There is something I really love about students new to yoga. There is an unknowing, a blank canvas ready to be printed, a journey about to begin. So often they are drawn to the practice as a ‘stretch’ for the purely physical benefits, of which there are so many. But when does Yoga stop being a stretch class (as I hear so many people call it) and start becoming something more than that?
I have had numerous questions recently about what we offer that doesn’t have any of the philosophy, any of the meditation, any of the “you know… extra spiritual stuff”. This really had me thinking. As a lay person the perspective of yoga is that we sit around with hands on each others backs, chanting, ommmming, and tying ourselves in knots before we meditate to the sound of Indian bowls. It saddens me that stereotypes of Yoga and people who practice it (yogis) portray us as ‘alternative’.
I defend yoga wholeheartedly when people ask for a class without the ‘spiritual stuff’. Without Yoga Philosophy, Pranyama, Mudras, a Sankalpa (intention) or even the Yamas and Niyamas a yoga class is just a stretch that you could do at home. A Yoga class is there for you to learn something, to be inspired, to challenge your perspective, to be critical and ask why, to become familiar with your body, your mind and perhaps (god forbid) your spirit or soul. This is the reason yoga and meditation are so special, this is the reason you leave feeling at peace and in a place of great contentment.
I have spent many years of my life studying Western Medicine. I do not consider myself ‘spiritual’ in the typical construct of that word, as I have never affiliated with any religion. I eat meat. I drink wine. I love coffee. I enjoy Crossfit. And yes I like to chant on occasion. I do not feel I am weird or ‘alternative’ by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I feel that because I practice yoga I am mainstream- just like the millions of other people that practice globally. And FYI- meditation is about the best thing you could possibly do to find good health- so if you’re not doing it, why the hell not?
Life is changing, it’s becoming busier, we have more responsibilities, greater stress and most of us feel spread thin- most of the time. What do we do? We go for a 10km run, we thrash ourselves at the gym, we drink coffee and we all contribute to this cycle of tension. Isn’t it ‘weird’ to be contributing to your ill health when you have an accessible opportunity to do something completely un-weird and join the movement of people who have realised there is a better way to live?
The irony is the excuses I have been fed from people who won’t try yoga or don’t make it part of their regular routine…
“I’m too busy at the moment- when life get’s less crazy I will try and come!” – You make it busy, yoga makes life less damn crazy.
“I don’t have the headspace at the moment.” – Yoga will create headspace.
“I am too tried”- Have you heard of Yin or Restorative Yoga?
“I am too busy training”- Yoga is about the best thing you could do for your training.
“It’s too expensive”- it’s body maintennance and a lot cheaper then the dentist.
“I’m not flexible enough to practice yoga”- wtf? This is WHY you practice yoga!
“It’s boring and slow!”- Our Live Dj Mixtape Vinyasa class this friday might be up your alley?
All fragments of the imagination and not at all the reality of what a yoga practice requires or involves.
Yoga is not a ‘stretch class’, it’s not a ‘fad’, and is certainly not alternative!
Yoga is a powerful tool to get to know yourself, to breathe and above all truly enhances your way of life. Those that practice yoga and meditate are not ‘hippies’. They are the intelligent ones who have realised that there is a sustainable form of movement and mind exercise available to them. So instead of judging them, join them and see what you are missing.