Our new Wellbeing Expert, yoga teacher Niamh Deans, gives us the ultimate beginner's guide to understanding yoga.
Meet Niamh Deans, the newest member of the Beaut Expert Team who joins us as Wellbeing Expert. Niamh is the creator of ND Yoga who specialises in corporate and sports yoga. Her focus is movement, which is now being recognised as the new medicine and brings about many benefits physically, mentally and emotionally.
If you have been curious about yoga but reluctant to act on it, let Niamh explain the benefits and how it changed her own life.
I used to be a bit of a worrier. Worrying about what I might have said and how such and such could have taken it up the wrong way. Lying awake at night worrying about things that seem so huge in the dark of the night and then mulling over multiple scenarios related to this great worry. Doing lists in my head. Sound familiar?
None of the worries ever came to pass, by the way. I read recently that 90% of the things we worry about do not come to pass, in fact. I found yoga (or it found me), but when I did, I started on a path that brought me into connection with the present moment. Not dwelling on thoughts or notions of the past and not projecting into the future. I started on a process of self-awareness which was challenging and not what I had anticipated.
I have a background in movement, dance and ballet, so have always been physically fit and flexible. The physical aspects of yoga were relatively challenging to me but not overwhelming. I was still challenged and enjoyed the physical journey but it was the philosophy of yoga that opened up a whole new life perspective for me. Also, sitting. Quietly. It is quite astounding what you learn about yourself when you just sit and tune into your own breath and observe. For a long time, I didn’t get the full picture. Breathing exercises? Like, what? I wanted to feel the burn! But this yoga teacher is just getting me to lay here and breathe. I did not know, see or experience the benefit. Well, I did; I always went home feeling great afterwards, but I didn’t piece it all together.
Pranayama (harnessing the life energy, the breath) and meditation are central to yoga practice. Well, these practices schooled me. I found out so much about myself when faced with these practices at teacher trainings.
It is difficult to pack into a yoga class the expanse that is yoga. It is an ancient practice which unifies mind, body and what we might refer to as our soul or energy. Yoga ultimately unveils a path to self-realisation. Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. It connects us also with the world around us and this interconnectivity makes us responsible.
Since starting on my yoga path, I mostly eat a vegetarian diet. It is not a conscious decision I made, it is just unfolding; unfolding through conscious living. The same can be said for my alcohol consumption, which for a person who used to ‘love my few drinks’ is a massive change for me and a welcome one for me for so many reasons. Oh, and I can still party like a good thing, just hold the alcohol.
Also, get this. Yoga changes the brain. A 2015 study shows that yoga protects the brain from a decline in grey brain matter as we age (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience cited in Psychology Today). MRI scans showed the brain volume of yoga practitioners on par with people much younger. The same is shown for those who meditate. The grey matter of the brain is also linked with positive emotions and the parasympathetic nervous system which yoga acts directly on. Emotions like joy, happiness, compassion and kindness have exclusively more activity on the left hemisphere of the brain. I am a kinder and more compassionate person since beginning my yoga practice. There, I said it. I’ve parted with the ‘judgey’ me.
Yoga is a practice for life. I don’t have myself all figured out, far from it, but I have the awareness to self-correct my course. Life is an experience and every day we learn. We are human, we make mistakes. These are all experiences. If we are afraid to make mistakes we live fearfully and not fully. I try not to let fear and worry hold me back in life. Yoga acts on the whole body on all levels. What this can deliver, combined, is conscious living. In a world where we rush around, where being busy is almost treated like a badge of honour, yoga teaches us to live in the moment. A conscious moment. And kind of like a New York minute, you can pack so much more experience into that moment than all the thoughts in the world.
Niamh Deans is the creator of ND Yoga. check Niamh out on Instagram @ndyogadays and Facebook at ND Yoga. www.NDYoga.ie Niamh is also the creator of Yoga Beats, an outdoor yoga event taking place out the back of The Bernard Shaw Pub on Camden St with a DJ and a healthy brunch after. The next event is on August 25th. Tickets are available for €38 on www.eventbrite.ie.