‘I’m too stiff to do yoga’, or ‘too old’, or ‘too fat’, ‘too much of a man’ are maybe thoughts we’ve had at some point when we are yoga virgins. if you’ve never explored yoga you’d be forgiven for thinking that you need to be a skinny female model type whose butt looks exceptional in a pair of psycadelic Lululemon leggings.
But dear reader…read on as there is so much more to yoga. Yoga really is for everyone – all shapes, sizes, ages there is something for you. Yoga is not a fitness class, although yes practicing some physical yoga regularly will help your body work better but yoga is about reaching a state of ‘union’, of the mind, body and soul with the universal truth or energy. Patanjali, ‘the father of yoga’ defines it in the sutras (a book of meaningful one liners about the nature of the human condition and how yoga can help reduce suffering, written around 200 BCE-500 AD). He states it is ‘the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain that direction without any distractions.’
So why do we need to touch our toes? We don’t. Yoga has many paths and like much ancient wisdom changes depending on the time it finds itself in. Yoga began as a way to become one with….everything, the main path then was meditation. The asanas (yoga postures which we now think of as ‘yoga’) is just a tiny part of the practice to enable one to be able to sit for hours in meditation to reach this enlightenment.
In this case why should I bother with a yoga class and which is the right class for me?
If you want to change your body physically first then begin with a yoga asana (physical postures) class. This will strengthen both the mind and body, improve digestion, sleep, mood and if practiced properly all functions of the body. Begin at the beginning with either a few 1-2-1 sessions, or a beginners course whereby you can have a good basis and understanding of what yoga is about. You will get so much more from classes and your own practice and feel better quicker as a result.
Also explore other forms of yoga – e.g Kirtan – a yoga ‘sing along’ which is a form of ‘bhakti yoga’ the yoga of devotion. There is no movement (unless you feel like dancing’ but repeating chants in a ‘call and response’ style often accompanied by a harmonium and a drummer, can be very cleansing, and uplifting.
Often the thing we shy away from is what we most need. For many of us living a fast paced urban lifestyle, makes us crave an equally dynamic class where we feel ‘we’ve had a good work out’ and built up a sweat. With our nervous system constantly in a mild state of stress as we dash from work, to socialising, to work, to kids and so on… we actually need to rest. A restorative yoga class, yin or yoga nidra – have profoundly soothing affects – as your parasympathetic nervous system is activated enabling your body and mind to heal in this rare ‘down time’. The symptoms of stress which are far reaching can be alleviated and after just an hour’s class you can feel like you have experienced a mini retreat or at lease a nourishing night’s sleep.
The holy grail – is meditation and mindfulness – if you want to dive straight in attending an introduction to meditation or mindfulness course is the best way to begin a daily self-practice. The benefits of mediation can only really be felt when practiced regularly.
Over months your life will change, perhaps bad habits will naturally fall away, your thought patterns will shift and new possibilities unfold as the practice helps us ‘clear clutter’ both physically (in the form of toxins) and mentally. Over years – as you move into becoming a yoga veteran – you will find both strength and solace in the practice – learning as you go, we discover the path of a yogi, is one of being an eternal student but also as our mind quietens – we begin to really listen to our own inner voice, and hear our ultimate teacher.