Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to be good at yoga to do yoga!
The only pre-requisite for a budding yogi is an attitude of curiosity and a yearning to eliminate mental and physical suffering, so for anyone out there perhaps considering starting or re-starting yoga this article is for you!
Yoga is essentially a therapeutic practice of movement, awareness and breath, bringing about a peaceful state in body and mind and therefore should be accessible to all.
Today’s busy lifestyles mean we are more in need of yoga’s ancient gifts than ever before, but it can be a great challenge for us to let go of our habitual attitudes that usually drive us.
In yoga we strive for mindful practice, playing the edge of effort and ease, working hard enough to stay present with our practice, but not so hard that our mind can’t wait to get out of the pose and our body therefore becomes more rigid. We also don’t want to take it too easy so that the mind wanders and the body becomes sloppy and lazy.
Each movement and posture is performed with the steady breath acting as the guide.
However, maybe we are someone who has a tendency to ‘push through’ obstacles, or maybe our tendency is to give up when things seem beyond our reach, having no faith in our own potential, or maybe we try to keep up with what we perceive we ‘should’ be able to do instead of listening to our own bodies (remember the first yama, Ahimsa - do no harm?), refusing to accept where our true limitations are right now.
If we continue to practice this way then we are practising without awareness and are likely to give up Yoga as ‘too hard’ or ‘not for me’ as we don’t reap any of the benefits, only a growing frustration, diminishing sense of self worth or perhaps an injury.
What is perhaps often poorly understood is that the physical side of yoga is just one of 8 limbs of hatha yoga, the others being: breath/energy control, meditation, concentration, withdrawal of the senses and relaxation as well as lifestyle observances and abstentions.
All of these elements can be practiced separately or together – for example in physical Asana or Yoga postures we involve awareness of all 8 limbs.
This equally means that if you are unable to do a particular pose, then spending that time in visualising the practice in a peaceful, focused way, with awareness of breath and without judgement of your ability, is far more Yogic and beneficial than pushing through regardless of the warning messages your body may be trying to tell you.
Yoga was traditionally a one on one affair, with group classes being a more modern/western approach, so in a class environment it is valuable to make use of props such as blocks, straps, chai
rs, cushions, etc, in order to modify poses to suit each individual. A good teacher will also offer different options for poses for those with more or less flexibility or experience.
Patience, persistence and mindfulness on behalf of both student and teacher in a class environment is therefore needed to implement these adaptations and a few one on one sessions go a long way to help tailor specific poses, raise body awareness and bring confidence and flow to one’s practice.....So now that there's no reason not to, why not get on that mat??