I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this: “I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible enough.”
Good news! Yoga does not require you to be flexible; it helps you become flexible, both in your body and, surprisingly, also in your mind. Despite the photos you may see in the news, yoga is not all about contortion.
Asana – the physical postures – are just a very small part of the practice of yoga. If you were to study yoga in India, you would not even begin asana practice for quite a while. You would have to work through some other areas of study first.
I once took an asana class from a man who had done his training in India. “You know,” he began the class, “it is so interesting how in America, we take bits and pieces from other cultures and make them our own.” He was referring to the fact that asana is a part of yoga but here in the United States, it defines yoga. “In India,” he continued, “I was not allowed to start an asana practice until I had completed the yamas and niyamas, one of which is celibacy.” The room went deadly quiet. “But we are not here to work on that today,” he finished with a grin.
Yoga was developed over 5,000 years ago. Roughly translated from the Sanskrit, the word means “union” or “yoke”. Yoga offers a way to yoke or unite your mind, body and spirit. It helps you get to know yourself, honor your body and your stage in life and learn how to feel and do your best every day. It is one of the oldest health maintenance systems in the world.
The physical practice of yoga – the asanas – were originally designed to get out your “ya-ya’s” in order to sit for long periods of time in meditation. Meditation is really the ultimate yogic goal because the ancient yogis believed that through mastery of the mind came transcendence. They were tackling the age-old question: Who am I and why am I here?
Do not let the thought of meditation scare you. If you are simply interested in a way to help stay flexible and healthy, you can surely use the yoga asanas to help you feel more comfortable in your own skin. The key to the practice is finding what you like and what makes you feel better.
There are many styles of yoga available in the U.S. these days. Any good yoga teacher should be able to help you adapt the practice to what you need or suggest an alternative class or style. Shop around and see what resonates with your mind, your body and your stage of life.
Want to learn more? Contact me.
See this post published in Chesapeake Style magazine.