Many times people tell me that they want to start a yoga practice but will do it: “When I lose weight” or “Find some yoga clothes I look good in” or “Have more flexibility”.
None of these things matter to yoga.
Perhaps we are becoming conditioned to ‘Instagram’ yoga, which while beautiful and at times inspirational, bears no real resemblance to the teachings of yoga. Yoga is not about how good you look in tight leggings and crop tops, it’s not about presenting what, for most people are unattainable postures at best and injury-inducing postures at worst, and it’s certainly not about showing off your most technically difficult asana.
Your yoga practice, whether in a formal class or in the privacy of your own home is about you, not the ‘you’ of thighs you are unhappy with, or injuries that seem to taunt you, or those seemingly impossibly tight hamstrings.
It is about the “you” of your authentic self. The unchanging, steady, happy you that does exist (and always has) beneath the mind chatter and accompanying emotions. Within a framework of gentle breathing, sympathetic asanas and perhaps a relaxation of one form or another, you have an opportunity to begin to move away from all the mental noise.
Yoga doesn’t ask you to eradicate thoughts, any more than it suggests you push emotions aside, but rather, it gives you the space to observe your thoughts and to feel your emotions without drowning in them.
A wonderful teacher I had the pleasure to spend some time with recently, commented on her idea of a ‘successful’ yoga class. It was not when she has fifty or more students lined up in rows, not when everyone is in headstand, and not when everyone is following her instructions to the letter.
What put a smile on her face was when she looked around the class and saw everyone working slightly differently, listening to what their body was telling them that day, respecting their injuries and approaching their ‘limitations’ with a sense of curiosity and lightheartedness. This approach does not mean ‘dumbing down’ your asana practice, paradoxically it allows you to get more out of the postures as you enhance your ability to feel into your body, and develop a deeper awareness of the muscles you are using. It’s the ultimate ‘Less is more’ approach.
So forget the pretty pictures, cast aside any lofty ideas of silencing your mind, pull on your tracksuit pants and get ready to enjoy spending some quality time with yourself.