WHY YOGA IS FOR EVERYBODY
If I had a pound for every time somebody said to me in the last few years ‘I’m not flexible enough” when it comes to the topic of Yoga, I would probably be living in the Bahamas.
The same also applies to “I probably won't be very good” or “I think I’m doing it wrong”.
I think it's fair to say most of people probably feel this way when they are new to Yoga, I know I certainly did. In fact I felt it so much I had a tantrum and didn’t practice again for a long while. (Yay to self destructive behaviour)
So I want to talk about two things today..
Firstly, why so many people think it’s not their place to start practicing Yoga.
Secondly, why Yoga IS in fact for everybody, and when I say everybody I literally mean EVERYBODY.
A lot of what I'm writing today is just purely my opinion, so don’t bite my head of please & thank you.
So to start, we need to establish what Yoga means. (I’ll keep this as brief as I can ..)
It’s a practice that will mean something different to everyone, however the word literally translates to mean “Yoke” or “Unite”. It can be interpreted in a number of ways but the general consensus is that traditionally it is used to connect our mind, body & breath. It holds countless health benefits for the body & mind, helping to change our outlook on the world around us.
It’s also been practiced for a few thousand years (at-least) so it’s fair to say we have a nice amount of written evidence to back it’s benefits up.
It all sounds very magical when I put it like that doesn’t it … Yet so many of us see it as something that is there for “other people” but not ourselves. So this brings me to the first question I want to focus on..
Why do so many people refrain from starting Yoga?
Due to so many modern day factors such as social media, there is this now this warped idea that Yoga is only for the flexible.
If you only take one thing away from reading this post, then let it be this.. “clears throat”
IT’S A LOAD OF BS.
The westernisation of this ancient practice has in my opinion been both a good & bad thing. Does this make me a hypocrite since I teach Yoga? Probably, but all I can do is try to educate people and allow them to realise that their body types, abilities, disabilities and so on, should NEVER stop them from starting on their journey.
Thanks to the internet & world of social media, we are being bombarded with content that embeds the idea that we “won’t be very good” before we have given ourselves a chance to try something new. Social media is a wonderful tool, but it can also be the place of intense internal dread & self deprecation. (Shout out to all my fellow self deprecators out there)
I’ll admit, I share things on social media. Both for teaching purposes as well as snippets from my own personal progression. I think it’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with sharing what you're doing. In fact it’s a good thing! But it becomes negative when your sole purpose for doing anything is simply to share it online.
Yoga is not about contorting your body into weird shapes or what brand of leggings you wear. (Another nice dose of controversy for you there, since I practice yoga in leggings.. )
It’s not just a physical practice but also a mental & spiritual one. If you're forcing your body into a pose that is so constricting that you can’t breathe comfortably, then that isn’t Yoga, you’re just hurting yourself. When I say “ease off” I don't mean stop & give up. Postures can be modified for different body types & abilities, and these modifications are JUST AS BENEFICIAL for your mind & body.
It doesn't matter if somebody else can get their leg higher than you, or if they can get their full split. What matters is that you breathe.
If you’re in one of my classes & your body isn’t having it for some reason, I would much prefer you to simply sit & focus on your breathing. This is not a cop out, it is intact just as, or possibly more challenging than the physical practice!
Do you think the ancient sages were concerned with how they looked during their practice?
We live in a different world now, centred around competition & comparison. So people can’t be blamed for how they feel.
Remember, you could be as stiff as a brick & still say hello to Yoga.
So the second thing I wanted to talk about ..
Why Yoga is in fact for EVERYBODY.
I don’t care if your’e small, tall, square, round, unable to walk, if you have missing limbs, if you’re blind, if you’re super bendy, super stiff, feeling angry, feeling sad, experiencing loss or depression, or experiencing pure joy. Yoga is still there for you.
The practice of Yoga comes in many forms, not just the stuff you do on your mat. So if you’re somebody who doesn't have a lot of mobility, focus on what you CAN do. For some people, practicing breath work & only moving the top half of their body is what’s available to them. For others, poses which involve inversions (going upside down) or even semi-inversions (such as Downward Dog) may be a complete no no. There are people who don’t have full spinal mobility & people who can’t close their eyes due to past trauma. Some people may struggle in certain postures due to their weight, whereas others may be experiencing weakness due to muscle deterioration.
None of the above, are reasons to say no to Yoga.
Of course we DO have to be mindful, but that’s why Teachers need to know if you are suffering with any conditions. So if you find yourself filling out a PAR-Q form ..
.. for the love of God PLEASE be honest.
Perhaps you are somebody who doesn't want to practice in a group. Maybe you need a teacher who is of a certain gender. On the other hand, you might want to practice with others. There are countless options out there for you on how you want to approach starting your practice.
We now live in a world where we have Baby Yoga, Kids Yoga, Hot Yoga, Yoga for teens, Yoga with goats, naked Yoga, Cat Yoga, Dog Yoga, Yoga for the elderly, Yoga for grief, Yoga for trauma & so much more!
So whilst I feel I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg, I hope I have helped one or two of you who have been thinking about trying Yoga out there, to realise that you have every right to start.
If you’re a flexible yogi who loves getting your feet flat on your head, then keep doing you!
If you’re somebody who is uncertain about your “ability” to start your practice, then my loving advice would be, to stop thinking about it & start now.
Remember - if you don’t know where to start, or feel overwhelmed by the prospect of starting, then please reach out to me.