What yoga isn't
April, 2015. This picture was taken during my 200hr yoga training in Koh Lanta, Thailand, teaching my very first class. I was so blown away by learning about all things yoga. At the time I was sure I was beginning to understand what yoga was. But as the saying goes, the more I learn, the less I know! I find it fascinating that everyone can have such a different opinion and perspective as to what yoga is, and they can get pretty protective about it too! So I thought, why not share mine? Here are my thoughts about what yoga isn’t:
Yoga isn’t: for everyone
I love yoga. You probably do too, if you’re here. But it’s really, really ok if you don’t. There are some people who go to yoga and hate it. There are some who’ve never tried it and never want to. And there are other’s who tried it, loved it and then decided it wasn’t for them. And that’s ok! Just as I’m not into crossfit or archery or football, doesn’t mean they’re not good for me. It also doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me or the people who do love those things. We all have different interests and hobbies and it’s really not a big deal if down dogs and tree poses just don’t work for you. Something else will.
Yoga isn’t: a cure for all the world’s ills
Well. It can be, in a philosophical way of being the change you want to see and then letting that ripple outwards. BUT, it’s not a magical sticking plaster that can make all the bad things in life go away. If your boss is an a**hole then you going yoga won’t change that. Neither will issues like the Middle East conflict, terrorism, female genital mutilation or the self-emulation of monks suddenly stop just because you go to a class a fe times a week. What it will do, over time, is help you to deal with the things that come up in life. It will help you to find your centre in stressful situations and provide you with an anchor during times when it feels like all else is falling apart around you. It might also plant seeds of compassion, making you aware of what’s happening in the world around you and thus causing you to care more about it. In that way, yes, yoga can change the world, but the world starts on our own mats.
Neither is it: a guarantee of being a good person
Sad, but true. I admit, I was naive when I stepped into the world of teaching. I expected a community of rainbows and unicorns where everyone just wants to get alone and help. I have that in my life and thanks to meticulous weeding and care over my social media, I have it online too. But outside of that…boy, is there politics and backstabbing and jealousy and gossip and everything else that’s in every other walk of life. Yoga teachers can be the nicest people on earth, but there are also some who are just not. In the end, we’re all human and that means having human personalities. Yoga and anything else spiritual can help to dissolve the ego, but it can inflate it too. Getting into a super tricky pose can puff up your pride and make you feel better than the person next to you because they can’t do it. Yogi doesn’t mean holy, nice or even legal. What it can do, is help you to see yourself more clearly and prompt you to notice how you interact with other people and the world around you.
Yoga isn’t: always enough to keep your body healthy by itself
Not for most of us anyway, and especially not if you’re hypermobile, like me. My hips are very open and I have extremely flexible knees. I can easily sit in pigeon pose or lotus and I really love it. It doesn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable at all. But, over time wear and tear can set in, especially if you stick to one type of practice. I myself have only really recently begun to understand that I need to include other methods of movement. Debilitating lower back pain, sore knees and painful hip joins set in because the only thing I did for a long time, was yoga. If this sounds familiar, switch things up! Swim, run, walk, dance, whatever! It doesn’t have to be #yogaeverydamnday but try to #moveeverydamnday. If you are a total yoga addict and don’t wan’t to try anything else, then practice different forms to get a wider range of movements and asanas.
Yoga isn’t: what I tell you it is or isn’t!
The reason why I love yoga, why you love yoga (I assume) and so many others do is because it’s so subjective. Someone who loves lotus pose could be practicing right next to someone who hates it and has to vomit afterwards. I, lying in Savasana, might be having an LSD-worthy trip while you don’t feel or see anything at all. The practice of yoga is so personal, so deeply felt, that it’s impossible to imprint our experiences of it onto anyone else.
Yoga is many things to many people and the beauty of it is, that just as every day is different, each time we step onto our mats we bring a new set of circumstances with us to experience something new.