Prescription Yoga

The Evening Standard

By admin In Lifestyle
From postures to boost your gut health to anti-anxiety flow, prescriptive yoga classes are healing Londoners, says Kate Wills

We all know about the myriad benefits of yoga but gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all practice. Forget flexibility and looking good in leggings, a new wave of yoga classes is aimed at treating everything from IBS to insomnia, with studios offering classes and workshops to target specific health issues. So whether you want to boost your immune system, unwind your “text neck” or sort out your digestion, there’s a mat for that…

You’ve got: insomnia

You need: Yoga for Better Sleep at The Life Centre, Notting Hill and Islington (thelifecentre.com).

Lisa Sanfilippo is London’s leading expert on yoga for sleep – her workshops have been known to help life-long insomniacs finally get some shut-eye. “Over the past 15 years I’ve developed a sequence of poses, meditations and breathing exercises which release tension and settle the mind and body for sleep,” she says. And if you’re one of the one in three people in the UK who have sleep problems, you need to pick your yoga class wisely. “A strong vinyasa class late at night might make you feel tired but it will have the opposite effect once you’ve gone to bed,” explains Sanfilippo. “You need to calm the nervous system down and get it ready for rest.” For more information visit yogaforbettersleep.com.

Pose prescription: Buddha Belly Breath

“Before bed, breathe smoothly and evenly. As you inhale, relax your lower belly and allow it to puff out gently. Making the exhalation longer than the inhale – say a count of four to the inhale of a count of three – taps into the rest-and-digest function of your nervous system.”

You need: Love Your Belly at Triyoga, Camden (triyoga.co.uk).

Whether you have a bit of a stomach upset, or a more serious condition such as IBD or post-operative bowel cancer, Tanya Goodman Bailey teaches yoga techniques and gives nutritional advice to manage digestive health. “For many people, gut issues are a stress response, and standard yoga practice with deep spinal twists can be too much,” she explains. “This is a very nurturing, healing practice which aims to reset the nervous system and bring digestion back to normal function. We learn about self-massage and acupressure as well as various poses that target the digestive organs, calm the mind and settle the belly. We also teach distraction exercises, craniosacral therapy and meditation, which are very effective forms of pain- management.”

For more information check out thebellylovemethod.com.

Pose prescription: The Regulator

“Do this once a day to set the rhythm of your digestion and help things along. Put your hands together, one in front of the other, palm touching your belly. Do three circles in the upper belly, three circles in the lower belly and then one up the left- hand side – up your transverse descending colon – and then down the right side to complete the circle.”


You’ve got: anxiety

You need: Restorative Bliss at Good Vibes, Soho (goodvibesfitness.co.uk).

“Most of us spend our lives in a state of stress and anxiety,” says Nahid de Belgeonne, founder and director of Good Vibes. “In our Restorative Bliss class you are completely supported by props, which activate the parasympathetic nervous system and take you into a state of active rest, diverting oxygen from your overly busy brain into the rest of your organs.” The practice happens in a room heated with FAR infra-red panels, warmed to the temperature of a sunny day, which helps to open and soothe the body and can also help people suffering from SAD. De Belgeonne also teaches one-to-one classes for specific conditions such as fertility issues and eating disorders.

Pose prescription: Put your feet up.

“At the end of a stressful working day or after a flight, try putting your legs up the wall. Lie on your back with your sit-bones as close to the wall as is comfortable for you. From there, you extend your legs up the wall, so that the backs of your legs are resting fully against it. This pose regulates blood pressure and is deeply calming for your nervous system so you can go into “rest and digest” mode. Stay here for 10-15 minutes if possible, but even a minute or two will have benefits.”

You’ve got: bad posture

You need: Anti-Desk Yoga at Frame, locations across London (moveyourframe.com).

This month Frame launched a yoga class specifically for desk jockeys. “It’s a gentle flow that opens up the back, neck and shoulder areas,” says David Kam, yoga teacher at Frame. “The sequences are designed to bring length to the body and improve posture and flexibility for anyone who’s stuck at a desk all day. We also do a lot of hand stretches to free up “typing claw” and breathing exercises to allow you to switch off from the office.”

Pose prescription: The anti-slouch prayer.

“This is a great pose to do at your desk. Bring your palms together behind your back into prayer position, drawing your elbows down and back. Hold onto your elbows for an easier option. Spread your collarbones wide and soften ribs as you tuck your chin down. Hold for five to 10 breaths to really open up the shoulders and the upper back.”

You’ve got: a cold. All the time.

You need: Immunity Yoga at Ushvani, Chelsea (ushvani.com)

If your immune system has taken a battering, luxury day-spa Ushvani is running a four-week workshop to boost those white blood cells. “Each week we’ll do various asanas to rejuvenate cells, allowing oxygen to flow freely through the body and aiding the immune system,” says Deepa, yoga instructor at Ushvani. “Postures that concentrate on the chest and throat area help regulate the thymus gland, which plays a role in stimulating the lymphatic system. We do a lot of purifying twists to eliminate toxins and activate the secondary organs of the immune system, and we learn to reawaken the abdominal organs with moves like upward-facing dog and wide-angle poses. At this time of year so many people experience lethargy and low immunity, so this workshop just helps mind and body restabilise internally.” This summer Ushvani will be starting a hormone-rebalancing workshop.

Pose prescription: Cobra.

“This pose stimulates the thymus gland, which is responsible for the growth of T-Cells, your body’s first response to the cold and flu. Lie on your belly, place your hands directly under your shoulders and lift your elbows off the ground, make sure the elbows come in towards the body. Keep your pelvis on the ground, relax your shoulders and neck and extend your chest forward. Press down through the tips of your feet (the power of this backbend should come from your legs). Breathe deeply for two to three breaths, lower down and repeat three times.”

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