Yoga: a beginner's guide
Don't know your asana from your elbow? Here's a short introduction to yoga, plus a listing of yoga centres in Portugal.
To many people, the word yoga conjures up the image of a long-haired, bearded Indian man sitting in the lotus position and chanting. Yet, yoga has been increasingly in the public eye, mainly due to celebrities such as Madonna, Geri Halliwell and Gwyneth Paltrow singing its praises.
Reported improvements such as toned upper arms, trim stomach and firm thighs and bums have encouraged them to take up yoga classes, but for the uninitiated and uninformed, what is it all about? Yoga originated in India around 6000 years ago. The practice sometimes seems to have an air of mystery about it, which perhaps prevents many people from trying a class. It can be seen as new-age, 'alternative' or a bit of a fad in the exercise world. In reality, it is a holistic practise that benefits body, mind and spirit.
People take up yoga for a surprisingly wide range of reasons: to gain flexibility, to tone-up or lose weight, to improve their ability to relax or to prepare their body for a physical event such as childbirth. Regular practice of yoga will improve your general fitness and body shape, make you stronger, calmer and more able to cope with the stresses and strains of life. Types of yoga Hatha (or physical) yoga is broken down into eight stages or limbs.
Traditionally these are followed progressively to reach Samadhi, the last stage, where the spirit is liberated and becomes 'at one' with the universe. Yoga practised in the west mainly encapsulates stages three and four. Stage three (Asana) is the practise of the postures or poses and stage four (Pranayama) is rhythmic control of the breath.
There are many styles of Hatha yoga currently being taught, all of which have slightly different emphases.
- Astanga yoga is the form of yoga currently enjoying the most attention. Also known as power yoga, the moves or transitions between asanas are performed at a higher speed than usual, thus providing an aerobic workout, missing in the alternative yoga forms.
- Iyengar yoga, based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar from Pune, India, concentrates on the postural alignment of the body and limbs. The practice makes use of ropes, blocks and belts to aid in the attainment of the asanas.
- Sivananda yoga focuses on the flow of energy in the spine. This style is built around a specific sequence of twelve postures or poses.
What to look for in a yoga class
Yoga includes elements such as stretching, balancing and posturing - the combination of which can seem like a contortionist act to the newcomer. However, a good yoga teacher will tailor the postures to suit the different abilities within a class. Some classes will focus heavily on meditation and visualisation, but for others, meditation simply refers to the period of cool-down or relaxation at the end of the session. Controlled breathing is a hugely important part of the practice.
Yoga is suitable for both men and women and can be enjoyed by the full range of fitness abilities. Even if you have trouble touching your toes, yoga can still be open to you. Classes can be found by looking in the telephone book or by recommendation from friends or work colleagues.
There are numerous teachers in the larger cities and a few are listed below. There is even a place that combines horseback riding with yoga! Try out one or two sessions before committing yourself to a lengthy course, as your relationship with your yoga teacher is one of the most important factors in your enjoyment and progress of yoga.
Where to take yoga
Contact: Luisa Mckay
Lulushanti studio, Albufeira, Algarve 8200
Phone: 00 351 916 024 997
Yoga Style: Vinyasa Flow, Pregnancy, mother and baby
Contact: Lawrence Quirk
Rua Marrieros, Aljezur, Algarve
Phone: 00 351 912 651 894
Quinta Mimosa Algarve
Sitio dos quartos, Almancil, Algarve 8100-256
Phone: 00 351 289397486
Zion yoga & Retreat Center
Contact: Peter Askew
Quinta Perfume, Amieira, Castela Blanca 53332
Phone: 07876 834 644
Yoga Style: Ashtanga Vinyasa, Dynamic Yoga
Holistic Riding Center Quinta Creativa
Contact: Andreas Endries
Monte Velho, Bensafrim, Algarve
Phone: 00 351 916269813
Yoga Style: yoga and riding
Yoga in Portugal
Contact: Pedro Feijão
Associacao Academica de Coimbra, Coimbra
Yoga Style: Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Zen
YOGALISBOA - CENTRO ANANDA
Contact: Sandra Ribeiro
R. Actriz Palmira Bastos, 12 B porta C, Lisboa, Lisboa 1900
Contact: Jean-Pierre de Oliveira
Rua de Xabregas nº2, Centro Empresarial Tejo Loja 5, Lisboa, Lisbon 1900 440
Phone: 00 351 915856403
Yoga Style: Anusara-Inspired Yoga offered in English, French and German
Ananda Marga Yoga Fasting Retreats
Contact: Dada Dhyanananda
Rua Miguel Torga No. 4 Sao pedro de Sintra, Lisbon
Phone: 00 351 96 233 6361
Yoga Style: Ashtaunga Método DeRose
Centro de Yoga PATANJALI
Contact: Leonor Castilho
Rua do Campo Alegre, 484, Porto, Portugal 4150-170
Phone: 00 351 916478428
Yoga Style: Iyengar Yoga
Rua Vila Nova nº 140, Aldoar, Porto, 4100-510
Phone: 00 351 939546002
Yoga Style: Hatha, Vinyasa flow, triYoga, Ashtanga, kidYoga, Pre-Natal. Group and private.
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