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My first yoga experience – and it was an experience

My first yoga experience – and it was an experience

Jamal Rizvi recounts his first try at Ashtanga yoga

As an English Literature student my Wednesdays are always completely empty, this usually means a nice lie-in and then off to play tennis at midday. This week however I plucked up the courage to sacrifice my weekly lie-in, and in return I was granted possibly one of the best starts to a day I’ve ever had. I had decided to try out Ashtanga yoga at 9 am on Wednesday. It was a ballsy move, I know.

But it paid off. My housemate, Ollie Short (2nd Year Geology undergraduate) accompanied me, and so we began our 2 hour yoga session. To begin we were enlightened about the origins of Ashtanga yoga, how its original purpose was to explore the psychological, acting as a kind of catharsis for the soul. Yet the side of Ashtanga that has managed to transfer itself to the West is the more physical side, the side that makes for a good workout and improves your health.

Our instructor, Emily (UCL Masters graduate), assured us though that we would get both the physical rejuvenation and the replenishing of the soul in the session to come. I was sceptical at this point (as I’m sure you are as you read this) but that scepticism was soon washed away with the sweat that I had worked up after 15 minutes of positions.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Hot Yoga – where you are basically just doing yoga in a sauna for an hour. The difference with Ashtanga Yoga is that instead of being heated from the outside, like Hot Yoga, you are heated from the inside. The breathing technique that means you can only breathe at certain times, and the specific positions that mean you use muscles you wouldn’t usually, cause the perspiration that me and Ollie experienced in the full.

Our session was a jam-packed two hours of workout, positions that highlighted our imbalance and inflexibility, and a final meditational ending which puts you in a state of complete tranquillity and calm. We left feeling amazing. As we walked home our feet were bouncing off the Islington pavements, our legs felt like they were made of rubber, and our general outlook on the day was one of optimism and satisfaction already. We felt ready to do anything – for me to smash Queen Mary Tennis team later that day, for Ollie to smash studying in the library.

I strongly recommend Ashtanga Yoga, but more importantly I recommend doing it at the beginning of your day. Wake up early, sacrifice two hours sleep, and in return you’ll get a release of endorphins that’ll recharge you more than two hours of sleep ever would. I was initially sceptical of yoga initially, but now I understand the hype.

Ollie and I will be going back for more Ashtanga, and you should too!

Featured image credit: Take Back Your Health Conference 2015 Los Angeles

Jamal Thomas Rizvi