I know you think I’m a weirdo. I bet you imagine me walking barefoot through fields of daises, eyes closed with a blissful smile on my face. I bet you think I’m never stressed, listen to gongs, chant, drink tea, can turn my body into a pretzel while balancing on my pinkie toe, charge my crystals under the full moon and love everyone. I bet you think I’m naturally flexible, have a 6-pack and eat a bunch of kale.
The truth is, sometimes but sometimes not. After many years of practice, I can turn my body into half a pretzel – I’m still working on that full pretzel and maybe I’ll get there one day. And I do have some crystals and eat kale sometimes. But I also love 90’s hip-hop and get angry in traffic and eat too many salt and vinegar kettle chips. Oh and drink arguably way too much caffeine. I couldn’t touch my toes when I started practicing yoga. I still can’t some days.
Most “non-yogis” think they’re not flexible, or calm enough, or don’t have the time to do yoga. Let me tell you, us “yogis” are all nuts. And busy. And many of us aren’t that flexible or athletic. There’s a social idea of what yoga is and I’m here to tell you that mostly it’s wrong.
The word yoga means to yoke or to join, and that’s the most meaningful and true definition of yoga. Yoga uses the poses and the breath as a way of linking the body and the mind to create an increased sense of inner peace. Sounds easy right?
I could spout off about all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga but you probably already know on some level. And if you don’t, call me or ask Google.
Instead, would you do an experiment with me? Sit with a tall spine. Take a deep breath. And another. And maybe even 1 more. Bring your right ear toward your right shoulder and allow the left side of your neck to stretch and take up some space. That’s right. Now left ear to left shoulder, giving the right side of your neck some breathing room. Now do a couple neck rolls either direction, or maybe both. How’d that feel? Congrats! You’re doing yoga and therefore a yogi! You just linked your mind and body for a quick neck stretch.
Or if you didn’t like that one, how about this. Lay down on the floor or your bed, getting your glutes as close to the wall or headboard as possible. Let your heels rest again the wall for 1-2 minutes while you enjoy these: increased relaxation, increased circulation, a hamstring stretch, and less lower back tension. Yes, that’s yoga too.
If you felt a little bit of benefit or peace doing one of those exercises, here’s a few resources for you:
- A 10 minute yoga practice for neck and shoulders, where a lot of carry tension: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3-gKPNyrTA
- A 10 minute yoga practice for non flexible people – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuW3Jws0Qyk
- 20 minutes of chair yoga (nope, you don’t even hafta get on the floor!) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DYH5ud3zHo
- And if you just want some laughs at yoga’s expense – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vmJ2gOVF5g
But wait, there’s more! The stretches and poses are actually just a tiny bit of what is actually yoga, which deals also with guidelines for the best ways to interact with the self and the world, meditation, ability to focus, etc. So let me introduce the idea of ahimsa. This is the guideline in yoga that violence be avoided. This can be used as a guideline for interacting with others, nature as a whole, animals, plants etc. But this can also be used as a guideline toward how you interact with yourself. For example, are you subjecting your body to violence by too little movement, too much sugar, too little sleep? Are you subjecting your mind to violent or aggressive ways of thinking about yourself? This means you can literally practice yoga with no mat, no physical stretching, and no chanting. Can you think of one way you can reduce aggressive thoughts or actions? Do that for a little while. See what you notice.
A former non-yogi