It's easy to assume that yoga is simply a fashionable pastime for celebrities who hanker to contort their bodies into weird shapes.
Lawyer Jonathan Sattin was certainly sceptical about the ancient Eastern practice and initially dismissed it after buying a book on the subject but getting no further than the contents page.
Although worried about his health and stress levels, the only action he took was having an occasional herbal tea and relying on regular games of football to flush out toxins from drinking 14 mugs of coffee and smoking 40 cigarettes a day.
All that changed the day he was persuaded to go to a yoga class.
"I knew somehow on that first class that yoga was the key. I began practising once a week and slowly, without my noticing, my life began to change," says Sattin, co-author with Victoria Woodhall of Everyone Try Yoga: Finding Your Yoga Fit.
"I didn't suddenly give up being a lawyer - that came later - neither did I shave my head. And I still worried about my stress, but instinctively I knew I was doing something good and that yoga was a pretty effective detox.
"There were times when I sweated so much in a class that I could almost feel the nicotine coming through my skin.
"Within weeks, I'd given up cigarettes and coffee. I felt sharper and more focused and I started feeling able to trust my instincts as a lawyer."
Finally, 12 years ago, he set up the renowned Triyoga, which has four centres in London and a mission to enable people to find an easy entry into yoga.
"I wanted to dispel the illusion about who could practise yoga," he says.
"You don't need to be a supple, size six, 25-year-old female who eats tofu. It's for everyone - including the stressed-out parents, the desk-bound workers, and those who play sports but paradoxically can't touch their toes."
The book, accompanied by a DVD, gives a guide to the myriad different yoga styles, from fast-paced Ashtanga yoga, to Bikram, as well as its many more gentler forms.
"Put simply, yoga can make you feel happier in your own skin," enthuses Woodhall, a journalist and yoga devotee.
"It can focus your mind and help you work out who you are and where you are going.
"Also, it can tone your body, help you lose weight, make you look and feel younger, keep you more limber in your old age and boost your immune system.
"It's not an overnight miracle cure, it's a journey, but the effects can last a lifetime.
"Frankly, what's not to like?"YOGA PACKS A HEALTHY PUNCH
Yoga is credited with bringing a host of health benefits, says Woodhall.
"Yoga trains all the muscle groups to work together, sharing the load. This means there's less likelihood that some become tired or injured through overuse while others weaken or even switch off through underuse," she explains.
It's also credited with helping reduce blood pressure, regulate hormones and digestion, stabilise weight, improve sleep and decrease anxiety.
Many scientific studies have validated yoga's anti-ageing benefits, including the Lifestyle Heart Trial undertaken by San Francisco cardiologist Dr Dean Ornish.
He found that in a group of advanced heart patients, a combination of yoga and a low-fat diet could help shrink the fatty plaque deposits which were progressively blocking their coronary arteries.BOOST BODY AND MIND
People who do yoga three times a week have higher levels of the brain chemical GABA, which is needed for a calm mind, than those who do the equivalent of strenuous exercise, according to US researchers.
Many sports coaches believe yoga helps boost performance mentally by improving concentration and focus, and top athletes including Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis and British tennis player Andy Murray, as well as many professional football teams and rugby squads, include yoga in training regimes.FIND A YOGA FIT
There are so many styles that it can be baffling to work out which one is right for you.
"First ask yourself what you'd like from a class," says Woodhall.
"You might want de-stress or workout, relax, lose weight, stretch or tone, to follow a meditative or spiritual practice, or any combination of those."
Some may involve chanting, others are practised with uplifting music, some move in a continuous flow, while others encourage you to stop and ask questions.A few to consider:
Acroyoga: Blending acrobatics, yoga and Thai massage - its emphasis is on cultivating trust and playfulness.
Bikram: A sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises done twice over in a carpeted, mirrored studio heated to 40.5 degrees celsius.
Hatha: A general term for yoga, combining physical poses, breathing techniques and meditation. Classes can vary widely and many teachers have developed their own style to reflect their preferred practice.
Ashtanga: A physically demanding, flowing style requiring a certain level of fitness and readiness to sweat. Postures are held for a relatively short time and practised in a set sequence.STRESS BUSTER
Yoga helps us relax and one of the secret weapons that distinguishes it from most other forms of exercise is the breathing.
"The breath is perhaps the most important tool in yoga practice," says Dr Timothy McCall, a contributor to the book.
"The ancient yogis discovered that the breath, which is normally automatic, has profound effects on the nervous system if consciously controlled, with the potential either to increase activation or promote relaxation, depending on the practice."
Conscious breath: This exercise softly accentuates the qualities of the inhale and exhale and helps dismantle stuck breathing patterns which may have come about through trauma, illness or general day-to-day stresses and strains.
Lie down on your back and rest your hands on stomach, relax your body fully, feeling it soften into the floor. First, notice your breath without trying to change it and consider whether it is short or long, shallow or deep, easy or tense.
Slowly take a deep breath in through the nose until you are full. Pause here briefly. Now sigh your breath out fully through your mouth. Do this a few times to clear your lungs and your mind, and then allow your breath to return to an easy flow in and out of the nose.REWIRE THE BRAIN
Our 24-hour culture combined with technology means our senses are constantly on the alert as they are bombarded with information.
"Many of us are overstimulated and our nervous system gets stuck on go," says Anna Ashby, who teaches restorative yoga and contributes to the book.
"When we're in a state of overstimulation, we tend to think ahead of ourselves or dwell obsessively on the past. We're not 'here' in the present moment."
Ashby's form of yoga aims to release the body and mind from its fight-or-flight mode and to activate the body's relaxation response.
Poses are supported with props such as blankets and bolsters and are held for 10 to 15 minutes, giving time for the nervous system to power down and the body's healing systems - which are put on hold when we are under stress - a chance to kick in.KICK BAD HABITS
Yoga makes you want to do what's good for you by waking up your ability to feel your body, says Dr Timothy McCall.
"When you can feel the consequences of your behaviour, you start to make different decisions," he explains.
"You begin to notice perhaps that every time you eat a particular food, 30 minutes later you feel groggy and depressed.
"I can tell people as a doctor, Don't eat that, it's bad for you', but when it comes from your own body, that's extremely motivating."A 2004 study found that women who practised yoga had a healthier attitude towards their bodies than those who did aerobic exercise.
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