Yoga Isn’t What You Think

Plank.jpgAs we talk about “doing yoga” we find that people are either 100% on board and have a yoga practice themselves (even if it has been two years since they hit their mat) or they give you a funny look and say, “That’s where you chant on your head, right?”

Sigh. Yes, I’ve been to yoga classes where there has been chanting. And yes, there have been classes where some students have managed a very respectable headstand. I don’t recall one where both have happened simultaneously, but I suppose it could. But the comment completely sidetracked the conversation where I was sharing the benefits of my yoga experiences with a friend.

As our non-yoga lover left, I watched his back and wanted to sit him down and explain a few things about yoga to him. Since I lacked both the courage and physical strength to do so, I’m going to write down a few things about yoga I wanted to share with him.

And I’ve learned that if there is one person out there with the chanting/headstand opinion, there are likely a few others, so this is for you too.

Number One. Yoga is NOT for sissies. It is truly much harder than it looks. The peaceful expressions on the models in a yoga magazine or on the cover of a yoga DVD might give the impression of this being an easy workout, but I’m here to tell you that you will use muscles you didn’t even know you had. You will also sweat. A lot.

Many who are new to yoga say, “That’s a whole lot harder than it looks!” Those of us who understand, simply smile and nod. Yes, it is. Yoga uses the entire body and even well-conditioned athletes find their first session in a yoga class to be challenging. As a mind-body experience it entails so much more than just telling yourself, “Only five more miles.”

The main goal behind yoga is to make that mind/body connection through a series of asanas or postures combined with breathing techniques to help.

Number Two. You do NOT have to have the ability to stand on your head or put your heels behind your ears before you start yoga. Probably one of the most common excuse for not doing yoga is, “I’m not flexible enough.”

The whole idea of yoga is to become flexible.

Each person who comes to their yoga mat comes as a fresh start. Even those who have practiced yoga for years find a fresh start every time they come to their mat because they may have pain, stiffness, an injury, or even a mental concern. All of these will change your yoga practice.

Every yoga session is done at your own pace. Never compare yourself to anyone else in the room. NEVER! You are an individual, and your job is to combine your mind and your body. Focus on what you need.

Number Three. Welcome help from your instructor. Most yoga studio instructors have over 200 hours of training in addition to a deep understanding of body mechanics. They can see when your pose is working against you and can give you a slight adjustment that makes the entire pose so much easier and better. They are there to help you, coach you, teach you. Use them. That is what is missing when you practice only to a DVD. That is good, but from time to time it is good to have some positive feedback to improve your overall technique.

Give yoga a chance. There is a class available to fit every person out there, from children to seniors. It is a gentle, yet full-body workout that not only tones your muscles but teaches you to also calm your mind.