Updated: Jul 28
In our last post we addressed a few misconceptions about yoga, established what yoga isn’t and explored ways to get more out of our practice. Now, let’s look at what yoga is…
Yoga is…an accessible practice
People come to yoga for different reasons, but almost everyone wants to feel better in some way. The good news is that yoga has the potential to make everybody feel better.
Yoga is for everyone, regardless of age, flexibility, mobility or fitness. There are many different styles of yoga to choose from, depending on what you’re hoping to gain from your practice. Just give it a go, try out different classes, talk to your yoga teachers and discover what works for you.
Our top tip: what you think you need doesn’t always align with what your mind and body are really asking for. If you’re resistant to the idea of a slow-paced yin class, for example, why not try it and see how it feels? Or if you’re not sure you’ll manage a faster-paced session or a longer class, know that you’re free to rest as you need to and there will be a range of options for many of the poses.
Yoga is…an integrative practice, linking mind, body and breath
‘Yoga’, a Sanskrit word, is often translated as ‘to unite’. Yoga is a practice that brings as many mental as physical benefits, helping us find space and stillness in body and mind. We can’t do this without involving the breath, which is often linked to movement in yoga classes. If you’re struggling to breathe well during class, this could be a sign you’re pushing your body too far. Maintaining focus on the breath while practising yoga keeps you grounded in the experience, while also helping reduce the risk of injury.
Alongside helping us find unity within, yoga can improve our interactions and connection to others. Ancient text The Yoga Sutras outlines ethical guidelines (Yamas and Niyamas) for living with compassion and equanimity. These offer infinite ways to practise yoga, even on the days when the yoga mat isn’t accessible.
Yoga is…a practice of self-enquiry
Although we inhabit our bodies 24 hours a day, we rarely pay them much attention unless there’s an obvious problem. A yoga session is an invitation to slow down, observe how our body really feels and where we’re holding tension. We can notice when we’re pushing our body where it doesn’t want to go, or when our yoga practice takes us out of our comfort zone. This helps us understand ourselves better and might even identify unhelpful thought patterns.
For some, yoga forms part of their spiritual development, but others come to the mat for different reasons. Some yoga styles and teachers lean into the spiritual elements more so, as with the poses, you can choose to practice in a way that feels right to you.
Let us know if this post was helpful, and if there are any elements of yoga you’d like to know more about?