Yoga has a strange set of misinterpretations and stereotypes surrounding it and I’d love to explain a bit more about why it is an exercise that you-you regular person out there- should work into your regular routine.
I had the greatest compliment given to me by my massage therapist. After I told her about getting my YogaFit Level one certificate last year, she was so excited for me. She told me that I (as a very regular, conservative, girl-next-door type) would be a wonderful yoga teacher because regular people who might think yoga is only for X type of person (I’ll explain ‘X’ down below) would come to my class. We then further joked that I should wear jeggings and a bandana, play country music, and call the class “Yoga for Rednecks” because we laughingly agreed that I would appeal to those who might otherwise think yoga wasn’t for them.
In addition to helping keep my migraines at bay, I think she was right. I’m not remarkably athletic, flexible, lean, tall, or like the yoga Instagram stars or models in yoga pant advertisements. I’m also not unshowered nor unshaven and I love to eat lots of red meat of animals that were shot afield or ranch raised. I think lots of people falsely believe that yoga is for two types of people: either the impossibly fit (flexible/strong/tall/skinny/talented/etc) or a member of some part of the counterculture and those labels (just labels I have heard applied, not labels I actually believe- no yelling at me please!) include those who could be described as hippy/granola/green/liberal/pot-smoking/incense-burning/vegan/organic/etc. If you are wondering what in the world I am talking about, let me tell you that yoga absolutely has these stereotypes attached to it and you must live in a place that has shed these silly notions. Yay for you!
Yoga is not just for the flexible. I’m not a runner, or a hiker, or an otherwise super fit person. I run around after my kids a lot but as far as true athleticism, I don’t have it. And yet I love yoga because it makes me feel amazed at what my body can do, and that is a wonderful thing. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes or your knees, nor do you need super tight yoga spandex that says, with metaphorical nose in the air, that “I do yoga.” You just have to be willing to try a sort of weird but thoroughly delicious feeling stretches.
Yoga is not just for the strong. I can’t believe how much stronger I have become just from doing yoga. I started my yoga journey when I had recently had a baby and I was anything but strong. I was exhausted, stressed to the max, and out of shape. The realization of yoga as a strength builder came again after I had to switch life obligations around and went from teaching 3 classes per week to just one. It was remarkable how much stronger I was with more practice. Those two little hours per week more made an enormous difference. In the same vein, when I ended up skipping/canceling/rescheduling class this winter and only practiced for a handful of minutes in two months; holy cow. I have some work (fun, satisfying, relaxing work) to do.
Yoga is not super hard. It is actually very simple, and the stronger and more flexible you become the harder you can choose to make your yoga practice, but yoga isn’t hard. The images you may see of arm balances and inversions that make you think, “I could never do that!” are impressive but you should only allow them to make you feel inspired, not unable. Everyone puts their yoga pants on one leg at a time and started out from the same place. In fact, I have met lots of yoga enthusiasts who got into yoga because of serious injury as yoga is a gentle but effective means of building strength. So, they would have started not from zero, but from behind the starting line of the average person. Yoga can be as simple as folding forward at the waist, taking a deep breath, and sinking a little farther forward. That’s it. Pretty simple, right?
Yoga is not a religion/transcendental experience/woo-woo spiritual activity. I have had more than one person say to me in a cautionary tone; “Yoga is a religion.” “Uh…nope, I’m pretty sure I’m still a Catholic, but thanks for checking!” I think that well-meaning folks are hinting at is the experience that many yoga practitioners experience that is like one I had while washing dishes once. One time, as I was washing plates, as the water was warm, the bubbles fragrant, I lost myself in thought gazing out the sunny window and come to some fairly deep conclusions about a subject near and dear to my heart. Or like one time while saying the Lord’s Prayer in Mass, while listening to the choir of sweet old ladies warm up and with the morning sun pouring through the old stained glass, I felt supremely uplifted before the service even began. The other part of yoga that might make a person think “religion” with lots of exclamation points after it is where the yoga teacher might advise you to listen to, stay with or otherwise pay attention to your breathing. You know what happens when you pay attention to your breathing? You focus on your breath and then (the BEST part of yoga, I think!) you forget about the laundry you need to fold and you forget about the worry of the bills and obligations and other mental clutter that is probably causing at least a little unproductive stress.
Yoga is for only X type of person (insert a political/religious/philosophical affiliation for X). You know what “type” of person does yoga? A relaxed person. When I started, I was so stressed that I had started grinding my teeth in my sleep, my migraines were worse than ever, was utterly exhausted yet couldn’t sleep, and my shoulders were so knotted up from packing my super heavy baby around that my aforementioned massage therapist made a long series of concerned facial expressions on the rare occasion I had time to see her. I knew I had to do something and when I saw that a YogaFit yoga teacher training was being hosted in my area, I signed up despite it being totally impractical to do so. By obligating myself to teach, I made myself relax and it was magical, my friends. People who do yoga have decided that they need some relaxing exercise in their life and that is a very powerful decision. It isn’t a competition, it isn’t supposed to hurt, it can be gentle and slow and that is the opposite of so much of our lives. The people who love yoga, that I have met in my experience, are so nice, welcoming, and easygoing that once you experience them in person, you are like to feel an overwhelming desire to have whatever they have. Good news! It is available at a yoga mat near you! If you are free from stress, worry, and happen to be in love with some other type of exercise, then I guess maybe yoga isn’t for you but even then…
Yoga is FUN. It is fun in a weird, relaxing way where you imagine if you can bend like this, grab your toe here, and go a little farther to over there…and then by some yoga wizardry, you can. It is so fun.
The above photographs were taken by the lovely and super talented Circle Bar Photography. If you are in Northern CA, I highly suggest Della. She took me to her family’s ranch (mine has been the background for the rest of our photography adventures) and those are the Marble Mountains in the background. Pretty gorgeous, right?
Of all the reasons and infographics I thought would be the most relevant to the aforementioned “regular” person, I thought the topic of metabolism would be the most relevant. This infographic explains so many other reasons why a regular Wildflower would benefit from a yoga practice.
So, have I convinced you yet, Dear Reader? Yoga is appropriate for anyone and everyone and because I love sharing what I love with you all, I hope you will give it a try. Check out the “Yoga” section at the top of the blog for my other yoga-related posts. As I say at the end of my in-person yoga classes, “May peace be with you!”