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Thin, Young, Flexible… not required in Yoga!


Thin, Young, Flexible… not required in Yoga!

When I mention that I teach Yoga, most often the response I get is, ‘I can’t do Yoga, I’m not flexible enough’.  Unfortunately there is a great misconception that Yoga is purely physical – and that you need to be thin, young and flexible to practice it.

If you type ‘Yoga’ into your search bar, a multitude of results swiftly returns image after image of beautiful, toned, women (with a sprinkling of men) showing off terrifically difficult poses in beautiful tropical settings. One after another, Splits, Arms Balances, and extremely challenging backbends…unbelievable contortions of the body that 99.5% of the population will never achieve. There is a sprinkling of voluptuous yogis, but again, most performing difficult feats like headstands without hands. As if to say, ‘it’s not Yoga, unless you can do something like this’.

Now, I’m not saying that the shots aren’t beautiful, or that there is anything wrong with taking a selfie in a beautiful location. Certainly I aspire to advance in my physical practice. I practice stretching and strengthening to keep my body happy and healthy; however, I recognize it is my ego driving when I push myself to achieve the more ‘advanced’ postures. I know in my heart of hearts, that my life will be no better if I achieve handstand without a wall, yet I still aspire to one day find the stillness, balance and ease to manage that position. Working through the challenge of poses that you ‘can’t do’ can translate into working through challenges off the mat… so whilst there is some value in ‘advanced’ postures, it is disconcerting when a simply entry of ‘Yoga’ into social media, returns such skewed results.

Since Yoga’s great surge in popularity in the west over the past decade – coinciding with technological advances in communication (not to mention the acceptance of the selfie), the proliferation of these types of images has created a great rift between what Yoga is and what many of the public believe it to be.

So if not these pictures, what is Yoga?  In it’s very essence, Yoga is the recognition that we are more than just a body and a collection of thoughts in the mind. The Yogic tools (which include the postures, breathwork, meditation and relaxation), help us transcend our physical and mental limitations to cultivate health, happiness, and a greater sense of self-awareness and higher consciousness.

Yoga has so many benefits beyond the physical exercise. It can help us create balance and union in our mental, emotional and spiritual self. Yoga assists in the full acceptance and awareness of self. A consistent Yoga practice can help bring peace and acceptance to wherever we are in life.  Unfortunately, Instagram, Facebook and some of the major yoga media outlets would lead us to believe otherwise.  Yoga does not require us to be thin, young, flexible, or wearing the latest Lululemon. Literally – If you can breathe, you can practice yoga – and everyone needs to know this.

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