As someone who normally enjoys sweating it out at the gym, I’ve never given yoga much thought until recently. I’ll admit, I saw yoga as little more than a test of flexibility and balance and a whole lot of stretching and I couldn’t see how this type of exercise would be anymore effective than squats, box jumps and skipping. So I temporarily kicked Anytime Fitness to the curb in exchange for Preshana Yoga, swapping my kettle bells for a yoga mat.
With studios located in Darlinghurst and Glebe, Preshana offers two main streams of classes suitable for all levels (both of which I trialled) - Align & Flow and Yoga Hour. Align & Flow works more movement principles, maintaining a steady pace with longer held poses and a focus on breathing. Although slightly shorter in duration, Yoga Hour packs more positions than the steady Align & Flow and incorporates music (Bon Iver, London Grammar and Lana Del Rey to be precise) for a more fun and contemporary approach to the practice. I personally preferred Yoga Hour because of the constant movement and faster transitions but as a beginner, Align & Flow was useful to help perfect my form.
It came as a bit of a shock when I realised the class was the complete opposite of my usual exercise routines. Normally I take breathlessness as a sign of a hard workout, but here I was asked to concentrate on my breathing whilst holding rather strenuous positions. Rather than increasing the heart rate or utilising large muscle groups, yoga differs from cardio in that "the attention is brought inwards to the sensation of the body, consciously embodying strength and flexibility," says Ananda Trettin, founder of Preshana Yoga. Although the pace was much slower, it wasn't exactly a walk in the park either. I found holding lunge based positions like warrior and even downward dog, straining my hamstrings and calves. My body was sore for the next few days, which to me is always a marker of a satisfying workout.
Over the week, I came to appreciate yoga for its own unique characteristics and benefits. It highlighted parts of the body that were weak and needed conditioning, taught me how to stretch out every inch of my body and it helped clear my mind (which has the tendency to fly around at 100 miles an hour) and focus inward on my breathing and myself. Plus I was convinced that going to yoga made me automatically exempt from going to the gym (I know I'd rather choose downward dog/ plank / chataranga repetitions over burpees).
Trettin says, "Besides being a great way to maintain your health, one of the greatest benefits of practicing yoga is the ability to teach us to anchor awareness in the body. It can help focus your attention and create positive changes in your life." There was something very spiritual and calming about my daily hour at Preshana - the fact we could block out the sound of the traffic from Oxford Street was a testament to that. That being said, even if you're in it just to push your flexibility it's still worth your time. Hint: Guys. It's alright to to do yoga. If it's challenging for Jack, I guarantee it'll be for your man too.
All in all, I'm loving my yoga classes and practicing at Preshana. Ananda and her team have been so helpful and supportive and respectful of everyone's fitness levels, flexibility and progress. For someone who loves to hate her high intensity training, I think it's beneficial to throw yoga into the mix once or twice a week. It breaks up regular high intensity exercise while still challenging your physical health in contrasting ways. Ananda's advice for beginners? "Come in with an open mind. Like anything worthwhile, it takes time and everyone has their own experience."