Confused about yoga? faq’s

Yoga has the perception of everyone being being young, gorgeous,skinny and fit and super bendy…..

The excuses….

I’m not flexible at all – so I wouldn’t be able to…..

I’m not fit – so I can’t go….

I’ve no balance – so I can’t ….

I hate sports – so I wouldn’t go…..

Let’s just knock that right on the head.

Sure you get skinny, bendy people going to yoga, but if you think that’s what yoga is about –  you’re missing the point.

What is Yoga?

Yoga means union of body and mind. It is generally associated in the West with the physical practice of a sequence of postures. Asanas ( postures ) are one aspect of Yoga. It is a disciplined method of attaining a goal. It is the control of the modifications of the mind. Asana (posture) practice is only one of the 8 limbs of Yoga and there are many other aspects to Yoga that people practice apart from a physical practice. There is far more to Yoga than the physical practice of postures. There are 7 other limbs of the Yoga practice too!

To try to keep it simple though I speak here of only the physical practices of Yoga based in asana which is what most people associate as being Yoga.

What’s the goal? What’s the point of it?

Yoga is about exploring possibilities and choosing the path appropriate for our body in that moment. That may mean backing off – so Yoga is about building the mind – body connection in order to be able to do that. It’s about building self awareness. It’s about your connection with yourself.

Through the physical practice of Yoga we start to notice what’s going on in our mind. This is where the real journey begins. A lot of people start Yoga for the physical benefits, but most people stay with the practice for the mental benefits.

Yoga is a moving meditation. It is a way of becoming mindful of our actions and building our awareness- of body & mind – emotionally & mentally.

The Yoga often follows us of the mat and into our everyday, where that awareness and meditative process can really become part of your everyday life. The physical asanas (postures) that everyone associates with Yoga are only one aspect of it. Meditation & Mindfulness is a very big aspect of it. You’re awareness builds as you practice. The more you practice the more awareness you have.

This is actually what the grading of yoga classes refers to – whether it’s level 1,2 & 3, or beginner, intermediate & advanced – it’s your awareness that is being referred to – not if you can stand on your head. Once you start to practice Yoga- it unfolds like a flower revealing many layers & depth to its character.

Is Yoga competitive?

Yoga is not competitive, The key to it in fact, is the opposite. Often even if we are not competitive with others, we are with ourselves. We learn through Yoga to build awareness and the competitiveness drops away. Like everything in life though, Yoga competitions do exist and if you’d like to get in to that – no problem, I wish you well!

Yoga is not about being “good” or “bad” at it. What postures you can or can’t get into, are determined by what you’ve done up to this point with your body and the life so far, you have lead on this wonderful planet of ours. Leave the “good” and “bad” at stuff out of it – it will not serve you in Yoga. Awareness and acceptance are key to Yoga -and if you don’t have that yet – you will learn these skills through Yoga which then transfer into other area of your life.

Do you have to be fit?

Yoga is for everybody however, having a basic level of fitness is an advantage. As with all physical activities, if you are returning to health after and illness or injury, chat with your doctor to see if you’re ready and able to take up something new. Listening to your body is important and not pushing beyond your limit is what keeps you safe in the practice.

Do you have to be flexible?

No, not at all! Yoga is a way to get flexible! It doesn’t matter how flexible you are, as everyone works on their own flexibility- no matter where that is. Sports people are often really fit and strong, but lack flexibility. With continued practice you will find areas of your body more open than they once were. Flexibility comes with time and with patience, it’s important to work within your own limitations and build gradually, rather than going at it aggressively and expecting a result after one or two sessions. This is especially important at the beginning of your practice, where your awareness of how far to push your self is limited.

I’m not great at sports…..

It’s ok, Yoga is so different to sports, the ethos, the lack of competitiveness. Do not define yourself by experiences you may have had as a teenager – or in one or two sports. Don’t limit yourself before you’ve even given it a go…..you never know……

Do you have to wear lycra? Why does everyone wear it anyway?

Lycra is super comfy ( yes- I’m guilty as charged!), that’s why a lot of yogis and yoginis wear it – but no – you do not have to wear it. Just wear something stretchy and comfortable. People wear all sorts of clothes to yoga – tracksuit bottoms, shorts, tee shirts, just avoid things like jeans that will restrict your movement. For active Yang classes, by avoiding cotton will you’ll feel more comfortable when building up all that heat and sweat!

I hate the gym, I find it intimidating……..

That’s ok, my workshops are not in gyms, or have that “gym ethos”,  this is not a boot camp! I will not be roaring in your ear saying do it! Each workshop or class is your time out, you are in the driving seat of how far to push yourself. There’s no bench mark to reach as every one is working with different limitations. I will only offer options for you to try – it’s up to you after that!

I’m really shy, everyone will be looking at me and I won’t know what I’m doing…….

Please, please – if this is you….. also read my article on “The benefits of Yoga”. It’s an article on one aspect of my yoga journey. Trust me on this, you are not alone in feeling this way and while you’re shy – don’t let that get in the way of this, it’ll be ok. Come to a beginners’ workshop – nobody knows what they are doing there! And that’s actually half the fun of it! Yoga does not have to be serious, it does not have to be perfect, we are all aware of the lovely instagram photos of super bendy people, it’s not about that. Come and have a laugh! Stop being such a perfectionist and quit being so hard on yourself!

What about injuries – new and old?

It is highly unlikely to reach adulthood without having an injury , never mind a collection of them. Depending on what you’ve done and the severity of it, that will dictate (a) whether you should come to Yoga or not and (b) if you do come – what you will be able to do or not.

Old injuries have a nasty habit of just “dropping by to say “hi” at the most inappropriate times and you never know when that’s going to be. They don’t make appointments….

By tuning in to your body’s signals, instead of ignoring them like we often do, it is a way of protecting yourself from injury or further injury in Yoga. It is by awareness that we learn what is good and what is not so good for our body.

In saying that – if you’re not sure, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist – especially if you’re new to physical activity, or after a period of illness or injury. If in doubt pull back , it’s too late if you push through something you shouldn’t have and do more damage. You are the only one who actually know what’s going on inside, so listen to what your body is telling you. Your body is more important than any posture. If there’s something that you’re wary of, or need to let me know about – come a few minutes early, before class and modifications can always be suggested during class to suit you.

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