Yoga – if you haven’t tried it by now, you would have at least heard about it! Once a very male dominated practice in India, it is now even more popular in the Western World, and through online websites and social media it has been given a certain reputation by gorgeous slim women in skimpy clothing doing incredibly impressive and seemingly impossible poses…..
If you’re not already a seasoned Yogi yourself, don’t let this scare you away. Don’t let this make you think that if you can’t do that, or if you don’t look like that, then yoga isn’t for you. You may be thinking “I can’t even touch my toes, I can’t do Yoga”. Sound familiar? Let me just tell you that there is so much more to Yoga. Yoga can be interpreted, taught and expressed in many different ways these days, so it’s likely that there’s a type of Yoga out there that you would enjoy. (There’s even under water yoga, hip hop yoga and suspension yoga now!) The underlying purpose of it and why it is so beneficial, quite simply is, it’s a way to move, strengthen and stretch your body. Now we all know that moving our body is good for our physical & mental health right?! So I don’t need to lecture you about why. On a deeper level though, if you’re open to mindfulness practices, it’s a way to connect to the present moment and a way to connect your mind, body and soul.
My recommendation would be to try a handful (or more!) of different styles and teachers before making any judgements about whether or not Yoga is for you. Every teacher resonates in a different way, even if they are teaching the same style of Yoga! So merely dabbling in one class is not even going to scratch the surface on what is on offer out there.
I cannot stress this enough – the stiffer and more inflexible you are, the more you NEED yoga! Or at least some sort of stretching and active movement in all directions. Otherwise your range of motion will continue to diminish to the point where getting on to the ground to play with your kids or grandkids will be impossible, and something simple like turning around in the car to pick something up off the back seat pops your neck out! If you don’t have the time or confidence to tackle a yoga studio or gym, there are loads of Yoga classes available online, even for free. Duration from minutes to hours! Every little bit counts towards your overall wellness.
Like any form of exercise, it is easy to injure yourself in Yoga. There are some teachers and students out there who push for certain alignments because it’s the traditionally “correct” way to perform a certain asana (pose). However, one of the key philosophy’s in Yoga (Yama’s) is Ahimsa which means Non-Violence. Forcing your body into an alignment that it’s not ready for is considered violence to oneself so it’s recommended to listen to your body and modify the poses as necessary. Most teachers will offer different variations of the more difficult poses in a class that caters for all levels, or Beginner classes can be a great way to start if you’re range of motion isn’t great.
Another key Yoga Philosophy (Niyama’s) is Santosha which means Contentment. Yoga teaches you to let go of the ego and accept where you are at in all aspects of life, including with the physical body. Practicing acceptance and non-judgement is a powerful way to achieve peace within the mind, which essentially leads to great joy and contentment within your life.
In my yoga classes I like to explain to my students that yoga is meant to FEEL GOOD. Our bodies are all different and unique and each one of us has had layers of experiences in their lives that have brought their physical body and emotional mindsets to where they are today, so what feels good to one person will be different to another person. So it’s not expected that everyone looks the same in every pose, especially for those new to yoga, and it’s not expected that everyone has to do the same things if they don’t want too. Hang out in that resting pose if you feel like it!! Give yourself permission to do what’s right for you instead of trying to strive for what you feel is expected of you (and this includes your own perceptions of what you would like to achieve!). Your yoga practice is your own personal journey so remove judgements or yourself and others and find what feels good.
When you’re on the mat, try to release everything outside of that room – your to-do lists, what you want to eat next, that text message you need to reply to – and stay present. When you are present you can FEEL your body and the energy running through it, you can FEEL your breath deep into your belly, you can observe your thoughts, HEAR every sound, and when you find that delicious stillness within, it is truly quite magical. Allowing ourselves the time to find that stillness, however you do it, gives us the tools to tackle our busy stressful lives in a much calmer peaceful manner.
Whether you’re only interested in yoga for its physical benefits and none of the fluffy stuff, or if you’re interested in the whole spiritual package, or if Yoga just isn’t your thing at all, either way it’s totally OK. Just find some way to MOVE that works for you and makes your heart smile :)