It’s a centuries-old discipline as beneficial for the mind as it is the body – and now yoga is transcending barriers with its broadening appeal.

The ancient form of exercise (said to have originated in Northern India 5,000 years ago) uses strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing and now has legions of followers from all walks of life.

Professional rugby teams have been using it as part of training in a bid to combat an increasingly injury-laden sport, while a younger generation is discovering yoga through fun-filled classes featuring the many animal-inspired poses central to the ancient discipline.

A new children’s class at Sevenoaks Leisure Centre is doing just that, as teacher Josie Male explains:

“For many children, life can feel like a competition – school, sports, popularity, you name it. What I aim to do is help them enjoy exercise in a fun, non-competitive environment,” explains Josie who’s been teaching yoga for 15 years and decided a few years back to look into the benefits it offers children.

At the other end of the scale, more men are discovering the benefits of yoga – especially if they are physically active in sport or a gym regular.

“Men can sometimes lack the flexibility of women and, in addition, often neglect the importance of stretching. This can lead to injuries, putting them out of a sport or fitness programme they love,” explains Angelina Baranouska who teaches yoga at Edenbridge Leisure Centre.

“People are often surprised at how challenging yoga is and that it can be a tough workout. On the other hand, the great thing is it’s a discipline at which every student works within their limits.”

Yoga’s other great selling-point is the mental benefits.  And, in a world in which stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise, it’s something that inspired Josie Male to look at its broader benefits.

“We hear much these days about just how common anxiety, mental health issues, eating or sleeping disorders are in people of all ages so anything we can do to limit these and equip people with the skills to cope with a pressurised world has to be a good thing.”

How though, you might be wondering, do you get a four or five-year-old to be focused long enough to do the puppy dog, dolphin or cobra?

“Lots of poses are based around animals, so bringing a jungle theme into the classes is our way in. ‘Travelling’ to Africa or the Amazon are by far my favourite themes and we use lots of visual props and music to deliver interactive and imaginative journeys into a child’s developing mind and body.”

Yoga classes are available at Edenbridge, Sevenoaks and White Oak leisure centres and are free for All-in-One members. Visit your local centre’s website to find a class:

Edenbridge classes

Sevenoaks classes

Sevenoaks class for children

White Oak classes