“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” -B.K.S. Iyengar
Many of us who decide to try yoga are at first primarily concerned with how flexible our bodies will be compared to our classmates. We may worry that we’ll look silly and out of shape, and perhaps even stress out when we see ourselves in the mirror because we imagined we would have better ‘form.’ Or, we may feel flustered because we do not understand the Sanskrit terms the teacher is using and believe everyone else in class does! (They don’t!)
My first piece of advice would be to remember that you have to start somewhere. And, as cliché as it may sound, the wonderful thing about yoga is that it is for EVERYONE. It really is. Young or old, fit or disabled, large or small, yoga students who make a commitment to come back to yoga class every week begin to understand that the physical asanas of yoga are only one component of the practice as a whole.
As I mentioned in my last article about the Yamas and Niyamas, the original purpose of yoga was to achieve oneness with ourselves, and be in harmony and unity with the whole of creation. However, this does not mean that the physical asanas of yoga practice are not helpful exercises on their own. Many who begin yoga practice have little to no interest in where yoga came from or what the ancient principles may be. Even if that never changes for you personally, yoga will still be beneficial to your health.
But, as your yoga journey deepens, curiosity and questions of a different nature may begin to form – you might leave yoga class with sharper vision (literally!), feelings of peace, gratitude or even joy or sadness – and you want to know, ‘Why? What’s this all about?’
This is where your ‘real’ yoga journey may begin. A subtle awakening occurs and suddenly there’s a new awareness of body, awareness of emotions, awareness of mind, and an awareness of awareness itself. There becomes a hunger to understand why we are the way we are and how we can not only live life to the fullest, but also connect with others on a deeper, more authentic level. You may find that this hunger for understanding begins to permeate your decisions, what/who you question, and even how you function in your relationships.
Slowly and surely, with yoga and meditation, each and every one of us can achieve inner peace, contentment and spiritual understanding. We can also achieve a healthy, peaceful body that can more easily and fully relax and doesn’t fidget. Next week I’ll talk more about the meditation component and how that ties in with the physical exercises of yoga. Until then, keep practicing!