Mind, Body and Soul in Yoga Class

PUBLISHED: 14:53 12 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:11 06 May 2010

WHAT with the biting cold weather, a persistent credit crunch and the trauma of taking down the festive decorations, it s fair to say that we re facing tricky times at the moment. Determined to float away to a far more peaceful place, I left my January bl

WHAT with the biting cold weather, a persistent credit crunch and the trauma of taking down the festive decorations, it's fair to say that we're facing tricky times at the moment.

Determined to float away to a far more peaceful place, I left my January blues behind and headed to Wheatfields Junior School in St Albans for a serious yoga and pilates session with Anna Sanz, aka Guru Anahata.

Anahata welcomed me into the atmospherically-lit school hall and, once we were all sitting comfortably, she put on some mellow music and we were told to lie down and focus on breathing.

Pranayama or "breath control" is in fact one of the most important elements of yoga and if you get it right a good exhale is supposed to clear out stale energy and allow new vitality to take its place.

I almost drifted off to sleep listening to those lapping waves but luckily Anahata soon shook the group awake and proceeded to begin the next stage of our treatment - an intensive half hour of stretching to perk up our posture and tone those troublesome areas.

We were to focus on our seven "chakras", or centres of energy, which must be exercised regularly if we wish to release "unconstrained emotions" - that is, big belly laughs and toothy grins as opposed to nervous giggles and shy smiles.

Yoga stretching is far different to the usual touch-your-toes stuff. I was unpleasantly surprised by how tricky back lunges and inversions could be and I almost cried out in anguish when Anahata calmly instructed us to hold a pretzel-shaped pose for as long as we possibly could.

Even the fairly mild "downward facing dog" had me feeling dizzy. But the majority of yoga goers seemed fairly serene so I persisted in my efforts and was greatly helped by Anahata who came over on several occasions to weave me into the correct position.

Balance is also essential to yoga: if your mind is focused on not falling over, it will abstract itself from the material world and float off to a better place. Some of the tamer "warrior" poses did make me feel calm and grounded and at least the trickier moves -- especially the pyramid-esque ones -- kept my mind purely focused on staying upright.

I felt like a cheesestring after all the bending and shaping and it came as a great relief when Anahata cooled it down and began the third and final phase of the evening - 45 minutes of meditation.

Our bodies were still and comfortable, our breath was smooth, slow and serene and we allowed our flow of thoughts to gently patter across our minds.

It was a great way to end a unique experience and despite a few aches and pains left over from the cursed pyramid poses, I left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated for a new year.

When? Thursday, 7.30-9.00pm

Where? Wheatfields Junior School, Downes Road, St Albans

How much? Drop-in price is £8; paying on a half-termly basis works out at £7 a session

Contact: Anna Sanz on 07762769368, or anahata@sky.com


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