Yoga Isn’t For Everyone, But Should It Be
Before the inner rage in you either screams, “Yoga IS for everyone- why would you even say that?!” or “No, yoga is definitely NOT for everyone!”… hear me out. Like it or not, most of the world views yoga for what the physical practice is- they image you walk into a studio or a class, you step on to a mat, get a workout in depending on the intensity of the flow, maybe their mind is cleared a *little* bit from the insightful words of the teacher, and then they leave the studio or class to carry on with their lives- likely forgetting those moments of clarity on the mat- as they rush back into the hustle and bustle of their own version of societal normality.
I say this because I lived this- for years.
I practiced yoga sporadically- some weeks I’d go a few times… then I’d miss a few weeks (months) altogether. I viewed it as a way to stretch, which I was told I needed to do more of from swim coaches, doctors, and physical therapists. To the general public there is this misguided notion that yoga is all about touching your toes, quieting your mind, and feeling eternal bliss or enlightenment- and if you DON’T accomplish these things- yoga probably isn’t for you.
So Why Should I When I Don’t Want To?
So. Let me say it loudly, for everyone to hear:
If you can’t touch your toes, if you can’t seem to calm your anxious mind, if you don’t feel better or more enlightened after an hour on your mat, if you curse too much while driving, or rely a *little* too much on that bottle of wine… you are quite honestly the perfect candidate for yoga. If you have told yourself, “No really- yoga just isn’t my thing”- and this is after giving it the old college try- I believe you when you say it isn’t for you- but that doesn’t take away what it could give you, if you allowed yourself to be more open to it.
I am not saying you should practice until you are able to reach the checkpoints listed above and then viola! You will enjoy yoga! It doesn’t quite work like that- “Oh look I can touch my toes! Yoga is awesome!” or “Finally I feel like I can breathe more deeply- I AM zen.” No, no, no. I say this because it is for the reasons described above that you might go to yoga; to see if you can better one of a few things about yourself or your life, to see if you can in fact experience what you have heard numerous times from the “yogis” in your life- but that challenge and journey of actually reaching physical or mental milestones is going to be a CONSTANT battle in yoga.
It won’t just click one day- and I think this is a common misconception. “Haha! I can do a handstand and I can meditate for 30 minutes! I am now an accomplished yogi!” If this is the way we viewed other aspects of our lives, we would have a lot of pompous and passionless people roaming about (and I don’t know- maybe we DO live in a culture that is like that… perpetuating an unhealthy cycle… but I digress).
Momentary & Sobering Bliss
You probably have something in your life that is already acting as yoga to you. The benefits I receive from yoga might be similar to the benefits you get from painting, gardening, making music, running- whatever it is that creates momentary and sobering bliss. It is my hope that you open your eyes to see that whatever it is that brings you a second of peace, clarity, or bliss- THAT is your yoga.
It is when we tell ourselves we can’t do something because of X, or once I reach X- I am done… that we fall victim to such an unhealthy state of mind. To say “Yoga isn’t for me because of X” is like saying “Ice cream isn’t for me because I really don’t like rainbow sherbet!” Oh, darlin. There is nearly an endless supply of different ice cream flavors and you are LIMITING yourself because you don’t like ONE of them?! (and let’s be honest- rainbow sherbet? It’s NOT good).
Yoga could mean going to a vinyasa class and getting a smoothie after. Yoga could be waking up extra early to see a sunrise. Yoga could be NOT flipping the person off who cut in front of you on the freeway.
Yoga is an individualistic practice- not a corporation of physical postures.
The Fine Print
Society has a tunnel vision of what yoga is and what it isn’t, therefore, it can drive people away from it. It is when you have moments (or days/weeks/months/years) where you step on your mat thinking, “My life is too hectic right now to stretch and breath” that you SHOULD step on your mat… preferably for twice as long. We all know yoga is “good” for us, but it’s in the fine print that I think we should exploit this idea the most.
In the fine print of the umbrella term “Yoga”- it should read:
Side effects include: Deeper understanding, deeper connection to self and others, vulnerable self reflection, moments of deep pain, moments of incredible joy, feelings of courage and strength, a time for clarity and a time for confusion (which usually leads us to clarify), a more open mind, more patience, and yes more flexibility. Flexibility of the body and flexibility of the mind.
This can all be yours- it just takes one little word and a few steps forward: Try.
Day in and day out, I try. I am essentially 6 years in to “trying” out this yoga thing- and just with any path of success- it is not linear. It is a fanatical and crazed journey, but so is life. There are days I tell myself, “This just isn’t happening” and guess what? It is through yoga that I have learned that these are the days I am allowed rest, just as there are days where I might feel compelled to push myself to my physical and mental limits. What I have gained from both extremes, and every state in between- is that yoga doesn’t just happen on the mat. It is in fact a lifestyle, a way of being. This is where the true transformation starts to occur- when we take what we receive on the mat outward into our daily lives. The choice is always ours. It is not some predestined fate of whether yoga is for us or not- it is a choice of trying and failing and trying again.
I hope you keep trying.