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A quick scroll through Instagram would have you believe that yoga is a mythical and inaccessible practice. Every other photo involves someone precariously balancing on their head, and the everyday coffee-drinking office worker may feel overwhelmed by the focus on veganism, chakra systems and meditation.

However, yoga is for everyone. While it’s easy to feel intimidated by Sanskrit terminology, fancy studios and complicated postures, it’s inherently inclusive and suitable for all ability levels.

You don’t need to overhaul your lifestyle to start. Most importantly, you don’t need to be ultra-flexible, young or fanatical about fitness.

If you’re still nervous, this…

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When people think of yoga, they often imagine slow flows that focus on relaxation and flexibility. Some assume it won’t be challenging enough. I’ve heard plenty of gym-goers and weight-lifters claim it’s “too boring”, despite never having attended a class.

While some styles are low-intensity, others torch your core and aid functional strength gains. Sweatier practices overflow with planks, push-ups and tricky inversions like headstand. By focusing on dynamic bodyweight exercises rather than one-dimensional movements (e.g. bicep curls), you simultaneously work large and small muscle groups.

If you’re still not convinced, this blog answers all your questions, including:

  • What styles…

Not too long ago, I received a panicked email from a student asking me whether it’s normal to feel anxious after yoga. After all, wasn’t it supposed to be relaxing? Were they doing something wrong? Everyone else seemed to move effortlessly while they wrestled with uncomfortable knots that only got tighter with every posture and breathing exercise.

Now, yoga has a well-deserved reputation for improving well-being. It modulates stress by slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and promoting healthy respiration. Plus, studies show that it reduces cortisol levels by triggering the body’s relaxation response.

However, this isn’t the complete…

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Recently, I asked my Instagram followers what makes a good yoga teacher? Here are some of the most common responses:

  • Someone who has an in-depth knowledge of anatomy
  • Someone who weaves philosophy and scripture into their classes
  • Someone who incorporates pranayama (breathwork) and meditation as well as postures
  • Someone who practises what they preach, and lives “a yogic lifestyle”

According to these definitions, I fall way below par.

Now, I’m not the best yoga teacher in the world (although I don’t know how you’d quantify this, besides not breaking your students’ necks), but I’m by no means the worst. …

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How did you discover yoga?

Perhaps you stumbled across a YouTube video or took a class on holiday?

Maybe your friend dragged you to a studio, and you’ve never looked back?

Were you inspired by a particularly beautiful photo or video on social media?

Whatever the way, people’s first-time experiences often come with bundles of enthusiasm. They describe love stories brimming with synchronicity — they didn’t find yoga, yoga found them.

I suppose, yoga found me too, but it was anything but the perfect romance.

How did I discover yoga?


The eating disorder that saved my life

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Thanking a devastating illness that…

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If you don’t practise yoga, chances are you know someone who does, and they’ve probably chewed your ear off about how it’s changed their life.

Now, I’m sceptical by nature — I don’t believe in celery juice fasts, oil baths or breatharian monks who go without food or water for seventy years (it’s a thing). So, when someone makes a grand claim about how life-changing something is, I’m a little ashamed to admit, my natural reaction is to roll my eyes.

Before I found yoga, I had the same dismissive response as most people — the benefits sounded too good…

ivananikolic on Adobe Stock

As a yoga teacher, one of the questions I get asked the most ( besides “do I have to be flexible to start yoga?”) is “what mat should I buy?”.

Back in the good old days, there wasn’t much choice — you had one size (small), style (purple) and material (PVC). It was a simpler time when yoga was only practised by skint hippies with humble tastes in church basements. But while this sounds fabulously esoteric, it was hardly practical. Old-school mats were sticky, environmentally hazardous and non-supportive for those with joint pain.

Nowadays, for better or worse, the yoga…

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I spent most of my teens and early 20s waging war on my body, beating it into submission with extreme diets, exercise and beauty regimes.

I suppose extreme might be an understatement — I actually suffered from anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphia (the latter being undiagnosed, but I’m pretty sure it comes with the territory).

The deadly trio of disorders ravaged my life for nearly a decade and robbed me of my formative years. Even now, I’m picking up the pieces. …

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As a yoga, meditation and self-improvement enthusiast, it should come as no surprise that I love ends and new beginnings.

My obsession with reflection, in particular, started at an early age. Finishing journals, school terms and even boxes of cereal felt almost spiritual, like I was saying goodbye to the old me, with all her artificial and childish tastes, and making space for someone wiser. Someone who’d choose All-Bran over Lucky Charms.

I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for symbolism, and my tendency towards rumination makes the New Year especially exciting.

To celebrate the closing of a chapter, I…

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I’ve been working with a therapist lately, trying to unravel my complicated relationship with vulnerability.

It’s not going well.

My problem, as I’ve since learnt, stems from a difficult childhood. I wasn’t abused or neglected in a conventional sense, but my parents were in an unhappy marriage and, understandably, too distracted to invest all the love required to raise a healthy, happy and well-rounded daughter.

I don’t remember much from that time (although I’m told it was awfully dramatic and violent) but, eventually, my dad left. …

Ashleigh Mayes

My name’s Ashleigh — yoga teacher and mental health advocate.

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