This 10-step guide is for one of two people — those who want to do yoga but haven’t started yet, and those who really can’t stomach the idea of actually doing it at all.
Maybe you haven’t found the right class or teacher, or perhaps the thought of doing a slow, sweaty interpretive dance with a bunch of crunchy granolas isn’t the ideal way to spend your time.
Either way, consider this a quick and dirty demystification of what yoga really is, and how it could actually exist in your life.
1. Yoga is designed to eliminate suffering through mindfulness.
It’s pretty safe to say everyone (including YOU) wants to feel better, especially when our bodies are so prone to pain. Are you feeling awkwardness, pain, or blockage on some level? Yoga offers powerful tools for self-care and maintenance, but first you have to understand the underlying problem, by tuning in with your body.
2. It’s not about amazing handstands, tangled binds, or countless hours of silent meditation. It’s not a fashion show or popularity contest.
Don’t worry about how it looks, just care about how it feels. It all comes down to you, the practitioner, deepening your relation to your true and highest self. In the beginning, that means just being OK with who you are. Eventually, that acceptance grows to include how and why as well. But you needn't look further than what’s right in front of you.
3. Yoga can teach you how to connect with yourself on physical, mental and spiritual levels.
A solid yoga practice is what I like to call a full “Lifestyle System Diagnostic," meaning that everything (including YOU) occurs on one of three levels: Physical, Mental, & Spiritual. Physical objects represent spiritual and mental concepts, and vice versa. For example, anything fitness-related is a physical process. An in-depth conversation with a friend or loved one is mental. And then whatever it is that you believe about life’s meaning, probably exists on a spiritual plane. Each level has it’s own unique characteristics, and yoga can help you get in touch with all of them.
4. You can develop an understanding that everything in your body and mind is connected.
Our body is an articulate piece of organic machinery, but the machine is only as strong as the communication between its parts. Your heart is a constantly-thumping muscle and a center for emotional intuition. Your brain is both a personal computer and a dream theater — as well as a bundle of nerve endings. Yoga can help you connect the dots between your body and mind, so that you can troubleshoot the ways that one might have a direct affect on the other.
5. Yoga reminds us we are part of something much greater.
A heart is still a heart, even without a body. There are many forms of spirituality that provide guidance for others, regardless of what it is that you believe in. Everything is part of a larger system, including YOU. Think of the practice of yoga as the oil that keeps all the parts in your engine of life running smoothly.
6. Recognize that not all yoga is movement, but all movement can be yoga.
Have you ever immersed yourself so completely deep into something, that the rest of the world disappears and you become one with the work? Much like there is an art to doing something, there’s a yoga to doing something as well. The sweet challenge is finding a mindful, present, and centered approach to any task you perform, be it surfing, doing taxes, or being stuck in traffic.
7. Yoga is about so much more than just sweating on a rubber mat.
What many people generally consider as yoga — all that sweaty stuff with the rubber mats — is just one part of the practice. Asana (poses and movements) and Pranayama (breath work) make up most of the physical practice. Meditation, Mantra (vocal work), and Nidra (visualization) work to sharpen mental capacity, and yogic philosophy deepens the connection to a higher spiritual understanding.
8. Yoga is different strokes for different folks. You might not like everything!
What works for you might not work for another. Your interests in Kundalini yoga could bore the Bikram devotees to tears. While it would certainly be nice to love every type of yoga class out there, it may take trying out several different styles until until you find something that really speaks to you. But once that happens, do the heck out of it!
9. Everybody can do yoga, but every body is different.
Your ego can be a real jerk sometimes. There is what you want and what you need, and unfortunately those don’t always match up. This is why most people never step foot into their first yoga class, or don’t bother returning for the second one. We want it to be easy, less awkward or sweaty. We don’t want to feel self-conscious or silly. We want to be the best, it’s totally amicable! That’s just pride screwing with you. Get over it.
But most importantly…
10. Yoga is not meant to be torture.
At times it might be challenging, even frustrating, to find that spark — especially in the beginning. But no matter how advanced you become, there is always going to be new ground to cover and more to learn. Just always remember that yoga should reduce suffering, not create it.
Remember, yoga is what you make of it. You get back what you put in! Be honest with yourself, clear about your journey and open to any and all possibilities. But most importantly, believe in the power of one of the most common mantras in yoga: PRACTICE — it may not make perfect, but at least it will make permanent.
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