This is a topic that I've wanted to post about for quite some time! In fact, if you've taken a class with me, I touch on this topic a lot. Any seasoned yogi will tell you that the "real" yoga happens off the mat and what they mean is that the "art" or "practice" of yoga has very little to do with attaining a Pinterest-worthy handstand. Before I even began my teacher training, I was 4 years deep into my practice and still thought that I needed to know EVERY pose, because how else would I teach? I also believed I wasn't allowed to eat meat. (I actually did give up meat, but because I wanted to) And last but not least, I believed that I wasn't allowed to go to the gym/do any other workout other than yoga to be a "real" yogi. I had to have to have this lean, chiseled body ALL from a result of my daily yoga practice (LOL) I write these things and I can't help but laugh at myself- they're all completely ridiculous! But silliness aside, I believe a lot of people who are new to yoga or have yet to try it will find themselves with these or other similar beliefs. So I'm here to crush these false notions and list a few things that I've learned in the past year as a yoga teacher.
BREATH or "PRANA"
If you've ever taken any yoga class, there is a lot of emphasis on your breath. In the beginning, I found this concept annoying and almost overwhelming as I tried to master the poses. I had it all backwards, though. Yes, getting into safe and effective poses are important but yoga is a connection to your body and breath, as it is the anchor to NOW. So essentially yoga is a practice of mindfulness, which our entire life benefits from. For more on mindfulness, read my first blog post HERE.
JUST FLOW / BE FLEXIBLE
So beyond the obvious physical flexibility you can gain from a yoga practice, this extends to your mind. I know this might come off as slightly cheesy but one of the greatest thing I've gained from my personal practice is that things are never perfect and that's actually fucking wonderful. Sometimes I plan to come and do the very minimum, but find myself leaving with more energy than I came in with. We can plan and plan all we'd like, but sometimes the universe presents us with other options. If we are rigid and force our bodies, thoughts, or plans to be a certain way, we stand to limit ourselves from some pretty amazing experiences.
There's nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself and working toward goals, but sometimes I think we forget to appreciate how far we have come. For example, in a vinyasa class, we go through a lot of chaturangas (high to low plank). This is a staple pose and it's not as easy as it looks. It requires a lot of upper body and core strength. To me, it's a major accomplishment to successfully land this! However, I see my students get frustrated in other poses, dimming their already existent progress! But truly, it's a privilege in itself to be on the mat; to be healthy enough to experience the transformation that comes with this physical practice. It doesn't matter what you look like, all that matter is that you show up and honor your SELF.
This one's big for me. You, in no way, have to be a certain religion or even praise Buddha to practice. The reality of it is that in your practice, you find centeredness. I've touched on it a few times but yoga is a union of mind, body, soul. The connection of all three creates a new level of consciousness, one where your intuition strengthens, and you are better able to connect to whatever or whoever it is that you believe in. This could be Buddha, but it could also be God, Jesus, even aliens (ha). In my experience, it's almost impossible to not feel this connection. And even if the "after life" or higher power concept is not your thing, guess what? THAT'S OK...but as I said, it's really hard to leave your mat without feeling SOMEthing.
I think that's the point of it, that yoga is to make you feel...the good, the bad, the happy, and the sad. It allows us to uncover our deepest layers, so that when we step off the mat into our lives, we are renewed and a little bit more whole. If you have any other questions about yoga or recommendations of classes or studios to try, feel free to email or comment below. I'm so happy to help!