Would you like to try yoga? Five tips for a successful start.

Har du lyst å prøve yoga? Fem råd for en vellykket start.

Meet yoga teacher Ingrid Jæger

- Yoga is for everyone. I have had yoga classes with everything from kindergarten children to an elderly gentleman of 101 years. It's about making adjustments to the body you have. The yoga positions should not hurt, says Ingrid Jæger, who likes to recommend loose and comfortable clothes in wool or cotton as yoga attire.

Jæger runs her own small yoga studio in Bergen, but also travels to visit companies, nurseries, schools and nursing homes with yoga exercises, breathing techniques and relaxation in her suitcase.

- Yoga was developed in India several thousand years ago. The purpose was to prepare the body to tolerate sitting still for a long time in a position during meditation, she says.

 

More than physical positions

- What was your first encounter with yoga?

- As a young person, I was curious, searching and eager to travel and felt drawn towards Asia and especially India. When I was 18 years old, I started my first course in classical yoga here in Bergen, she says.

- On the course, we were introduced to both the physical yoga positions (asanas), meditation, breathing techniques and various cleansing methods, such as nasal rinsing. Many people associate yoga with physical positions, but it consists of so much more. I remember at the time I thought the nasal rinse was a bit strange, but still found a lot on the course that appealed to me, says Jæger.

Eventually she attended several different yoga courses, including hatha yoga and other classical forms of yoga. In addition to asanas, breathing and relaxation, we were presented with yogic rules of living such as vegetarianism, avoidance of alcohol, non-violence etc. I remember thinking it was very exciting and at the same time quite different, but that it aroused a great interest in me.

Jæger also tried hot yoga during this period.

- Some people think it is wonderful to practice in a warm room, where the muscles and joints are helped by the heat to get into the positions more easily. My challenge was the other way around, namely that I have hypermobile joints. One of the instructors therefore advised me against this form of yoga to avoid injury.

Yoga merino wool janus

Fascinated by India

But the attraction towards the country of origin of yoga, India, was strong, and already at the age of 19 she traveled around the country for 5-6 weeks. Since then, she has been there regularly over the years for travel and studies.

- I wrote my master's thesis in social anthropology about the role of the elderly in a society in North-West India, in the Indian Himalayas.

In total, she has spent close to two years in the country, on various trips and in various places. Everywhere she came into contact with different environments within yoga and practiced with different teachers.

- I also traveled to Rishikesh, which is located on the banks of the Ganges, where the Beatles found their meditation guru in their time, and which is considered "The Yoga Capital of the World". My interest in yoga and meditation has grown as I have been able to practice and learn with different teachers, within different directions, but where you can see that the goal is usually the same, namely to find inner peace and physical well-being.

Jæger lived for a year in Nepal where she worked for an organization that runs
climate research in the Himalayas. Then she practiced yoga several times a week in an old palace.

- What attracted me to yoga was the feeling of both physical and mental freedom that yoga gave me, of both energy and calm. Being able to be completely myself, in a room with many others, but where you turn your gaze inwards on your own breath and body and only focus on yourself and how the exercises are experienced by the individual. The feeling of well-being that yoga gave me was very enjoyable.

- I was probably also fascinated by a form of mysticism connected to yoga, and became increasingly curious about the yogic mindset and way of looking at body and health. The fact that yoga has been such an important source of health in Indian society meant that I eventually became thoroughly familiar with Ayurveda, the traditional Indian health science, closely linked to yoga.

Yoga merino wool janus

Changed job direction

Ingrid Jæger has had regular jobs in organizations and business for many years, and has thrived and learned a lot there, but has always wanted to start for herself, which was more in line with her original search and curiosity in India and the Himalayas.

- I took the step two years ago, when there were downsizing at work. I was offered new jobs in business, but told myself I would regret it if I didn't do this now. Since then, I have run Ingrid Jaeger yoga full-time and have not regretted it for a second!

Her yoga studio is located at Skjold in Bergen. Here she organizes classes and courses, when she is not out at nurseries, schools, businesses and homes for the elderly.

- Even those in wheelchairs can take part in yoga, in what we call chair yoga, she says. I am keen to teach an inclusive form of yoga where the vast majority of people can join.

    To get in touch with the body

    Yoga can be a form of exercise, but it's also so much more than that. There are gentle forms of yoga and there are forms that make you really sweaty.

    - The main point is to get in touch with the body, to turn the focus inward, calm the mind, connect with the body, perform physical exercises, breathing exercises, concentration exercises, or relaxation techniques that bring you to the present moment. I believe this has a lot of value in the world we live in today, where many people struggle with stress-related problems.

    She explains that by connecting with one's own breath, mind, and body, the focus shifts to the present moment, rather than constantly being focused on the future. In more physically demanding forms of yoga, you are forced to bring yourself into the present moment through the exercises themselves. In slower forms of yoga, it can be challenging not to let your thoughts wander, and constantly redirecting the focus back to the breath and body becomes an exercise in presence itself.

    - But there are also many good physical effects of yoga. Many people experience less body pain, improved posture, better sleep, better digestion, among other positive effects. During chair yoga with the elderly, for example, I have received feedback from a stroke patient who says he has improved mobility on the side of his body that was affected. Asthma and COPD patients report improved lung capacity. One person with a fitness tracker noted that she hadn't slept so well in six months until after a yoga class," she says with a smile. "This motivates and inspires me to continue!

    More self-centered?

    - We have become more and more self-centered and are often in our own world, along with our phones and iPads. Do we need to be even more focused on ourselves?

