In the last decade the practice of yoga has taken the western world by storm, with a multitude of studios and styles available.
One of these is Akhanda yoga, which means unbroken tradition. Akhanda yoga focuses on an understanding of deep breathing – also known as pranayama – and restoration.
“Basically, a quick and cold-notes explanation of yoga is that it is the unity of mind, body and spirit. There is a major focus of pranayama – breathing techniques – that you learn, as well as doing postures,” said yoga instructor Corinne Szepesi, of the To The Stars Occupational Therapy and Wellness Centre.
“In Akhanda, you focus on moving your spine in all directional movements with a balanced sequence. One way I really like to explain it to beginners is that basically what happens to your body affects your mind and vice versa.
“Yoga is about knowing that all is connected, doing the practice of yoga through the poses and pranayama to work with that.”
Szepesi has been practicing yoga for nearly two decades and is a certified Akhanda instructor.
She also does prenatal and restorative yoga, which are two other branches of practice.
Yoga, in all its forms, has many physical benefits from an improvement in flexibility to an elevation in circulation and a decrease in physical stress.
“From beginner yoga to heated power yoga, there is variation within each movement that allows for people with injuries, physical conditions and limitations to practice on their level.
“The breath work alone is so good for the body. It brings your heart rate back to rhythmic state, you’re feeding your cells and tissues with fresh oxygen, and when you learn deep breathing techniques, you are expelling toxins out of the body,” said Szepesi.
“Breath work massages internal organs, helps with stress and can help people sleep better and even help with circulation. It helps with mood and overall well being, and helps you find a connection to yourself.”
The self-discovery is something that Szepesi put a lot of emphasis on, saying it is her reason to continue to practice yoga.
“Yoga is a personal transformation because you are exploring your mind, your body and your spirit and you learn things about yourself along the way.
“It’s a way to explore yourself and it is really cool to see that transformation. It’s cool to be able to take what we learn on our yoga mat into our outside world to help us deal with stress of daily living,” she said.
“It’s so exciting for me to see as a teacher when people come in and change over time as they move forward in yoga. It’s not just physically, but mentally as well. That is very rewarding for me.”
Szepesi added that like anything, all it takes is an attempt. She said for people who are unsure if they can do yoga or not to keep an open mind and explore the many options of class types. She said there is even a type of yoga for those with an injury, or who are new to working out or who are getting back into a workout regime.
“There is a very large variance in the types of yoga and anyone can do it,” she said.
“We have kid classes that are with kids who are six-years-old, and we’ve got people in their 70s and everyone in between. It’s just about finding the right program to fit your needs and lifestyle.
“As people progress in my classes, we will move them to the class where they fit in best.”