Welcome to the first part of our new series focusing on health, wellbeing and yoga with Stacey Baxter of Muladhara Yoga.
I hear quite frequently, “is yoga for anyone?”… My answer, “hell yeah!”
The misconception of yoga is that you must be uber flexible, and you must look a certain way or have a certain body type – that is not the case, whatsoever.
Let me put your mind at ease.
I’m a Yoga teacher and have practiced for ten years, albeit more heavily over the last three. I can have tight hamstrings, sometimes I can’t hold my balance, can I hold my leg above my head? Nope; well I can give it a good go but it is by no means effortless.
It doesn’t mean I am ‘bad’ at yoga, not at all, it doesn’t mean I’m any less of a teacher than those who are super flexible, that’s just my body type and the balancing, well I’m human, just like you.
Yoga isn’t just a physical practice, for some, it is more about the stress release
We all have our good days and our bad days, sometimes I hold balancing poses really strongly, sometimes I wobble – I’ve done it in front of students before, best thing to do, is just laugh it off! It’s no different to mentally having a strong day and then some days having a wobble, we all have them.
In terms of not being majorly flexible, as I say, that’s just my body type. Some are born with very open hip flexors and it comes naturally, some have tighter muscles and the muscle memory needs to be built up to become more flexible.
So trust me on this one, no matter your body type, your sex, your age, yoga is for everyone and any body.
Yoga isn’t just a physical practice either, for some, it is more about the stress release. In my experience, this is the best part and why I was attracted to yoga in the first instance. That feeling of completely switching off from the mind chatter, the stress of work, the worry about the future or the million other thoughts running through your head, in that moment, your focus is shifted to your next move and your breath. In that moment, the teachers words guide you giving you the opportunity to switch off from the fast pace of life and just, simply, move. It doesn’t matter how flexible you are, your fitness level, if you’re beginner or advanced, it’s about how yoga makes you feel both in your mind and in your body.
Some days you may go into a class and just lay down (that’s called ‘Savasana’ – ‘sha vas ana’) and just use that time to zone out, other times you may take the opportunity to deepen. Either way, it’s about you and how it makes you feel. The teacher is merely a guide, and the other students (your neighbours) are not a comparison, as they will be having their own experience, remember they 1) have a different body and 2) have a different mind.
If the person next to you is deepening in their pose, or if the class leads into a pose that doesn’t feel good, then don’t feel pressured to join in. Now that’s not saying do the complete opposite to the teacher, it’s about stopping when you need to, taking breaks when you need to, softening and listening to your own body. If something doesn’t feel good, that’s normally a sign to stop, forcing yourself when you’re not feeling it will not only dampen your experience, bud there’s also a chance you’ll cause yourself an injury.
Now, take a moment and apply that rule to your life. Speaks volumes right?
“If something doesn’t feel good, don’t force it”.
In my experience, I find there is always a wider message that comes through when practicing yoga, that light bulb moment. My teacher calls it an ‘a-ha’ moment.
On that note, I shall leave you to ponder, and if you’re reading this and haven’t yet tried yoga I hope I have encouraged you enough to give it a go.
Join me in the next article, when I will delve deeper into the wider mindfulness benefits of yoga.
Until then, namaste.
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This article is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.