I couldn't count the number of times I’ve heard the words from friends, strangers or dinner party acquaintances, “Oh I couldn’t possibly do yoga, I’m not flexible enough”.
At this point I generally take a deep breath and decide whether to a) change the subject, or b) invest the next several minutes or hours extolling the virtues of a centuries old practice that will not only improve your flexibility but will go way beyond the physical benefits that attract most people to a yoga class in the first instance.
Like many aspects of our modern lives some yoga classes do focus on a strong and somewhat competitive style of practice that is sadly over represented in the media. Glamorous images of super fit young things wearing scantily little clothing performing pretzel poses on the beach are more than enough to scare the average punter away.
I’m grateful to these schools of yoga for offering an introduction to the practice for people who are seeking a physical challenge, but for most students the real yoga education starts at the opposite end of the spectrum, with learning to be still, to breathe and to find contentment with things just as they are.
I’m always delighted, but never surprised, when a student tells me how yoga has changed his or her life. So if you’re considering taking up yoga this year, be prepared to experience some major shifts on several dimensions:
In our relentlessly busy and hyper-connected Western lives we have a tendency to reside most of the time in our heads, fixated on our thoughts, and we can easily become disconnected from our physical bodies. We rarely listen to them until it is too late and we suffer injury or illness. In a well-lead yoga class you will learn to re-connect with your physical body, you will learn to love it and care for it whatever your size, shape or level of fitness, and over time you will improve strength, stamina and flexibility.
When we move our bodies mindfully and bring awareness to our breath we stimulate the energetic body. Different Eastern traditions have different names for the energy systems of the body but the concept is the same. The yoga practices of asana (poses) and pranayama (breath awareness) promote the flow and absorption of vital energy known as ‘chi’ or ‘prana’ through energetic channels in the body that support the functional/physical body and leave you feeling feeling relaxed and energised.
Our emotions are intrinsically interwoven with energy. When we stimulate the flow of energy we often release long held emotional blockages. Through movement we also produce endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body, and when we are required to focus on holding or balancing in yoga poses we are activating the logical part of our brain that helps to control our emotions and think more positively.
Many people turn to yoga for relief from stress, depression or anxiety. Using pranayama (breath awareness) and meditation techniques we activate the body’s relaxation response known as the parasympathetic nervous system which reverses all of the effects of stress and anxiety. With experience and a good teacher, yoga or meditation is also a way to get to know your mind, to learn to disassociate from your thoughts and to make more skillful decisions and choices.
Last but not least through the practice of yoga we re-connect not only with our Selves, but begin to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all beings. As we raise our consciousness, we feel more connected, and as we feel more connected, we feel more compassion towards others. Expect to see improvements in your personal and professional relationships as your practice grows.
Still think you’re not flexible enough to do yoga? Give us a call on 07 3180 1686 or talk to any of our teachers to discuss your goals and find a style and teacher that meets your personal needs. We look forward to welcoming you to SoHo Yoga!
Love & light,