Girton village website

Active Girton: Yoga

The word "Yoga" comes from the Sanskrit yuj, meaning union (the same root as our word "yoke"). Originating in India, the earliest treatise on Yoga, by the sage Patanjali, dates from around the 2nd century BC, but there is archaeological evidence that the practice of Yoga may be considerably older, possibly from even as far back as the 3rd millennium BC. It was part of a complex philosophical system aiming at the union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self, and the physical positions of the body were intended to facilitate meditation. In the West, Yoga is widely practised for its physical rather than spiritual benefits, but serious followers regard the physical practice as a means of achieving a union of body, mind, emotions and intellect, and hence arriving at physical health, mental peace, emotional equanimity, and intellectual clarity.

JULIA DALE teaches a Yoga class in Girton Pavilion on Tuesday mornings from 9.30 to 11 and Wednesday evenings from 7.30 to 9. Julia is a member of the Cambridge Iyengar Yoga Institute, which follows the teachings and methods of B.K.S. Iyengar. Among his distinguished pupils was the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who first brought him to the UK. Iyengar, who is still alive in his nineties, inspired many followers in Britain and Europe and Iyengar Yoga is now widely practised worldwide. In 1975 the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute (named after his late wife) was opened in Pune; Julia has spent several periods there undergoing their arduous training regime, and continues to attend regular workshops in the UK.

You don't need to be able to tie yourself in knots to practise Iyengar Yoga. Emphasis is placed on precision and alignment in all postures, and on the sequence in which different groups of positions are performed. Starting with a brief meditative session, the class moves into various sitting, standing and twisting positions, with careful guidance and assistance from Julia. There is a gradual transition from one position to another, and positions are held for several minutes. This can be surprisingly taxing, as your correspondent discovered! Finally, the class winds down with a period of total relaxation.

Yoga is not a religion, although it has been regarded with suspicion in some quarters as a pagan, non-Christian practice. But while they are not explicitly talked about in class, the ethical principles of Yoga (truthfulness, non-violence, non-covetousness, purity, austerity, contentment, etc) are there in the background for those who wish to delve deeper. Julia describes Yoga as an attempt to become more aware of layers of being, working from the outside in towards the traditional goal of yuj. Whatever your philosophical attitude to Yoga, the physical and mental benefits are widely recognised in the West. Members of the class, including Julia herself, say that Yoga has helped them cope with crippling physical problems. It has also been found effective in dealing with depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Julia's classes cater for people of all levels and abilities, all ages, and both sexes (although shy men might prefer to attend the Wednesday evening class where they won't be alone). Truly an antidote to whatever is causing you stress.

Contact: Julia Dale, tel. 360270

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RACHAEL MOORE holds a Yoga class in the Pavilion in Girton on Tuesday evenings from 8 to 9.15 p.m. Rachael began practising Yoga 14 years ago as a means of exercising and relieving stress from a very demanding job as a speech and language therapist, and for her it "clicked" immediately. She eventually decided to train as a Yoga teacher through Camyoga, Cambridge's Yoga centre, which is now based in George IV Street, just off Hills Road. About three years ago, after 18 months of intensive study and training, she gained accreditation from Yoga Alliance UK as a qualified teacher of adults, and alongside achieving this qualification she also started training to teach Pregnancy Yoga and Mother and Baby Yoga.

Rachael's Girton class started in the WI Hall before moving to the Pavilion. It is an "open level" course, in that participants can come from any level of experience. The small size of the group (around 6 to 12 men and women) means they all receive a lot of personal attention. There will usually be a particular focus or theme each week; for example, it might be Balance, when focus on bodily balance will incorporate attention to steadiness and ease of body and mind. In this way the more subtle aspects of Yoga all come together. Rachael practises a "Hatha Flow" style of Yoga, whereby each posture or Asana flows into the next. Absolute beginners will generally start with attention to the gross anatomy, e.g. leg muscles, arms, and back, before attempting to focus on building "inner strength" and the more challenging aspects of Yoga, such as breath work (pranayama) which aims to unite body and mind. Thus what may start out as a purely physical activity can develop into a more complex mental or spiritual practice.

Rachael teaches all over Cambridge: Adult, Mother and Baby and Pregnancy Yoga at Camyoga, a Thursday evening adult class in the IVC sports centre, and a Friday morning class at DW Sports Fitness at the Beehive Centre. In addition, she teaches a class at Sweaty Betty's women's sports outfitters in Trinity Street once a month on Mondays after the shop closes, which is free to all Sweaty Betty customers. Rachael is currently developing her knowledge further through a 9-month course in London run by Claire Missingham, an acclaimed teacher of Vinyasa Flow Yoga. As Rachael says, deepening and extending knowledge of Yoga is never finished, but "it never stops serving you" -the benefits continue to accrue over time.

Contact: Rachael Moore, tel. 476262,

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Angela Blackburn