Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Tone Your Body and Cleanse Your Mind Too; in Association with the NHS from an Ancient Indian Spiritual Practice to a Modern-Day Method of Keeping Fit, Yoga Has Always Been around in Some Form or Other. with the Help of an Expert, CLAIRE HACK Finds out More

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Tone Your Body and Cleanse Your Mind Too; in Association with the NHS from an Ancient Indian Spiritual Practice to a Modern-Day Method of Keeping Fit, Yoga Has Always Been around in Some Form or Other. with the Help of an Expert, CLAIRE HACK Finds out More

Article excerpt

Byline: CLAIRE HACK

EVERY other day, we seem to see another svelte celebrity on the cover a magazine claiming her tiny frame has been achieved as a result of a strict regime of yoga and meditation.

When she's not designing purses and jewellery or being snapped by the paparazzi, even Paris Hilton has been known to strike the odd yogic pose.

And of course she's not the only celeb reported to be interested in the practice. Madonna, Meg Ryan and Ricky Martin have all claimed that yoga has changed their lives, while Spice Girl Geri Halliwell attributes her current rock-hard physique to a rigorous yoga routine. Under the tutelage of Katy Appleton, her personal instructor, Geri has successfully transformed her body completely. But is yoga just for fit-obsessed celebrities?

Wendy Buttery says no. The Tyneside yoga instructor and avowed convert to the spiritual ideals surrounding the practice maintains that yoga is about something far deeper and more profound than just keeping trim. The 39-year-old, whose school of yoga is called Lotus Pad and includes classes from beginner to intermediate, has been on what she refers to as her personal journey with yoga for eight years now.

As her qualifications attest, yoga has become much more than just a hobby for her. She's completed two separate modules of training under the international authority of the Yoga Alliance, totalling 500 hours, and is also qualified to teach pregnancy and therapy yoga.

Now based in Newcastle and North Tyneside, Wendy travelled all the way to Australia to study under the renowned yoga practitioner Nicky Knoff. Knoff herself, who has been teaching yoga for more than 35 years, studied in India under Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, the respective pioneers of Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga.

"I knew that yoga promoted flexibility," Wendy said. "But I was also keen to understand the spiritual aspects of it. I started with a six-week course at Newcastle University and from the very first class, I knew it was exactly what I'd been looking for."

So what exactly is yoga? "It's actually a fairly large discipline," Wendy answers. "I teach Hatha yoga, which covers all yoga dealing with positions.

"There's also Ashtanga, which is about using breath to power through each position, and Iyengar, which concentrates on body alignment. It's then divided up into eight 'limbs' that cover all the elements of being."

Do you need to memorise all these before you begin?

"The three most important limbs when you're just starting out are asana, which is moving the body into different positions, pranayama, which is controlling breath, and meditation, which is about controlling your mind and cultivating stillness."

It's clearly a lot more than just being able to bend and contort your body, then.

"It might sound a bit esoteric," Wendy says. "But yoga really is for anybody and everybody. From the first class, you'll begin to understand your body and yourself. You'll start accepting your limitations, working through them and beyond them until you no longer have any limitations. It's about taking the first steps on a path. You can go as far with it as you want and it's certainly possible to go further than just exercise. The more you explore, the more you'll gain from yoga. It will keep giving to you as long as you're ready to receive."

We all know it's possible (with a lot of hard work) to achieve a stunningly toned body with the help of yoga - Sienna Miller and Jennifer Aniston being excellent examples - but what are the other benefits? …

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