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Published November 26th 2016
It is as hard as it looks, but so much more fun
Have you ever wanted to try yoga but not known where to start? Or afraid that everyone already knows the difference between Asana and Pranayama? Or perhaps you are worried your downwards facing dog is going to end up more like a wounded puppy?
Luckily for you (and me!) Stretch Yoga currently run beginner's yoga courses, covering all the basics and foundations of yoga practice. The course runs for 6 weeks and over this time, concentrates on a different aspect of yoga each week.
Me and the beginners in our first Stretch Yoga class, beginners course
Because the course is so comprehensive and the way it builds, it's important not to miss classes. If you do miss a week, Stretch Yoga is very accommodating in letting you take a week in another beginner's course running at a different time or location. Alternatively, you can catch up in Week 7, after the beginners course has finished.
Stretch Yoga has two studios. One is located in Albert St, Brisbane in the heart of the CBD, which means you can pop in for a quick spot of meditation at lunchtime or a deep stretch after a particularly stressful day at work. I went to the Holland Park studio, which is handily perched above the Rare Pear on Logan Road - a great spot for a coffee after class.
The Holland Park studio is clean, reasonably quiet and cool. From the moment you pad down the little corridor towards the back, until you slide open the door of the studio, you feel the calmness and serenity open up before you and with each passing week, you become more and more confident.
The first week gives a solid foundation and explanation of yoga, in particular bandha and pranayama - which for the uninitiated such as myself, is the practice of muscle contraction and breathing. Some gentle mat work stretches are tried, putting into practice some of the theory just learned.
The second week builds on the first, moving into core, twists and standing poses. Some of the poses require strength, but various options are always given so that everyone can undertake the pose in some capacity.
The instructor, Kaitlyn, has a lovely manner and explains everything thoroughly. Although she is wonderfully experienced and talks through all the basics of yoga, it never feels as though she is talking down to you. In fact, it feels quite the opposite. It feels as though she is sharing her passion with you and constantly reassures all participants that it gets easier with practice. The participants were all very different too - young and young at heart, mothers with their adult daughters, all different shapes, sizes, levels of fitness and flexibility. All wanting to learn and share in Kaitlyn's passion. It felt like we were all being let in on a wonderful secret.
the lovely Kaitlyn (again)
Week 3 was so very relaxing, focusing on meditation, mindfulness and some slightly tricky balance poses. Everyone worked to their own level and at their own pace. Extension towards more intermediate poses was offered to those who were ready, while the rest of us concentrated on trying to stand on one leg (who knew that could be so calming and relaxing!)
What I loved particularly about this course is that although it is a beginner's course, Kaitlyn often offers variations to try out in the poses, moving through to some intermediate poses. It gives you the sense of having a goal to work towards - even if, right now, you are barely able to hold the initial, basic pose or stand on one leg!
Week 4 taught us hip and heart opening poses. The poses promoted flexibility and obviously, open-ness. They are designed to ease back pain and improve circulation. This week I surprised myself with not only how far i had come in just a few weeks, but also what I was capable of (with Kaitlyn's help) as I flipped into an upward bow pose, or backwards bend.
The fifth week was another strength exercise and one in which i think everyone surprised themselves. We all tried, and mainly succeeded - in doing headstands, handstands and other 'lifting' poses! It was oddly empowering and thoroughly enjoyable.
In the final week, we pulled everything we had worked on over the past few weeks together into one session. We were all able to reflect on how much we'd learned, how far we'd come in just a few short weeks and that we were ready to take our new-found skills into further yoga practice. We were now part of the initiated.
Stretch Yoga - in the CBD and now also in Holland Park
Stretch Yoga regularly run beginner's yoga courses at both their Holland Park and CBD studios. The next course is due to start on 7th January 2017, but check out their website for details of this and their other wonderful offerings.