6 Helpful Reminders for Yoga Skeptics
I love yoga. Hard core. I’m a believer. Yoga has shown me the way and I’m now living it. I have zero desire to go back to the time when yoga had no influence in my life, no effect on my body, no inspiration for my heart, no knowledge to teach my mind. I wouldn’t even want to imagine who and where I’d be without it. Its influence and results have been mostly intangible, something perceived energetically, discernible through my attitude, my approach to challenges, my interaction with others, and my transformed views of my present, my future and of the world in general. My body feels stronger, more limber, healthier; my mind feels clearer, more calm, intelligent; my heart feels vastly more open, more trusting, more creative, capable of real love.
None of the descriptions above are usually enough to convince cynics to give Yoga a try. A very dear friend of mine said herself, “I like the physical challenge but I’m still not ready to sing kumbaya.” Now, not once have I ever sang or chanted kumbaya in yoga, not once. And herein lies the problem. We’re exposed to fractions of truths at all times, through what we absorb outside of us, which we then filter through our minds and interpret in a way that fits in with our previous beliefs. If we see an image of unusually dressed people moving hypnotically in a circle and somehow the word ‘yoga’ is affiliated with this image, our view has been tarnished and we then forget to make up our own minds, to experience something for ourselves and then decide whether it is for us or not. One of my first articles written for MindBodyGreen reflected a similar sentiment.
I’d like to proclaim, unequivocally, with strong passion and enthusiasm that yoga is for everyone, no matter your age, your height, your weight, your ethnic background, your political allegiance, your religious beliefs, your athletic prowess, your flexibility level, no matter what your bank statement says, whether you own a home or not, whether you wear brand name labels or handmade clothing, whether you’re single, divorced, gay or straight, yoga can and will affect your life positively if you allow it. Very similar to life, it is how you choose to perceive it. You don’t even need a teacher (this is saying a lot as I make my living as a Yoga teacher and I love it), a studio, a mat, a DVD, or equipment. There is no excuse, no stereotype or cliche that should keep you at a distance from this practice. Come a little closer, you won’t want to turn back. Below are some helpful, honest reminders about yoga that you can digest and use to finally give it a try, or perhaps you can pass this along to those you know who could benefit but are still on the fence.
1. All you need to practice yoga is a quality breath. Begin to take an active interest in the depth and length of your inhale and exhale, of your experience within, and this simple practice will bring you out of the mind and into the moment. Yoga seeks a comfortable body to rest so the mind can clear. The breath is sacrosanct to anything else; prioritize it, the rest will follow.
2. Whenever you practice, advancing a pose will not bring accolades, money, cookies or fame. Your purpose in yoga is to find the most satisfying experience in each moment, whether you're modifying or amplifying, it's about treating yourself as best as possible during every breath in and every breath out.
3. The ultimate goal in yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind, to begin to control and distinguish between worthy and unworthy outside influences and to shut off the thinking mind when we need to. There is no magic here, no manipulation, no rules to follow. This is for you, for all of us.
4. You do not need to follow one teacher, one school of thought, one guru, one book, or one path. Yoga, similar to Bruce Lee, uses “No Way As Way.” When I teach, I aim to provide insight from all walks of life, inside and outside of the Yoga community. You take what resonates with you and apply it to your practice and your daily life.
5. Although chanting, trance dancing, meditating, and many other ancient Eastern practices are weaved into the broad application of yoga, it needn’t be apart of your practice if you don’t wish it to be. I, personally, really enjoy participating in a good chant, in the freedom of movement involved in a trance dance, and I enjoy practicing different forms of meditation, but my chosen way of being in this world surrounds a much more grounded, modern approach to happiness and health. It works for me and it can certainly work for you.
6. When breathing with focus, moving your body mindfully, and tuning into your authentic self, meaning all that you want to be without the influence and expectations of the world around you, yoga will bring to and from you: acceptance, flexibility, calm focus, patience, gratitude, strength, courage and Love. You will appreciate yourself more and this alone will transform your thoughts, words and actions for the better. When you prioritize Now, the future is no longer a worry.
There are dozens of genres within the yoga world, especially here in the States. There is no doubt you can find even a few teachers that lead you in the way you prefer to be lead. Don’t forget: You are your own teacher. Give your body what it needs, whether it be a deeper challenge, or a gentle softness. Begin to observe your mind, adjust your thoughts to suit your desired energy state. Listen to your heart a bit more. Sounds cliche, hippy dippy, ooey gooey and sweet. Sure, I’m fine with that. We benefit from being less consumed by our thoughts, less overwhelmed by the constant sensory overload projected from the outside in, and encouraged instead to simply feel grateful to be alive, trust our own intelligence and kindness and to move forward accordingly.
Yoga will support you in being more fully yourself and aligning your external circumstances with your inner truth. No judgments, no expectations, no comparisons. Give yourself the gift.