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An Insight into the world of Yoga - by Jen Landesberg, Blessed Yoga

6 Jan 2021

As we head into a new year, we wanted to bring a blog which helps look at the benefits of movement both physically and mentally.

Jen Landesberg is the London-based yoga teacher and wellness influencer behind Blessed Yoga, and has kindly agreed to share some insight into the practice and its benefits.

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Was yoga always a career aspiration for you?

I completed my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in California back in 2017. One of my first experiences of yoga was actually on my training. I decided to take a teacher training as a way of gaining a deep understanding of yoga, but with no intention to actually teach in the future. I was studying for a psychology degree at the time and thought I would end up in a related career. However after the first week of my training I knew yoga was my destined career and formed this mission to help as many people fall in love with the practice just like I had.

Has there been someone you look up to in the industry, if so why?

Adriene Mishler aka Yoga with Adriene is an incredible role model in the industry. She is one of the first to bring yoga online (mainly via YouTube) and it definitely revolutionised the world of yoga. I also have many mentors and friends in the industry who I am constantly learning from, as everyone has their own style of teaching and their own bank of knowledge to share.

What would you say are the main overlaps between physiotherapy and Yoga?

I believe both yoga and physiotherapy work on transforming the individual mentally and physically. It is well known now that recovery from injury is not just about physical factors but psychosocial factors as well (Ahern et al 1997). The “mental game” has become as important as the physical. Yoga translates to mean “Union” which refers to the harmony of mind and body (and soul) (Dr. Ishwar V. Basavaraddi, 2015). There is definitely a large cross over in the main focus of both these disciplines.

I also believe yoga can be a great compliment to rehabilitating from injury, especially when the practice is adapted for the specific individual. It can help in physical recovery as well as providing a safe space to overcome any mental adversities faced.

What have you noticed about the Yoga community during lockdown?

The yoga community definitely grew during lockdown. I think that those who were always interested in giving yoga a go had the time to start and those who were seeking a way to get through the extremely trialling year, found yoga. Teaching beginners has always been a passion of mine, I love helping people start their yoga journey or proving them wrong when they say “yoga is just not for me, I’m not flexible enough.” This is why starting my “blessed beginners 10-day challenge” on YouTube was so rewarding, as I got to see so many new yogis start their practice from all over the world.

I also know that a lot of those who started wanted a way to keep moving, and yoga was that for them. Although some start yoga purely for physical reasons, they always tend to find that it’s the mental benefits that keep them coming back to their mats.

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Can you give an insight to the different yoga practices; for example if someone wanted a slower pace as opposed to more dynamic, and the benefits those different disciplines can bring people?

There are many different types of yoga to suit different individuals and needs. The list is also growing as you see modern styles of yoga develop such as power yoga or dynamic yoga.

Vinyasa yoga - vinyasa meaning “to place in a special way.” This is quite a fast-paced athletic style of yoga. You tend to move at one breath per movement.

Yin yoga - a slow restorative style of yoga. Postures are held for longer periods of time, it is a very meditative practice.

Iyengar yoga - focused heavily on alignment and precise movement. It relies a lot on props such as blocks and straps making it a great style of yoga for those recovering from injury that need to work in a more methodical and safe manner.

Ashtanga yoga - a very structured practice, taught in series where the student must master every pose of the primary series before they move to the next. There are five series in Ashtanga yoga.

The list could go on for a while. It’s great, because there are so many different styles there’s always going to be something to suit the individual.

Would you say that the yoga you teach is generally more strength-based?

I personally have spent a lot of time teaching 1-1 clients which is great because I get to adapt the practice to suit that individual’s needs. My aim for every class is to make the person feel at least 1% better than they did when the stepped on the mat. Sometimes I know that means they need something more physical and sometimes it means moving very slowly and breathing deeply. It completely depends on the class and individual. If I am teaching group classes I focus on making them challenging and fun at the same time. I’ve never liked a class that takes itself too seriously so I would never teach that way either.

Obviously we are all built differently, but what would you say is the area of the body you tend to focus on most of the time?

I think yoga does a good job at focusing on many different areas of the body. A well-rounded general practice should be balanced, however there is one area yoga is not too great at working on... and that’s “pulling.” It is argued that yoga can create a muscular imbalance in the shoulders (Jenni Rawlings). Yoga works the pushing muscles of your shoulders but not the pulling which creates a functional imbalance. So it is very important for yogis to combat this with things like pull ups, banded/weighted rows.

Are you currently working on any injuries and receiving help personally?

I have had an issue with my sacroiliac joints for a while due to an imbalance of strength and weakness in my lower back so I have been working with Gary Lewin to resolve this and have made a lot of progress with it. I also make sure I come to the clinic at least once a month to just check in and see that everything is working how it should be! I think more people should do this as there are often injuries left unseen that get worse and worse until it’s really bad. Prevention is just as important for me.

Do you have advice for people wanting to take first steps into Yoga?

It can be really daunting starting yoga, most people tend to have a preconceived opinion on what it will be like and what type of person it suits. Yoga is literally for anyone and everyone. You don’t have to be flexible, you don’t have to be strong and you don’t have to know any of the poses before you start. My advice would be to start slow, be patient and don’t give up. With so many amazing teachers online now offering beginners classes, you can start from the comfort of your own home! I offer two 10 day beginners’ challenges online - one on YouTube and one on my website www.blessedyoga.co.uk. If you do start yoga in a studio make sure the teacher knows you are a beginner (there’s no shame in that).

Yoga is an amazing way to find mindfulness and mental peace. With so many challenges in the external world I think it’s so important we all have somewhere to turn that offers some internal relief. Don’t be afraid to start, if you’ve been thinking about beginning a yoga practice this is your sign to do it!

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You can find out more about Jen and her yoga challenges on Instagram and YouTube.

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