Yoga is for everyone: including you
“Yoga is an internal practice. The rest is just a circus”
It seems that there is some sort of myth in the west that you need to be a) flexible and b) fit to do yoga. I am here to tell you, anyone can do yoga! In fact, all that the word ‘yoga’ means ‘to join’ or ‘union’, not backbends and handstands.
So if you’re reading this and you’ve always wanted to do yoga – this is for you and I hope that you’ll be ready to get straight to a class. If you don’t think yoga is ‘your thing’, I assure you that if you have self-respect for your body and soul that by the end of this post, you too will be ready to get on that yoga mat.
Let’s start with talking about why yoga even came about in the first place. To cut it short, holy men known as saddhus went off into the forests of India and decided to find their own path to enlightenment as they believed that being in oneness with the divine should not be just for the ruling class. At this time of the yogic system beginning, these yogis were experimenting with various rituals, including the Buddha cooking himself to enlightenment in 5 fires, a group of them starving themselves to enlightenment and some cleaning out their back passages with turmeric roots to reach enlightenment (hope you aren’t eating right now).
Eventually, the founding eight limbs of yoga were established in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and this is really where I recommend you read on so that you understand how yoga is all ready in your life.
The eight limbs, known as Ashtanga (ashta=eight, anga=limb) are really just guidelines to lead a meaningful life and to guide us to reach a state of bliss and enlightenment. I bet that you all ready are a yogi, without knowing it!
The Eight Limbs are as follows:
- Yamas: (no not the greek “cheers”) – ahimsa: non-violence, satya: truthfulness, asteya: non-stealing, Brahamcharya: right use of energy and aparigraha (non-greed or non-coveting). B.K.S Iyengar explains this well when he articulates that it does not matter who you are, what your physical capabilities are or your background, you can perform Yamas.
- Niyamas: More to do with duties directed towards ourselves. saucha: Cleanliness, santosha: contentement or gratitude, tapas: Discipline, svadhyaya: self-study and self-reflection and isvararanidaha: surrendering to higher powers.
Asana: BINGO. What draws most people into yoga initially: posture practise. It literally means, ‘seat’. So releasing blockage in the body so that we can be physically fit and sit longer in meditation. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika Patanjali notes that the posture should be ‘steady and comfortable’ and ‘be held motionless’. If you practise asana posture regularly and strive for the full expression of the posture but aren’t yet comfortable in another (‘easier’) expression of the same pose; I would recommend mastering the slightly less advanced version first so it is easy to breath, pleasurable and comfortable.
- Pranayama: breathing techniques, breath control and cultivation of energy. Extremely important for liberating the mind, relaxing the body and bringing it down into a parasympathetic state; meaning we are in the best mode for bodily function. If you have asthma, for example, there are breathing exercises that have cured my client’s asthma from being on an inhaler every day. Just amazing.
- Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses. A great example of this is in Yoga Nidra where we just focus on hearing and awareness in order to fully come into energetic body and mind. It means that one can meditate without being easily distracted. I would recommend this especially to meditation newbies, as for me, I have had some beautiful and life changing experiences with this limb of yoga.
- Dharana: Focussed concentration. This is similar to the above limb, in that it can be used in a similar way in Nidra work. Things such as candle gazing, visualisation and following breath. Sort of the step before you try to empty your brain in meditation.
- Dyana: meditation. This is ‘real’ meditation. Often people mistake savasana (Corpse Pose) at the end of a yoga asana class as meditation, but that is usually the above two limbs. Real meditative absorption is where we do not thing ‘OMGz I’m meditating’; then I’m afraid you’re not quite meditating.
- Samadhi: Bliss or Enlightenment. This isn’t the same as a visualisation where we float away to a cloud or beach: it is the realisation. If you know , you know. If you don’t, you may in this lifetime and it will probably come when you least expect it, too!
So how many did you identify with? Any of these and you can call yourself a yogi!
The point is that yes, yoga asana practice give us many benefits. BUT you can do yoga without stepping on a mat. So know that when you take the step into an asana class, this is the most helpful place to begin your journey, as there are many other yogis you can share this with. In addition, a yoga teacher is there to guide you through your journey, so you can ask them anything.
If you still aren’t convinced that yoga is for you, or maybe you’re not cut out for the full yogic eight-limbed shebang then just remember the benefits of yoga practice. (There are hundreds; so if you want the full list let’s meet for tea/coffee and I’ll bring my list and we’ll chat.)
My favourite benefits of this cure-all ancient system include:
- Anti-calcification (YOGA REVERSES ARTHITIS!!!)
- Fantastic for healing cancer
- Soothes digestive disorders
- Depression and Anxiety relief
- Self-Esteem boosting
- Injury Prevention
- Increased muscle integration (functional movement)
- Helps diabetes
- Heart Health
- Decreased Stress
- Weight Loss
- Hormone Function
Just some food for thought; no matter what your ability, age, background, fitness level just get to a yoga class. Try a few, notice how you feel and then decide. I cannot tell you the gifts that yoga will give you, because each journey is unique, but I KNOW for a fact that yoga only works for the greatest and highest good. Don’t ever deny yourself the gift of yoga.
Remember, Yoga is a journey, not a destination.