Flexibility and Meditation—Don’t be Mislead
“Oh, you’re a yoga instructor? Can you do all those contortionist moves like I’ve seen at Cirque Du Soleil?”
This is just one of the many questions I get asked when I tell people that I am a Yoga instructor. Beyond the questions, I also get the many shared perceptions of what people think yoga is all about, like, “I can’t do yoga, it’s all about stretching and I am not flexible” or “Yeah, it’s a religion where you meditate a lot.” I often tell people, “this is a 5,000 year old practice; don’t you think there would have to be something behind all of those funky poses and meditation to sustain that length of time?”
Of course yoga has evolved throughout the centuries and reinvented itself 5,000 times more than Madonna. But just like the original Material Girl turned Yogi, these are all aesthetic changes like trendy yoga-wear, jewelry, and music. Yoga has made more of an impact than ever before in the past 30 years, and it’s made it more and more accessible for everyone to experience the benefits. However, there still seems to be some confusion - so let’s take a look at a couple common misconceptions.
Yoga Myth 1. You Have To Be Flexible To Do It
Yoga has a lot to do with flexibility, yes, but that doesn’t mean that if you’re not flexible you can’t do yoga or that if you are flexible you can. I have seen plenty of students who come to class for the first time and the hesitation is written all over their face, but by the end of class, they adorn a huge smile and promise to return. I have also seen plenty of students who show up thinking they’re going to show off with their uber flexible limbs, and end up hurting themselves.
My question to those who feel too inflexible to try yoga; how will you ever attain the strength and flexibility derived from the physical aspects of yoga if you don’t begin somewhere? Every class is tailored to the level of the students—if you’re new to yoga it would benefit you to stick with level one and if you have any health issues look for an adaptive class. My advice to those with more flexibility—you are in the wrong place if you feel competitive in class. Yoga is an individual practice, not a sport. Take advantage of the natural flexibility of your body and be aware of your body’s movements and focus on the alignment of all your moving parts.
Yoga Myth 2. Yoga Is a Religious Meditation
Some gravitate toward Yoga thinking it’s going to be their new-found religion, while others steer completely away from it because of its perceived religious affiliation. It is true that Yoga is linked to Hinduism and Buddhism, and that’s because Yoga is an integral part of those religions. Yoga in and of itself, however, is not a religion. Meditation through Yoga should be looked at as a time to quiet the mind and connect with your breath; it is a personal preference how you meditate and whether you choose to do so in your home, outside in nature, in a church or in your yoga studio. To some, meditation can seem like a daunting task while others find serenity with ease through their meditation practice. This all takes time, time to feel comfortable with the silence of your body and mind before or after such a fast paced day.
There are some who are only attracted to or completely turned off by the physical aspect of yoga and may not truly understand what the meaning is behind the asanas. There are others who are drawn to or totally avoid the idea of its spiritual connection, confusing it with a religious one. Plainly stated however, Yoga is a combination of the physical asanas and mind/spirit meditation and it would not be doing your practice of Yoga justice to limit yourself to one or the other. Yoga promotes the mind, body, spirit union and through its practices of asanas and meditation, helps those who are dedicated to the practice find clarity, peace, and compassion.
Yoga’s List of Benefits
Article Written By: Megan Helgeson is a freelance writer on health and wellness, a yoga instructor, and a personal lifestyle trainer--helping you get the most out of life with home organization, time management, nutrition, positive intention, and goal setting. Contact Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org**Don’t forget to ask about Diva Yoga Parties in Orange County.