Q: I would like to do yoga but I’m worried about recent reports that it can be harmful. I have an intermittently dodgy back and am 43. Is it safe for me to do?
A: Yoga is a 5,000-year-old system of postures, breathing and meditation. Like 30 million people worldwide, I’m a huge fan both for its general mind and body benefits and because iyengar yoga [iyengaryoga.org.uk] helped my badly fractured left arm recover strength and suppleness to an extent that astonished the surgeon.
All sports can be harmful if you have a medical condition. ‘Yoga is no different,’ says Josephine Fairley, author of Yoga for Life (Kyle Books, £16.99). ‘But most yoga classes are very hands-on, which means that you will be closely observed and helped by the teacher. Always share details of injuries or conditions that may affect your ability to do certain postures. However, it is always sensible to consult your doctor first.’
Studies show that yoga can improve strength, flexibility and balance. It may also help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and raise ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, bring down high blood pressure, and stabilise blood sugar. Like all weight-bearing exercise, yoga helps bone density and may boost the uptake of nutrients.
Choosing the right type of yoga is key. There are many different forms of yoga. One reason it has had a bad press in recent years, according to Jo, ‘is that the pace of classes has been upped. In some studios, it has become downright competitive.’ For anyone with a bad back, also beginners and older people, it is wise to avoid fast-paced – often called ‘dynamic’ – yoga classes. The best classes to look for are iyengar, scaravelli, hatha and sivananda.
Make sure your instructor is qualified and experienced. The British Wheel of Yoga [bwy.org.uk] is widely respected and lists local teachers. Also, ask friends for recommendations. Jo counsels against former gym instructors who have only done a short yoga course. ‘I would be looking for at least two years’ training,’ she says.
If you are worried, book a one-to-one with a yoga therapist. The Yoga Biomedical Trust [yogatherapy.org] has national listings of yoga therapists. They can advise you on your individual needs.
Finally, remember that there are two teachers present during a yoga class: the instructor and your body. If something seems too hard, it probably is. One motto is, ‘If you can’t smile, stop.’
3 Of The Best: Children’s Hair Detanglers
Untwist Your Melon, Man
Daniel Galvin Junior Organic Wild ‘n’ Crazy Kids Hair Juice Detangle Spray with Watermelon Essential Oils was very popular with our young tester. £3.99, dgjorganics.com.
Go With The Fro
Mixed Chicks Kids range was designed for mixed-race children. These are great for frizz control, according to testers. Shampoo, Conditioner and Tangle-Tamer, £9.95 each, from afrotherapy.com.
Your princess won’t be able to resist the Tangle Teezer Magic Flowerpot Detangling Hairbrush. The lid doubles as a brush and the pot’s
for clips. £12.99, Victoria Health.
No Beef With Red Meat
Despite some sensational headlines, new research on a positive association between red meat and cancer suggests we eat less, rather than none. Good meat provides protein and other valuable nutrients. Our testers gave a resounding thumbs-up to the Black Farmer burgers, both pork and beef, which, like all the range, are gluten-free and approved by Coeliac UK. They also carry the RS PCA Freedom Food approval.
The Cobblers For Hobblers
Like many women with bunions, a colleague’s mother had despaired of finding comfy, smart shoes and had resorted to wearing trainers. So the Hotter range, which specialises is well-fitting shoes that don’t compromise on style, was a revelation. Her soft leather ‘Stream’ lace-ups are sturdy but attractive, and roomy around the toes. She also has osteoarthritis in her knees, so walks quite gingerly, but the laces ensure the shoes stay on firmly, reducing the risk of falls. The padded ankle support and cushioned sole add comfort. Stream are available in caramel, blue and black, with some half sizes and wide fit available.