10 Things You Didn’t Know About Yoga

Yoga is so much more than spandex and stretching.

1. You Don’t Have To Be Flexible To Start

Flexible

In fact, we’ve got to drop this idea that yoga is just stretching, or that the goal of the practice is to become a human rubber band. The word “yoga” means “yoked or united”, not “stand on your head and do the splits”. You’ll find strength, flexibility, balance, and healthy vital function are all equally important in this practice, and in the right class, every *body* can get what they need.

2. It Isn’t Just For Hippies

Guitar

… or people from Vancouver. Although all yoga comes from one root tradition, there is a class/teacher/style out there for everyone. While much of it is so re-vamped that it can hardly be called “yoga” anymore, the variety of options out there is staggering – Family, Acro, “Bro”, Aqua, Weed Yoga – you’d be hard pressed to *not* find a class that’s on your level and fits with your philosophy. The purpose is the same: get out of your daily grind and into the present moment.

3. Teachers Matter

Yoga Teacher

A good teacher can change your life. A bad teacher can make you run from the studio and never look back. Since yoga is an ancient practice that for centuries was only passed orally from teacher to student, the delivery of the practice (and the capabilities of teachers) can vary dramatically. Don’t let a bad class or confused teacher marr your opinion of the practice – try another class, another teacher, another studio. You’ll find someone whose experience & training give you exactly what you’re looking for.

4. Methods Matter

Yoga Method

All yoga comes from one root tradition – Hatha. Over the centuries, there have been some profound interpretations (some might say “improvements”, others wouldn’t) of the practice, and some derivations that are so far removed from the actual practice, they might as well be called something else entirely. Find out which “style” speaks to you – this will affect not only your class experience, but the delivery method of the teaching, the results of your practice over time – even the studio environment can be drastically different depending on what style you’re there for.

5.  It’s Not About Working Out

Jump

While yoga is an awesome workout, that’s not the point. The asanas will make your muscles stronger, more flexible, more sculpted, etc. as you learn to move through them, but their true purpose is to affect your internal organs and systems. That ab-sculpting twist? Great for your digestion. Your shoulder-stand? That one massages your thyroid. Oh, and your savasana? That will send you into parasympathetic nervous function – your “rest & repair” mode. When the body is healthy & comfortable, we can achieve the stillness of body & mind required to meditate. Looking great in spandex is just a bonus.

6. It’s The Hardest Workout You’ll Ever Do

Yoga Advanced

I’m talking to the A-type personalities and the dudes who think yoga is for pregnant women and people with back injuries. Yoga is full of precise, disciplined movement that will challenge you far more than you know. The restraint required to practice in slow motion, with proper alignment, while cultivating graceful and meditative action is mind-boggling.

7. It’s The Most Relaxing Thing You’ll Ever Do

Buddha

Learning to surrender, to let go in both action and thought, and learning to let something else be in charge for a moment can be difficult, but it is exactly what we need these days. Even the more active or challenging postures take on a meditative quality as you let your body enjoy the warmth from your efforts. The surrendering postures will teach you to melt like butter in a hot pan and let go of more than just your shoulder tension. Find the right yoga class, and you’ll sleep better than you have in ages.

8. Most People Have No Idea What Yoga Is

Yoga Vegetable

90% of people who go to yoga classes don’t have much information about the practice other than what the latest trends tell them. Let’s set the record straight: you don’t have to be a vegetarian, you don’t have to be predisposed to flexibility, you don’t have to wear crystals, and you don’t have to learn sanskrit. Practicing yoga is not just stretching. It is also not a religion. It isn’t aerobics and it’s certainly not bootcamp. Yoga is yoga. Period.

9. You Need It More Than You Think

Yoga Handstand

Sleep great? Digest food perfectly? Breathe well? Comfy back? Anxiety never bothers you? Always in control of your emotions? Knees feel great? Shoulders & neck never bother you? Constantly feeling compassion for those around you? Always aware of the fuel you put in your body? Skin healthy? Liver function at 100%? Well-balanced perspective on what your life is about? Able to live in the moment and appreciate life as it happens? Congratulations – you’re the one person in the universe who doesn’t need yoga.

10.  Yoga is Natural Medicine

Yoga Cobra

Hatha – the “original” yoga – was designed to make the practitioner strong, healthy, and able to withstand marathon sessions of deep spiritual training, which, in the time of the birth of the practice, was physically and mentally strenuous. Students of Hatha in the old world needed to prepare their body and mind before they could continue in any higher spiritual practice, so the various methods of Hatha were created.
Nowadays, people who practice yoga can reap the benefits of a well-balanced body and calm, peaceful mind by alleviating chronic pain, addressing insomnia, improving digestion, balancing hormonal systems, relieving anxiety, building strong, flexible muscles & joints, and improving circulation.

Images courtesy Pixabay.com and Traveltales.ca

Learn something new? Got some advice for yoga students? Share it in the Comments!

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