.
So that we can get in tune with ourselves there is no music, just burning incense mixed with the smell of bare feet as we stand on thin mats to avoid slipping. The studio is airy and light with beechwood colored floorboards and white ropes hanging from the walls. Experts use them for headstands.
Mostly we are in the downward dog position (picture a Labrador stretching) and, unaccustomed to the rigors of continuous bending, I feel the blood rush to my head and stiff bones clicking every time my hands hit the floor. Yet as the class progresses, muscles begin to loosen, and my body adjusts to the suppleness needed for the moves.
After Mr Laurenson has demonstrated each posture, everyone copies in their own time and at their own pace. Astanga classes are made up of a series of moves which demand that you breathe only through your nose, concentrate on what your body is doing and learn better balance and control.
We spend most of the time bending and stretching spines, arms and legs; reaching each position involves almost every muscle in the body.