I am a certified Hatha yoga teacher. I fell in love with yoga 15 years ago when I was going through a hard time in my life. I remember making a conscious commitment to go, especially when I didn't feel like going because that was always when I needed it most. The physical journey felt like home because I grew up as a ballerina but the spiritual practice, the changes that occurred off the mat is what kept me going back. There is a sang, Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self. My hope is to turn people onto yoga who have yet to give it a go, or maybe had a bad experience, or maybe think that they have to be able to touch their toes in order to go to a class.
Here are some things I would like to share with you about yoga.
1. You do not need to be flexible in order to go to a yoga class. I think this is the biggest myth. One of the many perks of practicing yoga is to become more open and flexible in the body but also the mind. It is called a practice because there is always room to grow whether you have been practicing a long time or it's your first day. The physical benefits of becoming more subtle in your body will open up other areas of your life and help you to age more gracefully. It's not about being able to put your legs behind your head. It's about being able to put your shoes on at 80 yrs old and being more open in your thoughts. With the right teacher and class, everything can be modified to suit you on each given day. People often come for the stretch but leave with so much more.
2. Yoga is not a religion. Yoga can be practiced by anyone. There are some traditions that seem religious but they are simply ways to honor yourself, your teacher, your practice or whatever resonates with you. A common way to start and end class is by saying Om (Aum) or namaste but it is what you want it to be. When you are in a class and everyone is singing Om, the vibration of everyone's sounds together resonates on a cellular level so even if you choose not to join in you will reap the benefits. Some believe that Om was the first sound of creation and Namaste means, I bow to you or the light within me honors the light within you. It is such a beautiful message no matter what your religion. I love to seal the end of my practice by gracefully bowing in appreciation and honor of my teacher, my practice, and the gratitude I have for yoga in my life. Similar to a curtsy that is done after a ballet class or a bow to your master in a martial arts class.
3. There are 8 limbs to yoga. The physical practice, pose or asanas, is just one of the limbs. Click here to learn more about the 8 Limbs of Yoga My teacher once said, it is not the person who can bend into a pretzel that is the most advanced, it is the one who can maintain their breath the entire class. Breathing or Pranayama (life force) is another limb. Mastering the ability to connect the breath with movement, creating control over emotions, better concentration and possibly increasing one's life span. Each movement has an inhale and an exhale. It is easy to get stagnant with your breath or hold your breath when you are in a difficult pose or difficult life situation but that is precisely why breathing is a tool to get back into the present moment. Looking back I really had no idea how to breath right until I started practicing yoga. It was a whole new world that has transformed how I handle daily stresses in my life.
4. You will get a workout and it might just be the best work out of your life. I hear a lot of people say, yoga is too slow or I didn't really get a good workout. Two things, A. Maybe you were in the wrong type of yoga class or teacher or B. Maybe that is just what you need is to slow down. There are a lot of different types of yoga. You need to find what works for you during each phase of your life. There is Hatha yoga or Vinyasa Flow variations that are paced moderate to vigorous as your practice grows. There is Kundalini, which is represented as a snake coiled at the bottom of the spine. Kundalini awakens this untapped energy through repetitive movements that test your endurance and mind strength. The other types are Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram,Iyengar, and restorative along with many new types of yoga classes popping up every day. Try a couple different classes so that you know the difference and can go to the appropriate one based on your needs.
5. Yoga will change your life. Yoga has the ability to take what you do on the mat and mirror it into your every day life. How you react or respond to a difficult pose in class translates to how you react to a difficult life event. Yoga gives you the tools to come back to the breath, focus (drishti/point of focus) and be in the present moment. On a more relatable note, I hear some of the best business meetings happen on a golf course. Why? because you really get to see one's character during a couple of holes of golf. This is the same for yoga. Everything you need to see about yourself will come out on the mat. Then it is up to you to do the work.
* Often what you don't want to do, is what you need most.