For most of us in the West our understanding of yoga is based on the purely physical practice. We think that the plethora of instagram ‘yoga’ pictures of people bending their limbs in seemingly impossible ways is what it is all about. Only for the bendy, the flexible, the thin, the young.

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It is however an ancient practice that originated in India, thousands of years ago whose ultimate object was to attain enlightenment, with relatively little focus on the physical practice.

Modern yoga was created by the blending of Western styles of gymnastics with postures from Haṭha yoga in India in the 20th century.

The modern father of yoga is thought to be a dude called Krishnamacharya (1888 - 1989) and it is his students that brought the classical yoga styles of Ashtanga and Iyengar to the West.

The physical postures (or asanas) gained popularity around the 1960’s but really gained traction in the 1980’s. Indeed many of the postures that are at the core of most modern yoga classes didn’t exist 50 years ago.

It is now a popular form of exercise throughout the Western world but it is so much more than that. Whilst there are the obvious physical benefits of strength, flexibility and increased mobility, it also extends to mental and spiritual wellbeing also. It has developed an important role in counteracting the demands and stresses of modern life.

There are now many different ‘styles’ of yoga but regardless of the origins they all have one thing that unites them - connection.

A desire for connection, to self, your body, others and the world around us.

So whilst western yoga classes might be a far cry from the ancient practice of the priests and seers - that is not necessary a bad thing. Modern yoga is much more inclusive and accessible. It has something to offer everyone, it truly is for everyone and EVERY body.

If we want to create a happier, healthier life, it's not the ancient practice of yoga that we're looking to discover; we're looking to discover the current practice of our selves.

If it feels good and you enjoy it then it is the right type of yoga.

At The Hive, Cheltenham, our yoga classes are based around the vinyasa style of yoga which links breathe and movement through a continuous flow of creative sequencing. It physically increases whole body mobility, strength and muscle tone and will include elements of pranayama (breath work) and mindfulness or meditation included to different degrees within the classes.

Every teacher has a unique style of teaching and will place different emphasis on the components, so try out the classes, stay open minded, have fun and see which work for you.