I’m not flexible.
I’m too busy.
I’m can’t focus long enough to be still for 75 minutes.
I don’t want to become too flexible.
I have injuries.
I can’t meditate.
Yoga is too hard.
Yoga is boring.
These are the common comments I get when I tell them I teach yoga/ask if they would like to yoga with me. Since they can’t touch their toes, balance on their head, retain focus, meditate or are too injured, they think that yoga isn’t for them. Or they tried a couple yoga classes and either felt intimated by advanced poses or not stimulated enough to be interested. No matter your reason, you just feel like yoga isn’t for you. Well, yoga CAN BE for everyone, but the yoga you did previously or what you consider yoga may not be the best type of yoga practice for you right now. Yoga has many different forms (8 actually) and while one may not serve you at this moment, another could. Our bodies, minds and lives are constantly evolving, and so should our yoga practice.A friend of mine inspired this post when she messaged me last week asking if yoga was for her anymore. She used to LOVE going to yoga classes and moving her body, but now whenever she goes it feels forced and not right. It doesn’t calm her mind and give her the same relief and healing it used to. She is starting to think maybe this yoga thing isn’t for her.
I sat on her message thinking it through as I wanted to answer with my honest, knee-jerk reaction (which is YES YOGA FOR ALL!) but I also wanted to have a thoughtful and informative answer. Ultimately my answer was still yes, yoga is for everyone, but asana (physical yoga poses) are not for everyone. The thing is, yoga in North America is mostly considered only a physical practice, or at least physical postures first. What most don’t realize is that there are 8 Limbs of Yoga and only one of the eight Limbs is Asana. The other 8 Limbs of Yoga are:
Moral disciplines/restraints of how we interact with the world around us, such as being truthful and practicing non-violence.
There are five Yamas: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy), and Aparigraha (non greed or non hoarding).
Positive duties/observances towards ourself such as self-study and being cleanly.
There are five Niyamas: saucha (cleanliness), santosha (contentment), tapas (discipline or burning desire/passion), svadhyaya (self-study/self-reflection and studying texts), and isvarapranidaha (surrender to higher power).
The physical part of yoga is the third step on the path to enlightenment. Linages of yoga people often connect asana to are the physical sequences of Ashtanga, Bikram, Moksha, Vinyasa, Iyengar and many more. And the interesting thing about yoga postures and sequences is that they are meant to build us the strength, flexibility, and release physical tension so that we can sit for long periods of time. The intention is to be able to sit comfortably without being distracted by aches and pains of the body, or uncomfortable due to lack of strength/flexibility. So while advanced asana poses are wonderful and fun, they are the intention of asana, the intention is the be able to sit.
“Prana” is your breath, or your life force and Pranayama is breath control/techniques such as breath retention, Ujjayi (victorious breath) or Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).
Sense withdrawal to “draw within” for example closing eyes to focus more clearly or reducing your attachment to sounds to be less distracted by your environment.
Focused concentration such as visualization or candle gazing. This practice is closely linked to Pratyahara and often practiced together.
Meditation absorption. When we become completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation, this is when we’re really meditating; it’s the experience when you are no longer telling yourself to meditate, it’s the second you come out of it and realize you were completely absorbed in the moment.
Realization/enlightenment is the final step of the journey. It’s the ability to ‘see equally’ without disturbance from the mind, like judgement or attachment. Samadhi is BLISS, and it is impermanent, so it comes and goes. When you are able to achieve the state of Samadhi permanently, that is called Moksha.
So whether you are working on taking deep breathes, being kind to others, going to school to learn, meditating, moving your body, visualizing, or finding inner bliss, YOU ARE DOING YOGA! This is why yoga is for everyone. 😊🙏🏻✨
(Photo by Jessica Emin: @eatwithjessie)