    - That's a good question. We may have become more focused on ourselves, with many constantly working on self-improvement and striving to be 'the best version of themselves' and constantly being a project for improvement. Perhaps partly because of this, unfortunately, many people feel inadequate, live with high levels of stress, and turn to yoga because it provides them with peace and a sense of well-being. Everything in moderation and balance, like most things in life. During a yoga session, you calm down the nervous system, which can give a sense of balance and, therefore, more energy. Many people report that by taking a break, like yoga provides, they can perform better and thus have more to give to those around them. Many also find that practicing in a group with others gives a sense of community, especially in a world with a lot of screen time and digital interaction instead of physical meetings.

    - Is it a kind of transformation?

    - No, I wouldn't call it that. For me, yoga is primarily about allowing yourself to come and just be yourself without the need to perform. Our society is very performance-oriented, I feel. We don't rest enough. A good part of the yoga I teach is very gentle. We can stay in each posture for 3-5 minutes, as in yin yoga, or even 15-18 minutes, as in restorative yoga. So rather than calling it a transformation, it's about being who you are and experiencing what you have inside, and knowing that it is good enough! And if you feel the need to cry or laugh a little, knowing that there is room for that in the yoga room. It's okay to let buried emotions come to the surface," she says.

    Being yourself for an hour

    Jæger emphasizes the profound impact it can have on us to be "just" ourselves for an hour, without distractions and a thousand impressions, while doing something good for the body and releasing tensions. It allows the mind to rest and focuses on the breath.

    - The breath, yes, many people breathe high up in their throat due to stress. Many are not aware of their breath and the many positive effects of deepening the breath down into the lungs and abdomen.

    The yoga teacher emphasizes that it's about taking a break to connect with your inner self.

    - I'm not so concerned about the external aspects of yoga; I say 'use your body as a guide and adjust the posture to fit you.' We have equipment that can help with this. We should feel good stretches in the body, but the exercises should not be painful. There are examples of yoga instructors physically pushing students into postures, but there is increasing awareness of the importance of letting each individual perform the exercise based on their current physical condition to avoid injuries. Yoga consists of various styles, and I am in the gentle, classical, and gentle end of the spectrum. I believe that everyone should be able to do the exercises as long as we adapt and consider the bodies we have. I encourage participants to let me know if something is painful and to ask for alternative postures if something feels uncomfortable. We are all built differently and experience the postures differently, and we enter the postures in different ways. Flexibility and strength are also distributed unevenly.

    Yoga is suitable for everyone – including men?

    Yoga is suitable for everyone, but not all types of yoga are suitable for everyone, and not all postures are suitable for everyone. We don't try to do headstands with a 100-year-old, and when it comes to children, it's mostly about play, imagination, adventure, having fun, and feeling accomplished, but also feeling a sense of calmness in their own bodies. For the elderly or those with balance challenges, there can be chair yoga, where they sit in a chair or a wheelchair.

    - I perceive that more women than men participate in yoga. Why is that?

    - In today's society, I think many men believe they have to be flexible to participate in yoga. But that is a misconception. You participate with the body you have, and then you use props to get into the postures. For example, if you can't reach the floor with your hands when bending forward, you can use blocks or books for support, or your own calves or thighs. You achieve the same effect. It's not about everyone looking the same while performing the exercises.

    The equipment we use is called 'yoga props.' I find them useful to have.

    - Is it masculine enough?

    - It's actually quite funny that many people in our part of the world see yoga as feminine and mostly for women. Yoga was originally invented, taught, and practiced by men. But yes, there has probably been a tendency for more women to practice yoga here at home. But in my experience, this has been changing for a while. Even in traditional business and predominantly male-dominated industries, I see more interest and openness to the effects of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Many companies now organize yoga sessions for their employees because they see positive effects among their staff. In corporate yoga classes, I see that it can be about a 50/50 ratio of women and men. In my studio classes, there have been mostly women. But when I teach senior yoga or chair yoga, there is a good mix of men and women.

    Dress in comfortable clothing

    - What should one consider regarding clothing for yoga?

    - When I invite new people to yoga, I always write: Show up in comfortable clothing. In fact, a woolen shirt or t-shirt and long pants are perfect for practicing yoga. I often wear wool myself, especially in the gentlest yoga forms I teach, where we tend to get cold. Yoga should not be an activity reserved for a select few. Use whatever clothing and equipment you have. If you don't have yoga blocks, use thick books. If you don't have a bolster, use a pillow or a rolled-up blanket. If you practice yoga at home, you don't need to set aside a full hour; take a stretch on the kitchen floor while dinner is cooking and feel the difference such a small break can make.

    - Why is yoga so popular right now?

    - I think it has to do with the fact that people feel the need to excel in so many areas, to measure up, especially women, but probably men as well, who feel the pressure from the various roles we play in our lives. We live in a society where there can be too much focus on performance. Time simply doesn't stretch enough for many, and this creates tension and stress, and many end up burning out. That's why many people turn to yoga.

    Jæger admits that she sometimes feels this pressure herself.

    - I have to remind myself of the same thing I tell my yoga students: Care a little less. Try to think about what is important to YOU and not what others expect from you. Thanks to yoga, I have become more aware of the kind of life I want to live. With the connection to oneself that yoga can provide, you can also become more aware of what is important to you, while better able to handle the stress that life often brings," says yoga teacher Ingrid Jæger.

    If you want to try yoga, get in touch with Ingrid HERE.

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