When I talk to other people about yoga, more often than not I get a response similar to this – ‘I would love to try it but I’m just SO inflexible!’. And while I try my best trying to explain that this truly doesn’t matter, it doesn’t help that every picture we see online or in social media of ‘the modern yogi’ is someone doing the splits, or folding themselves like a pretzel.
There are enough ways we all judge ourselves and compare against others. And yoga isn’t another form of exercise we do to hopefully, one day, feel better about ourselves. Doing the perfect headstand, or a perfect backbend is not the end goal. And even if it was, it wouldn’t guarantee that we love ourselves anymore.
As Judith Lasatar so aptly says – ‘Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what we learn on the way down’.
But what exactly are we learning when we show up on our mat to practice?
Yoga is an inward journey
Let’s take a step back and remember that the practice of yoga is believed to date back over 5,000 years. It truly is an ancient discipline, that was practiced to cultivate a strong and supple body so that one could be able to sit still in meditation for long periods. Having a strong core, supple spine and open hips was necessary to ensure the body stayed relaxed and comfortable, without being a disturbance or distraction.
The ultimate goal for the Yogi was to be still. To be able to master their mind, achieve inner peace, and ultimately – enlightenment.
Western culture has glorified the physical practice, yet the heart of yoga remains – as a tool to guide us on an inward journey so we can find true harmony within ourselves.
In our fast-paced, distracted modern lives, wouldn’t it be a joy to interact with people who are calm, centered, and present? Who can navigate all changes and challenges from a place of grounding?
Lessons from the mat
Each time you step onto your mat, you show up for yourself. Although yoga is often practiced among a group of people, it is very much an individual practice. The focus is within your four corners of your mat. As you move silently, you are guided to tune into the sensations of your body and to move with intention. Where the body goes, the mind follows, and so by focusing and controlling the physical self, we, in turn, can experience calm and ease in our thinking mind.
Yoga means to ‘yoke or unite’. What are we uniting? Our body and our mind, through a focus on our breath.
Every moment on your mat is a time to tune in and connect. In building strength through movement, we cultivate a stronger sense of self. As we stretch and lengthen our bodies, we also learn to expand our mindfulness and awareness. It is an all-encompassing practice that leads us on a path to our true self.
And while we may not achieve enlightenment like few of those ancient yogis, with a real commitment to our practice, the lessons we learn on our mat impact who we become off our mat, and we begin to show up in our lives with greater compassion, empathy, self-acceptance, and joy!
A journey begins with a single step
If touching your toes is no longer a reason to hold you back, the only next step is to decide to start. I have a range of pre-recorded videos to follow along, for free, in the comfort of your own home. There’s something for everyone including beginner classes, guided meditations, yin, vinyasa, and more.
Whatever you decide, the joy is in the journey. You can start yours today.