Get ready to strengthen your mind and your body

Yoga teacher Barbara Helisova. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (110971-1)
Yoga teacher Barbara Helisova. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (110971-1)
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If you think yoga is a piece of cake, Barbara Helisova wants you to think again.

There’s more to it than sitting cross-legged for hours on end, she insists, or moving yourself into obscure shapes once every five minutes.

She says yoga can work every part of the body from your little toe to the top of your head.

We’ve teamed up with Barbara to bring readers a beginner’s guide to yoga. Over the coming weeks she’ll cover many of the classic poses and explain how each one can be used to help you.

She’s been practising yoga since she was 14 and runs Brave Bodies, teaching hour-long classes in Portsmouth and Southsea. She also organises yoga retreats to the Czech Republic each year.

So, what’s yoga all about?

‘Yoga is itself a philosophy but physical yoga, or Hatha yoga, was developed by Yogis to be able to keep the body strong and supple so they would be able to sit in stillness for a long time without feeling pain,’ explains Barbara.

‘That was the point of it – to gain control of the body without the body controlling you.

‘People have used it down the years to get greater flexibility, strength and balance.

‘It also has psychological benefits as well because it increases focus.

‘You have to learn how to be calm, even when you’re not feeling particularly comfortable.’

There are many different types of yoga but Barbara’s preferred style is Vinyasa Flow, which combines a series of different poses to create continuous movement.

Those who have particular health problems and are out of shape might want to try a few private lessons to begin with but Barbara says a beginner’s class will suit most people – even if they have never attempted yoga before.

‘If you have a good teacher who looks after you it’s a very safe form of exercise,’ she adds.

‘You just have to start from the beginning really. It has helped people with a number of problems.

‘It’s very strengthening for the knees and your core, it sorts out lots of people’s lower back problems.’

The 32-year-old teaches on Monday and Friday evenings at Friendship House, in Elm Grove, Southsea and on Tuesday and Friday afternoons at the nearby Irish Club.

She also runs a class for the University of Portsmouth at its Nuffield Sports Centre.

‘Lots of people see yoga as a way to become very flexible but that is only one focus of it really,’ she adds.

‘One of the main benefits is self-awareness and body awareness.

‘You are really encouraged to listen to the body, to learn the difference between being slightly uncomfortable and being in pain and knowing when you can push yourself.’

To find out more about Barbara log onto bravebodies.com