|An awesome privilege and special moment in time |
of sharing a yoga practice with my mom. She has faced
and overcome quite the number of physical struggles in her life.
False Yoga Myth #1 – A person must have just the right body shape or flexibility in order to practice yoga.
When I mention to people that I practice and now also teach yoga, I usually receive almost the same response that can be summarized in these words:
“Wow! Yoga is hard.”
“I could never do yoga.”
“I’m not flexible enough.”
“My body doesn’t bend like that.”
By no choice or doing of my own, I happen to be a person of small frame with low body weight and hyper-mobility. However, that is not why I decided to try yoga in the first place or why I continue to practice it today. I sought out yoga because of the struggle with my overall health and my utmost desire to find wholistic well-being: emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Yoga is not about a particular body size, shape, ability, strength, or flexibility. Any living and breathing, aware human being can practice yoga. Yoga is a practice available to and doable at some level by any person with any body type. There are no right or wrong, best or worst poses. Our considerations are better focused on practicing and working with safe poses at a level that is just right for each individual.
“At its very core, yoga asks you to connect (or for most of us, reconnect) with your body. It invites you to get to know yourself a little better, to develop awareness from the inside out, rather than view the self from the outside in. So it’s really quite sad that yoga has become yet another space in our society that has been taken over by a set of ideals of how our bodies should look.” –Lily Silverton in her article TheMyth of a “Yoga Body”
The word yoga literally means “to unite”. Yoga draws us to reconnect with ourselves and to develop a deeper self-awareness that spills over into a more profound awareness of others and the world around us. Yoga transcends far beyond a physical body experience.
A few months ago when I substituted in a special education class at the local public school, I assisted a non-verbal and physically handicapped middle school aged girl while she participated in a yoga class. I encouraged, supported, and assisted her in following along with the poses as she was able to do them, at her own pace and her physical ability. It was a special and memorable moment for me as I sat on the mat with this young girl and shared an hour of yoga with her. With joy, I observed the large group of students in that space with all types of body shapes, sizes, and physical abilities and struggles share the beauty of yoga together. There was peace in our midst and for those few minutes of the day, the students had an opportunity to explore their breath, bodies, minds, and souls and take a break from the stresses and cares of their teenage lives. The only anxiousness I perceived was when a student became caught up in the yoga body myth that led them to believe he/she was "not doing it right" or that they couldn't do it at all.
This week, I happened to come across Lily Silverton’s article The Myth of a “YogaBody”, and it reminded me how yoga is so easily misinterpreted today, especially by Western thought and false beliefs. I hope to have many opportunities to dispel other yoga myths in the months and years ahead while also sharing the incredible benefits and personal growth that yoga offers to every body.
As a yoga student for the rest of my life and as a teacher, I’m here to say with utmost sincerity that yoga is not about having a particular body style, shape, size, or ability. It is not about doing backbends or handstands or tying your body up into a knot. When I step onto my mat, my goal is not on the amount of or difficulty of poses I can or cannot do. My goals are to leave the noise and hecticness of the world outside my mat, to be present and fully alive in the moment, connect with myself in every aspect, listen, learn, grow, and heal in multiple facets.
True Yoga Fact #1 - Yoga is about uniting.
Yoga grows and deepens an awareness and connection with our own selves first and subsequently with others and the world. Any body that has breath can develop a yoga practice.
"I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship.
I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings.
My wisdom flows from the Highest Source.
I salute that Source in you.
Let us work together for unity and love."