As a yoga instructor, I have had countless conversations that go something like this…
Them: What do you do for a living?
Me: I teach yoga classes and train yoga instructors. I’m also a yoga therapist and an Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Facilitator.
Them: I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.
This always makes me chuckle because increasing flexibility is one of the many reasons to practice yoga – and it’s not even the most important one!
However, it underscores one of the many misconceptions about yoga. The widespread popularity of social media and the sharing of photos of people in absurd upside-down balancing pretzel-like shapes hasn’t helped. People see these photos and think, “I could never do that.” Well, let me clue you in. I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 years, teaching for 12, training for 10, and I can’t do THAT.
But, yoga isn’t about that.
The word yoga originates from the root word yuj, which means union. As such, it is a wholistic practice that brings the body, mind, heart, and spirit into harmony. The practice of yoga has been around for more than 4,000, predating written history. An Indian sage named Patanjali delineated and systematized yoga into an eight limbed path over 2,000 years ago and documented it in The Yoga Sutras, considered the “guidebook” for yoga. However, only one of the yoga sutras mentions the word asana, referring to the physical postures of yoga! In this sutra, Patanjali simply says, “Posture should be steady and comfortable.” He does not say, “Posture must be acrobatic, complicated, and prepare you for a circus performance!”
In fact, the word asana means seat because the original posture of yoga was a simple seated cross-legged position. The practice of yoga was holding that posture in a steady and comfortable way to enter into the “higher practices” of yoga–calming the mind to facilitate meditation. As such, yoga is meant to be a pathway to peace, harmony, and bliss. And, it was meant to be available to anyone and everyone.
The practice of yoga in the West has deviated from its Eastern origins and emphasizes the physical practice. However, even the Westernized practice of yoga offers a wide-range of options in terms of levels and styles.
No matter your age, size, or ability level, you can find a yoga class that will meet you exactly where you are so you can enjoy the numerous benefits of yoga. Whether you are looking for healing, stress relief, relaxation, improved posture, flexibility, balance, focus, coordination, strength, or stamina, there’s a class for you. Even if you live in a rural area that doesn’t have a yoga studio, a wide range of classes are offered online, and many of them are available for free on YouTube.
Even in our modern interpretation of yoga, the most important benefits of the practice is that it facilitates a mind-body connection and guides us to become more mindful. We learn to be present and breathe. It also helps us appreciate what our bodies can do and feel more accepting and nonjudgmental of ourselves. It is a journey of self-discovery that leads us into a space of healing, growth, and transformation. That is why yoga is a wonderful complement to our mindful eating practice.
Try a class. Try several. Join us in exploring the amazing world of yoga and discover for yourself all the beautiful gifts it has to offer.