5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Practice of Yoga

Yoga is for everyone.

Because yoga is a trendy and popular thing nowadays (which is great!), there can also be images, types of clothing and apparel and even body types that are continuously represented in media. Ultimately, this creates the idea for many people that because they don’t “fit the mold” they can’t or shouldn’t practice yoga. YOGA IS FOR EVERYONE. Yoga is a way of living, being, breathing, treating others and oh yea, also a way to do a series of poses that are great for your mind and body. You don’t need to wear brand-name clothes, be tattooed, wear mala beads, eat quinoa and kale for breakfast and do a one-fingered handstand every day to be a yogi. There may be individuals out there who do fit that description (probably a less exaggerated one), and that is what is right for them. Find ways to integrate the spirit of yoga into your life and what works for you. Just remember, yoga is for everyone.

You don’t have to do yoga every day for at least an hour.

Ideally, yoga creates more positive effects on the bodymind when it is practiced consistently; but life isn’t always consistent! Every person is in a constant flux and sometimes what felt good for the last three months, doesn’t feel right or good any more. Part of the beauty of yoga is that you honor your body and spirit with what it needs. Perhaps it is just 5 minutes a day, or you stand up at your cubicle every hour to do one pose before starting work again; maybe it’s an hour one day and 20 minutes the next! A big key is being patient and kind to yourself about the type of routine you create and know that it will change, just as you change…and that’s OKAY! Aim for consistency on some regard, but cultivating awareness and ease around your practice is just as important as the practice itself.

Successful meditation does not look like what you might think it does.

I often hear that people “tried it but just aren’t good at it”. Meditation comes in many forms and experiences. It does not require you to sit on the floor, cross-legged, with your hands in a specific form, without a thought whispering through your mind (another exaggerated image). If that truly, in your heart, works for you, keep it up! Just as you don’t have to look or dress a certain way to practice yoga, you don’t have to meditate a certain way for success. Consider different forms of meditation; for example mindfulness meditation does not require you to stop the mental chatter that occurs, as it is a natural tendency for the human being especially in the culture we live in now, but to be aware of the chatter that is occurring and consistently redirect the attention to a singular point, such as the breath or a mantra. Just the fact that you sit down and bring awareness to your breath, to your mind, to your life is success…don’t discount showing up. That is why it is called a practice.

Yoga is not just about poses.

In the western society, often times we find yoga to be a fitness activity and it is great for that. Many texts and teachings discuss the physical postures or asanas, are practiced in order to sit more comfortably, practice the breathwork and ultimately reach a meditative state. The word asana is often translated to mean “a comfortable and easy position”(Ray Long, The Key Muscles of Yoga: Hip Openers) Because the bodymind is connected, we still reap mental benefits simply by jumping on the mat and doing poses. However, yoga is also about breathing and meditating, finding awareness (more on that later), and translating that into daily life; the way you are in the world, how you treat yourself and others.

Advanced poses aren’t required to be great at yoga.

I have been practicing yoga for 10 years and teaching for 2 and I can’t do the most advanced form of many poses. Sometimes I can, and other days I can’t. It is important to honor your body and spirit in your practice and look at yoga as a form of therapeutic balance and healing and not a competition (with others or yourself). A good teacher will show you modifications to the pose and empower you to advance through the pose as you and your body are ready. Poses, breathwork and meditation are not black and white, and there are many steps on the path. Enjoy the journey and not just the destination!

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