I have been teaching yoga now for over 15 years, and have been a yoga practitioner for close to 20 years, so when someone asks me what is yoga, I am usually inclined to give them the real technical terms, as a teacher.
So, what IS yoga, really? I can only speak from my own experiences, but hopefully one of my points resonates with you. Firstly I think everyone should do yoga. EVERYONE. Every body can benefit from yoga to some degree, whether its physical, mental or spiritual.
When I found yoga, it was by pure force. I have scoliosis and was strongly encouraged to do yoga as a form of rehab after wearing a back brace. As a kid, even as an adult, I have always been high energy, type A personality, and to me, yoga was the exact opposite of this. I took my first class and hated it. It was slow, painful and I didn't understand why ANYONE would want to contort themselves into these positions.. For what? To look cool?
But, because I like a challenge, I stuck with it and started to see huge improvements in not only my posture but in my ability to stay calm. (I had a massive temper.)
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was sitting on the floor, in a cross-cross position. I couldn't stay there for more than 20 seconds before my back felt like it was on fire. The funny thing is all the teachers I took kept saying I should meditate in this position. First of all, MEDITATE? You have got to be kidding me. I can't sit still for 20 seconds, let alone meditate. But again, saw it as a challenge.
This went on for months, dragging myself to class, trying to resist the urge to run away, thinking through the meditation part of the class, but feeling better after it was all over. After a while something started to click. I noticed I could sit for longer periods of time, I wasn't so angry all the time, and I started to look forward to my yoga class.
Yoga for me, was all about my physical body, trying to gain strength and flexibility in my spine, lose some weight and I really want to stand on my head (because it looked cool). Yoga is not just stretching. It's a combination of building total body strength while simulaneously learning how to breathe, how to really deeply breathe. These two things together create a body/mind connection, where you start to pay attention to how you feel, how deeply you are breathing and how your breathing, or lack thereof, controls other things in your life like stress, anxiety, and anger.
And it's good for everyone! No matter how young or old you are, thin or heavy, tall or short. Everyone can do it. And everyone can benefit from it. Weight loss, reduction in cholesterol, reduction in blood pressure, flexibility, strength, increased brain function, increased sleep and stress reduction are just a few of the side effects yoga has.
If you haven't tried Yoga, now is the perfect time to do so! Come on down to The Karma Vault!