We've all heard of the health benefits of practising yoga – with numerous studies proving its positive effects on both physical and mental wellbeing.
That said, it's a form of exercise that can sometimes feel intimidating, thanks to its reputation for requiring strong fitness levels and impressive flexibility. But, says yoga expert Naomi Annand, that simply isn't the case.
Naomi – one of the key experts at Red Smart Women at Sea 2021 in association with Celebrity Cruises – wants all of us to give Vinyasa, the style of yoga she practises and teaches, a go.
If you've never tried Vinyasa – a style of yoga that involves flowing from one pose to the next – then listen up because Naomi has run through everything you need to know about the practice and its many benefits...
What is Vinyasa yoga?
'Vinyasa is a branch of Hatha yoga – which dates back to the 11th century – and also takes inspiration from the dynamic Ashtanga yoga sequences that became popular in the 20th century.
'The word Vinyasa can be translated as "to place in a special way", and my approach is very mindful and compassionate. It’s flowing, it's dynamic, and usually it’s about moving on the breath but it’s also about paying attention to the little things we do on our yoga mat.
'I teach it by slowing things down, so people can translate my teaching cues into their own natural rhythms. It's really a very creative way of practising yoga because nothing is ever the same, and this can be an invitation to celebrate our own innate and totally unique rhythms, as well as what we can do, rather than what we can’t.'
How does Vinyasa differ from other styles of yoga?
'Vinyasa yoga uses sun salutations and moon salutes as the skeleton of the practice, and encourages dynamic and creative sequences that can be tailored uniquely to the individual. Some styles of yoga are much more about static poses that you do one by one, but the nice thing about Vinyasa is that one pose can lead into the next. In many ways, it feels like a dance.
'I teach Vinyasa without music, and that’s to invite the student to move to their own breath or pace. Your breath becomes like music that you dance to; you can really feel the rise and fall within each breath, and it’s a lovely thing to sense that. It makes the relationship between you and your body much more intimate.'
Who is Vinyasa yoga best suited to?
'Vinyasa tends to attract – and I am like this – very A-type, busy people with quite active minds. It's a nice way to feel like you’re doing something and putting your mind on something, rather than diving straight into rest. For me, it can be important to work towards rest and I find this to be more steadying.
'Vinyasa really meets your system where it's at. If you're feeling quite frenetic and wound-up, then that’s fine. Throughout the practice, you practise paying attention and slowing down. In the end, you feel like you’ve worked with your body and can drop into a place of rest; you're really bathing in rest. Vinyasa helps to build resilience and, through repetition, I find that my body, mind and nervous system can dial themselves down from a place of stress to a place of rest.
'Vinyasa is for anyone. It has a reputation for being for very able-bodied people, but I like to think that you can practise Vinyasa yoga from a chair if you want to; you can move the bits of you that move, and it’s a nice way to work with the body you’ve got. Every body is welcome at my studio, Yoga on the Lane.'
How often should you practise Vinyasa yoga?
'If you wanted, you could do mindful, steady Vinyasa every single day. Even just 10 minutes of moving with your breath becomes like a sort of moving meditation that you soon find you can’t live without. My book includes little sequences, some of which can be practised in as little as ten minutes.
'But it's definitely not about feeling bad for not doing it every day. One of the things that often holds newer students back from coming to yoga is thinking they don't have the time to commit to really regular practice. But you could do it just once a month and you'd still feel the benefits.
'I think it’s nice to celebrate the small wins, rather than feeling as if you should be doing more, or that you're not "good enough" or "stretchy enough" or "anything enough". Yoga shouldn’t be about self-flagellation or feeling bad.'
How do you feel after practising Vinyasa yoga?
'It’s a practice that isn’t too goal-orientated but, at the end, something will have shifted and that’s the magic of it. I have never regretted doing a yoga practice, ever. People generally feel pretty amazing after a class – they feel more balanced, they feel more grounded, and they feel more in their skin. At the end of class, you’re going to feel like you but the best of you. It might even activate you to create a little shift in your life, whether that is big or small.
'Some people feel really tired at the end of a class – it's that feeling when you’ve down-regulated, like when you've had a massage and you think, 'Wow, I had no idea I was that wound up." It’s can be like that at the end of yoga. That said, sometimes you’ll feel super sparky and full of energy, and just ready to do stuff.'
What are the key benefits of Vinyasa yoga?
Relieves stress: 'This is perhaps more important than anything. Because Vinyasa is a mindful practice, it really supports your mental wellbeing. It helps you to step back and wake up your senses, so you're able to be more present.'
Boosts your physical health: 'The physical style of the practice means it’s strengthening for your bones. Standing on one leg and working on resistance is also a really good thing in terms of preventing osteoporosis. As well as this, being able to hold your own body weight means you are going to get strong and improve tone.'
Strengthens your relationship to your heart: 'Heart rate variability is a marker of good health. During a class, you'll put your hands on your heart and feel the rhythm change throughout. Vinyasa yoga is very good for your heart because it’s quite dynamic and it can feel nice to marvel at your body doing what it knows how to do.'
Helps regulate your nervous system: 'Vinyasa helps you down-regulate. There are two scientifically known branches of the nervous system, the Sympathetic (SNS) and the Parasympathetic (PNS). The SNS is the "fight or flight" stress response, which also helps us get things done. But most of us live in that state more than we need to, so one of the best things about taking longer exhale breaths and slowing down during Vinyasa is that you’re able to feel yourself enter the PNS instead.'
Improves sleep: 'The PNS is often a place many of us only experience when we're asleep. Entering it not only feels good but is something that supports better sleep, and more positive states of mind and wellbeing. This can have a huge benefit on y0ur sleep. For lots of my students, their sleep improves.'
Boosts body confidence: 'People feel really good about who they are and what they can do after yoga. It's a celebration of what the body can do, rather than what it can't do.'
Red Smart Women at Sea 2021
Naomi Annand will be leading a Vinyasa yoga session at Red Smart Women at Sea 2021 in association with Celebrity Cruises on Friday 29, October from 9am-4.15pm on Celebrity Silhouette in Southampton.
BOOK NOW Tickets are £50
Join us to experience a Vinyasa yoga session with Naomi Annand at Red Smart Women at Sea 2021, taking place on The Lawn Club, Celebrity Silhouette's half acre of real grass lawn – weather-permitting, this is the perfect spot for a calming outdoor yoga class.
About Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises’ iconic “X” is the mark of luxury, with its cool, contemporary design and warm spaces, as well as dining experiences where the venue is as important as the cuisine and amazing service.
Celebrity Cruises’ 14 ships offer luxury holidays visiting all seven continents. Celebrity also offers immersive cruise tour experiences in Alaska and Canada.
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