Yoga can be a daunting thing…
Most people can’t bend, stretch, twist and balance their bodies the way yoga is popularly portrayed. The logical conclusion of a stiff person or someone suffering chronic physical ailments may be that yoga is not for them. Prospective students who call me or email me to enquire about my classes begins, 9 times out of 10, with the question: “Would I be able to do your classes?” They are concerned that they are not fit, overweight, inflexible, can’t sit still long enough to meditate, are too weak to handle tough practice, or feel they won’t be able to keep up with a class. And these include younger or older, male or female individuals from a wide demographic, including more athletic types.
I shudder at the thought of how many people never bother to make the enquiry whether yoga is for them. The image of yoga as gymnastically difficult may be discouraging tons of perfectly normal people that could have been doing yoga to even try it out. Sadly, the manner in which yoga is portrayed in many yoga books and by yoga studios also adds to the mythical lithe yoga creatures that is just not the norm by any standard. Actually most real people don’t look, function or live like those who inhabit its image. It does not have to be like that. In fact, the un-doable image of yoga misrepresents yoga and is un-yogic.
Yoga can be accessible for everyone interested. The physical practice of a basic, beginner or standard entry level hatha yoga class such as mine is a do-able and effective distillation of simple, practical and effective yoga practiced with mindfulness and thoughts on my personal world view of holism. Always to the fore is a basis of breathing techniques, coupled with good posture and exercises for mobility and strength, relaxation, straight-forward meditation and useful lifestyle considerations.
Yoga is a holistic system, comprehensive, vast in scope. It is the most advanced system of well-being available on the planet because it is a balanced body-mind-spirit practice. None of its aspects should be removed or accentuated. Yoga incorporates physical practices, but the physicality should not dominate. When yoga is without focus on either the spiritual, intellectual or physical aspects integration of these area are natural. By avoiding hard-to-do poses persons with perceived limited physcial ability may be more inclined to try out learning to stretch, move, exercise, balance, grow strong, breathing and relax. Less physically abled persons are simply not inspired enough to do a more approachable level of practice.
My classes are easy
Reason why I aim to keep my classes easy is:
Life is hard enough : ) There is enough suffering already :-)) I like to please rather than alienate :-)))
There are probably enough studios out there catering to strong physical yoga. As its mostly already beautiful, athletic, able bodied persons (viz a viz the model yogi’s in magazines). There are plenty older people, persons with injuries or disabilities, and persons not inclined to or able to do demanding exercise, who are averse to gymnasiums, who may like to do yoga. There are certainly legions who can benefit from an achievable degree of recovery from a busy life, raising children, struggling to cope with everyday challenges that probably hate the idea of being challenged by a tough class after or before work.
Despite its growing popularity yoga system, with all its wonderful health benefits touted and all, is yet to reach a wider market. Apart from the way the way the yoga system challenges the conventional world view I am sure the preceding perceptions I mentioned that one has to be able to do all those difficult poses to achieve the much lauded benefits is partially to blame. Be it because of the yoga poses are presented by beautiful super models or yoga teachers and studios flaunting high end capabilities or not, there is just is not enough selling of yoga as do-able by individuals with (what is actually ordinary) limitations.
Gentle flow yoga and restorative practice
Effortless effort is the ideal. Be that in yoga class, or off the mat. With proper focus, attention to detail and holistic technique it is possible to release stress, achieve strong muscle tone, improve posture and expand the mind and connect spiritually. In my restorative flow style (remedial – vinyassa) yoga classes of an hour some poses are changed at a slow pace. Some practices are dynamic, faster, and some are aimed at releasing body stress. There are plenty brief resting periods. Combined with stronger poses and balances my focus is always on a degree of do-ablility accessible to most. Such yoga is ideal for beginners and less athletically inclined persons. Gentle, healing or remedial yoga also assists recovery from operations, injuries, and ideal for persons with chronic disabilities (mental or physical). At the same time, in the same class, a person with mastery of basic practices can easily get a lot out of a simple practice routine.
… spiced with power flow
I believe all stronger movement and physicality, sport or training, should begin with correcting alignment, learning of holistic skill-sets and body stress release. A lot, if not most of the people competing or working their bodies hard at whatever they are participating in are not actually prepared for the demands they place on themselves. Gentle yoga acts not only as counterpoint to balance other modalities, but can also be corrective, or remedial. And integrating elements of power yoga from this angle can help much with strength and fitness building while decreasing risk of injuries. Incorporating stronger yoga generates a powerful flow of energy into and within the body, and helps to focus the mind. Essentially it is this combination of stimulated abdominal fire and the previously mentioned aspects that makes yoga such a force.
And there is a metaphysical context
Those with an inclination towards the spiritual-metaphyscial aspects of yoga may resonate with the sacred, nourishing aspects of yoga. I like to think of it as non-dogmatic, practical spirituality. This way its practice is philosophical, and inclusive rather than exclusive. Yoga was never intended to be religious, yet it does not leave out the mind or awareness of a universal spiritual component. Yoga essentially recognises an innate body intelligence, an ecological intelligence, and a greater metaphysical universal intelligence that underlies life as we know it. Yoga is a quantum science, and really, taking out the metaphysics is like removing the breath from the practice. In the traditional sense yoga is not more Indian, but rather more universal. So less religious, and more spiritual. And everything happens within the context of the body. It can be no other way, else it is not yoga!
My free teaching aids
The blogs on this studio website and links my online yoga tools will help you discover and learn the basics of simple, do-able yoga. Included is my 2006 book and CD of the Body-Mind-Spirit system of my Five Keys to Well-being technique.
To the new or experienced practitioners:
Blessings for your practice,
Muizenberg, Cape Town,
278 May 2015.