Yoga Is for Everybody!
A few days ago I felt an urge to express something about yoga that was very important to me. I tried everything – writing things down, making a video… It just didn’t seem to flow. Until I came across an article which exactly reflected my thoughts and feelings on the subject.
In this article, a big problem in the yoga world is being raised – that “the Western yoga world has a reputation of uniformity”, which means that quiet often when coming into a yoga class you will not find a big diversity… Indeed, when you open a yoga magazine you are likely to see a white slim lady doing a perfect yoga posture which can quiet often make people of a different colour, sex, complexion, body shape, physical ability, age, or size feel like they do not belong to the yoga world… However, the article goes on to prove that these thoughts should not scare anyone from doing yoga. For yoga is truly for EVERYONE!
When I started teaching yoga I was surprised how many people were intimidated with their physical ability, thinking that yoga was not suitable for them as they were not flexible or fit enough… So sad to hear it, especially knowing that yoga can help gain both strength and flexibility, if only given a chance…
Yoga is such a vast field, you can do yoga even sitting on your sofa at home – there are so many practices to discover! Meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises aimed at extending life force), as well as mudras and bandhas (gestures and locks aimed at redirecting energy) quiet often do not even require you to move from your sit (providing that your back is straight). Indeed, some schools teach that you can even do asanas without moving – just do them mentally in your head! Some believe that such practice can actually help you strengthen the muscles that you are mentally working on.
And yoga can offer you so much more – if only you can give it a chance!
In hope to start removing harmful yoga stereotypes, I would like to share my favourite pieces of the article where people are sharing their experiences with yoga and how much it has given them.
“It isn’t just about making your body more flexible and healthy (although that occurs), it’s about making your life more flexible and healthy”, – Star S., 68, Portland, Oregon
“Too many yoga studios, practitioners, festival promoters, etc., tend to strictly market to a limited demographic that does not show all of the flavors and colors of the rainbow that represent the yoga community at large. Regardless of the size and shape of one’s body or ethnicity, yoga is for everybody and I’d like to see this be reflected in all advertising and marketing pertaining to yoga. When I appeared on the November 2014 cover of Yoga Journal magazine, I got hundreds of people telling me things like, “Yes, finally a normal-sized woman on the cover.” Others said they felt included to see someone with their same skin color and hair texture. Westerners often lose sight of the sacred and scientific origins of yoga by watering it down to fit into a package that’s convenient for our “I want it all and I want it now” mentality.
I always say this and I’ll say it again: Yoga is for everybody!” – Bibi M., 50, Denver, Colorado
“After a head injury in 2005 together with rhuematoid arthritis, a bone in my neck touched my spinal cord and required a long, complex, and traumatic operation. I had to learn how to talk, walk, and eat all over again. Yoga has helped me heal by loving myself as I am in spite of my limitations. It has helped me spiritually by tuning into my heart and the beauty of nature for healing. I learned from yoga how to focus on what I can do and not compare myself with others. Yoga asana has also helped me heal physically by improving my strength, coordination, and flexibility. I feel like I have woken up since doing yoga and meditation.” – Therese J., 52, Portland, Oregon
“My yoga asana practice is a much needed ritualization of my moment-by-moment awareness, a time to formulate questions and make observations that would otherwise remain amorphous: “What am I cultivating? What dissolving? What resisting?” This is a lifelong aspiration, to see clearly, but it’s not easily measured, and that is incongruent with American culture, which glorifies the silver-bullet health solution as much in yoga as in other wellness-related realms. I call it the “Quinoa Effect”—just add quinoa and it’s healthy! Yoga asanas are long, drawn-out affairs. Like relationships, we commit to them, and the very act of abiding transforms us. It’s not Triangle Pose that does that. It’s the return to Triangle as a conduit for our attention. This is the most natural of all pursuits—to know ourselves, to never leave ourselves, to call our body home.” – Jess L., 44, Washington, D.C.
“I came to yoga in high school in a body I wished to abandon. Since surgery at age 11, and ongoing rare medical conditions, my body felt like it had failed. When joining in with Lilias! Yoga and You on TV after school, I felt like all my nerves and muscles were smoothed down, like the feathers of a bird, and I could deeply relax. I found wholeness. Now as a teacher at Unfold Studio, I practice to feel the joy, vitality, and beauty in my body. I practice to feel truly alive. The media have increasing portrayed “yoga” as people with fashion model bodies and the flexibility of ballet dancers. In reality, much of the qualities of what makes someone a yogi are deeply internal.” – Karen G., 59, Portland, Oregon
“my practice is really about teaching myself to be less proud of my successes than I want to be and more forgiving of my failures than I tend to be”, – Gary B., 53, New York, New York
“Yoga connects me to who I am rather than what I look like. Having struggled for many years with my body image the yoga practice introduced me to the path of healing and self-love that helps me each day to recover.” – Julia K., 23, Queens, New York
“When I was 60 I was severely overweight and had trouble putting on my socks because my feet felt like they were in the distant land of Timbuktu. I felt empty on the inside and I knew that I wasn’t living into the fullness of who I am as a human being. I had to do something and that started my journey with mind-body practices.
When I compare myself to what others in the class are or are not doing then I create a barrier and distance myself from the fundamental unity of the universe. When I connect with the flow of life there are no distinctions and nothing to include or exclude—there is simply the yoga that everyone is welcomed into. What I love about yoga is the acceptance of everyone for who they are and where they are. It is such a life-affirming and life-empowering practice that anyone can be part of.” – John A., 66, Portland, Oregon
“Yoga itself is all-inclusive. Anyone who can breathe can practice this art of opening to union. The asanas can be adapted to help any person of any age, body type, or skill level by a qualified and sensitive teacher who is deeply listening to his or her students’ true needs. The way yoga is taught and represented in mainstream American culture is usually exclusive of anyone who is not of European descent, heteronormative, and with the body type of a fashion model and prowess of an athlete. It saddens me how rarely I see yoginis like me, a curvy woman of color, depicted in yoga-related media. Part of my mission as a yoga teacher and artist is to spread the understanding that yoga, if properly modified and appropriately taught, is for everyone who wants to explore personal transformation. In the future I hope to see a greater emphasis on individualized yoga instruction, and inclusive yoga classes and studios creating a welcoming space for all populations.” – Niema L., 35, Portland, Oregon
“In trying to sell us the latest thing that will supposedly make our lives better, the media wants us to imagine a yoga body as lithe, young, and “sexy.” To me, every body is a yoga body; all ages, shapes, and sizes can benefit from the practice of becoming more mindful.” – Estee F., 37, San Francisco, California
You can read many more inspirational stories in this article where they come from.
We run therapeutic yoga classes across Surrey, England these classes are accessible to everyone. The details can be found here https://www.meetup.com/The-Alchemy-of-Sound-South-West-London-and-Surrey/
You can also contact us by calling on 01932 880712 (UK number), or by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org – we would love to have a chat with you and answer any of your questions.
How has yoga changed your life? Did you find that it helped you with your self image and self-confidence? We would love to hear YOUR inspirational story!