Yoga has adapted to offer people across Yorkshire an escape from lockdown

Over the past 15 months, Yorkshire’s yoga instructors have proved just how flexible they really are, as they have adapted to use new technologies to bring an ancient Indian discipline to their students.

People enjoying a yoga class at The Stables Yoga Centre in York
People enjoying a yoga class at The Stables Yoga Centre in York

While studios across the county were forced to close during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, they welcomed an influx of new students to their virtual classes, as thousands of people who were stressed out and stuck inside went searching for an activity which brings many physical and mental benefits.

The practice, which focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing, has been adapted in countries around the world since it originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, and there are now a range of styles.

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But most instructors, who are celebrating International Day of Yoga today, have the same aim - they are looking to help each student and harmonise their body and mind.

The Stables Yoga Centre in York now offers classes at the studio and online

“You don’t need to be able to touch your toes to come to yoga,” said instructor Jodie Ratcliffe, who teaches classes online and Supersonic Fitness in York.

“As long as you are making time for yourself and using your body and breath to make yourself feel good then you’re doing it right.”

The 28-year-old former theatre producer became an instructor shortly before the pandemic and began running virtual classes last year.

“I noticed a lot of people I welcomed to classes hadn’t actually practised before and they were maybe turning to it in lockdown for the wellbeing element, looking after themselves, giving themselves structure and looking after their physical health,” she said.

Students putting their balance to the test at The Stables Yoga Centre

“I think people were coming for the community element too. Even though we were all on our screen, it was really nice that we could all get together.”

Sophie Carr, who owns The Stables Yoga Centre in York, saw a “massive” increase in demand for online classes during the first lockdown, but it plateaued when people became weary of Zoom.

However, since her studio opened in April, the beginners sessions have been selling out fast and instructors have been adapting to meet demand from people who want to take part in person and those who want to join online.

She has worked as an instructor for 25 years and seen yoga become more accessible and popular during that time.

“There used to be particular styles and if you didn’t have a body that suited particular styles, you kind of fell by the wayside,” she said.

“But now there are many different types of styles to suit different types of people, you don’t need to be flexible and you don’t need to be strong.

“Now you have restorative yoga, where the teacher is encouraging you to relax, and you’ve got therapeutic yoga for various different ailments and meditative styles.”

She added: “I think a lot of people feel, particularly because of the Instagram culture, that you have to be a certain way to do yoga.

“They think you’ve got to be a young bendy woman, wear certain clothes and look a certain way, but that’s not how it is.”