Despite being a pretty chilled out yoga teacher, some of my friends might describe me as a little grumpy on occasion. I like to think it’s just because I care! This rant is because I care that many people are put off trying yoga because of the many images published every day in mainstream and social media, of ‘beautiful’, scantily clad, super fit acrobats performing contortionist type postures. The images try to convince us that a) this is a useful yoga pose, b) we too can achieve this extreme level of physical perfection with just a little effort.
I accept that I would like to have such a supple, strong body and this might have some minor, deep rooted part to play in this rant! But nobody I know has such a supple, strong body and what really irritates me is that these images don’t inspire, they actually inhibit many people to explore yoga and what it can offer.
It’s true that some yoga exercises can be strenuous and challenging but yoga can be done by you, me and everyone, regardless of age, fitness or flexibility. It is not a competitive sport, nobody is better at yoga than anyone else. Yoga is only about you.
When you look at photos in the media you can forgiven for thinking it is only for the young and super fit and this obsession with the body is really unhelpful when you look at the increasing stress and declining mental health in our society.
Yoga is about mental agility, resilience and wellbeing, not whether you can touch your toes. The benefits of yoga are different for everyone, we all have a different experience, some will say they now sleep better, others will say they have more energy or have a stronger level of concentration. But the facts are clear: in numerous scientific studies, research over decades shows that yoga reduces blood pressure, stress and anxiety, improves lung capacity, digestion and mood, increases memory, learning, creativity and decision making.
Being able to get your foot behind your ear doesn’t come into it. Properly taught, yoga is a meditative practice that helps you tap into your inner strength which is sometimes having a bit of a snooze, it just needs waking up with the right blend of energising movement, breath and mind exercises. It will challenge and push you, but the results are worth it.
Whether or not you have done yoga before, if you think this is nonsense, come to one of my classes – be my guest – and I am certain you will change your mind.