Yoga truly is your flexible friend. Not only can it make you stronger and slimmer, but devotees also credit yoga with giving them increased energy and better focus. According to Niki Perry, a yoga instructor whose clients include actress Kate Winslet, anyone can benefit from the exercise.
"Yoga works on unblocking stuck energy along the spine. You bring prana, or 'life force', into the back and all areas of the body through breath and movement," says Niki. "In yoga you're moving the circulatory system and awakening the nervous system; basically bringing new life into the body.
"It doesn't matter how fit, how old or how flexible you are," adds Niki, who has selected three yoga moves to try. "Whether you live in a flat, house or tent, all you need is a small space for a mat and your decision to give it a go."
Kate, who has trained with Niki for five years, says: "When I first started yoga I was crap, truly laughable and complained bitterly. I would marvel at the things that Niki could do. I would say to Niki, 'How do you do that, that will never be me,' and she would say, 'Yes it will, just keep at it, one day at a time.' And now I promise you that there are times when I find myself in a headstand or bending in ways that I never thought would be possible for me.
"I spent a lot of my 30s with severe back pain caused by disc problems and sciatica, so lifting toddlers and any form of exercise became challenging to say the least, in fact sitting still became painful and sometimes lying down was worse. Well I don't have back pain any more and the sciatica has gone and I don't wake up stiff in the morning any more. After having three children I feel stronger than ever. And I know that I can rely on my body to meet physical challenges without being afraid of injury. And I'm 41 by the way.
"This practice is dynamic, powerful and energising and the rate that one progresses is truly amazing. Niki has given me a level of stamina that helps me to recharge each day. So, as she says, give it a try."
"This pose has lots of health benefits and is worth doing every day. It builds bone density, will wake you up, eliminate stiffness and back pain, boost circulation and is a great way to 'check in' your body."
1. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees.
2. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forwards of your shoulders.
3. Spread your fingers, with index fingers parallel, and turn your toes under.
4. Exhale and push your hips high in the air.
5. Straighten your arms and legs, coming into an inverted V shape. The goal is to have a flat back with your head between your arms, straight legs and heels touching the floor.
6. When you first start practising it may be more comfortable for you to have bent knees and bent elbows and to take your hands wider than your shoulders. It also doesn’t matter if your heels are far from touching the floor– the more you do downward dog, the longer your muscles will become, enabling your heels to get closer.
7. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes breathing deeply in and out through the nose.
"This pose combines leg strengthening and mild back bending, bringing energy into the body. Just like the name suggests, this pose awakens the warrior within – power and strength, but with ease."
1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart at the top of your mat.
2. Step back with your left foot and keep your right knee over your ankle at 90 degrees, so that your shin is perpendicular to the floor.
3. Turn your left foot so it's parallel with the back of the mat and widen your stance.
4. Your shoulders should be in alignment with your hips, facing the left.
5. Reach out through the finger tips, arms parallel to the mat.
6. Turn and look forwards over the right middle finger and beyond.
7. Press into the feet, keeping the legs strong.
8. Sink the hips down towards the floor and reach the crown of the head up to lengthen the spine.
9. Relax the shoulders down and back, pressing the chest forwards.
10. Breathe and hold for 3-6 breaths.
11. Repeat on the other side.
"I sometimes refer to this as a thunderbolt pose because of the amount of energy it creates in the body by using the big muscles of the legs and glutes, while also creating a slight backbend, which awakens the spine."
1. Feet can be hip distance apart, or together.
2. Bend your knees, placing more weight on the heels of your feet, so that your knees don't pass your toes.
3. Try to maintain a neutral pelvis, neither tipping too far forwards nor too far back.
4. Press the belly towards the spine and engage your back core muscles by drawing them in and up.
5. Biceps line up with your ears, but keep drawing your shoulders away from your ears as you straighten your arms and firm your triceps.
Niki Perry's instructional video Transform Now is available to buy online from sweatybetty.com as a DVD, or from nikiperryyoga.com as a download, price £15.
• A contribution from each sale is made to the Africa Yoga Project, which uses yoga to educate, empower
and expand employability of young people in Africa.
To find out more about Niki Perry’s work, visit nikiperryyoga.com.