A recent blog post in the Harvard Health blog touts the many (scientifically backed) benefits of yoga: improvement of cardiovascular health, flexibility, and balance, for example. But of the people that have not tried yoga, the most common reason they give is that it’s exclusive — to young women or people who are already flexible.
But of course.
How could they not think that? The media (yoga magazine covers and Instagram accounts for example) largely confirm this stereotype in the West. Sure, there are counter examples, such as Curvy Yoga and curvy girls doing poses, but those are few and far between in comparison. And when those examples are presented, it’s most often from the perspective being on the outside. As in, “here is a separate kind of yoga for us rebel yogis. We old, fat, unattractive, tight and inflexible bunch who feel left out of the game.”
I’m exaggerating — but only a little.
When I speak to people that don’t do yoga, almost all of them expressed a wish to start, and almost all of them cited “not being flexible” as a reason not to. “But no!” I cry, “that is exactly why you should start!” But they don’t believe me.
I confess: I am a young woman, flexible, and was already fairly athletic when I started yoga. But that’s not why I started doing yoga, nor is it why I love yoga.
I love it because it makes me happy, and it’s part of who I am. Connecting with yourself, your True Self, on and off the mat is bliss. Moving through asana, breathing through pranayama, sitting in meditation, and walking through life, it’s all connected. And I feel this joy and peace when I get to share it with other people.
When I teach beginner students who may have reservations about their ability or potential, I strive to help them see that they are yogis. Not rebel yogis, or outsiders looking in. Yogis, just like me. Because guess what? Everyone is capable of compassion, loving kindness, connecting with your breath and your True Self even when poses get challenging. So what if the pose that challenges you is tadasana (mountain pose) or balasana (child’s pose)?
The practice of yoga (and I can’t stress this enough: practice, NOT perfect!) is a continual coming back to the present, and being where you are now. I have “good” days where I can go further into a pose, and “bad” days where folding forward is tough, and I love them all. Because “good” or “bad” day be damned, I’m still me.
As I finish up my teacher training in the next three months, I think about what kind of teacher I want to be. What style speaks to me? What kind of music will I play? How can I include poetry, song, maybe even dance into my classes? But the most important thing to me is inclusiveness. I want to change how we look at yoga. It is not only for the young, the physically fit and the spiritual, it is for everyone. So I invite you — yes you — to join me in breath, movement, and flow through this journey we call life. Namaste 🙂