What is yoga?

When most people think of yoga certain things come to mind – skinny, flexible people, tying themselves in knots, leggings, mellow music, incense etc etc. While all these things may be true sometimes, there’s a lot more to yoga than that image. Most importantly of all, yoga is not just for people who are “naturally flexible”. Quite the contrary!

Yoga means union. The physical practice of ‘hatha yoga’ we’re all familiar with is an expression of that. This means different things for different people.

For most of us, we come to yoga initially for union between our body and all its parts and functions. To increase our flexibility, to get stronger, to ease out those tight shoulders, for fitness or simply to relax. All wonderful reasons to come to class! There’s heaps of scientific and anecdotal evidence of the physiological benefits of regularly attending a yoga class which you will see for yourself.

Then we may develop further into union between our body and our mind. When we practice asana (yoga postures) we learn more about our bodies, concentrating on them and experiencing them in a deeper way than we would in our day to day lives. Investing time in being present with our bodies, calms our minds and helps us to take care of ourselves better. This is just the same concept as all the buzz about ‘mindfulness’ we hear so much about at the moment. But, instead of doing it mentally, we actively, physically practice, which can be easier to start for a lot of people. Once we become comfortable being present in our bodies at class, yoga opens up a brilliant opportunity to get to know ourselves a bit better and develop.

Sometimes joining a new yoga class can be a bit daunting. We worry we won’t be able for the class or our bodies aren’t ‘able’ for it. I would be so sad to think anyone in class would be worried they’re not good enough! Yoga is for everyone regardless of physical fitness, age, gender, race, religion or anything else. It is often people with limitations who learn more and make better progress than people yoga comes as second nature to. The only thing there’s no room for in a yoga class is comparison and self judgement.

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