Yoga, What Keeps People Away?

Tressa In a seat twist outdoors

I am not the athletic type and I never enjoyed sports as a kid. Heck, I was the kid that was afraid of the ball and got teased because of it.  Instead, I loved to read and learn everything I possibly could. It is kind of ironic that I didn’t learn about yoga until I was an adult and when I did, I was fascinated by it.  I was never afraid to try yoga although I knew I didn’t have a “yoga body” by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, I was comparing myself to Patricia Walden in all her glory. I didn’t know what an amazing teacher she was until much later in my journey. All I remember is that unbelievably beautiful video of her in the desert doing yoga in her etheric white body suit. That was what it meant to “do yoga” until I stepped into my first group class. II think the biggest blessing was that I took the right first class with the right instructor. I truly believe that if I went into a community gym with 30 other humans getting their sweat on doing a million sun salutations that I might not be where I am today. Fortunately, my first class was with a Kripalu instructor and he led us through a mindful practice that was focused on pranayama, gentle stretching, and reconnecting with the body. The lights were dim and there were only 6 of us. I loved the way it made me feel and my life began to change after that. Unfortunately, many people don’t have the greatest first experience and they never give yoga a second chance.  So, what is the biggest reason that keeps people away from this transformative practice? The major misconception, in my opinion, is that yoga is all about the achievement of creating the perfect pose.  With social media and our culture on over drive it seems that people are determined to move beyond the body’s capacity, no matter the cost. They are also motivated by a diet culture that thrives and profits on repeated unsuccessful attempts and self-loathing. The reality is that yoga poses, or postures are done to begin the process of undoing the stress and in some trauma in the body, which in turn provides a fertile ground for meditation and turning inward. It is hard to sit in meditation when your body is full of tension and you cannot stay comfortable for any period of time. If you look at the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali you’ll notice that only three of the 196 yoga sutras address asana (poses or postures). If you are unfamiliar with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali they are a collection of 196 sutras that are a compilation of yoga theory and practices. That tells me that I have a lot more to work on besides standing on my head or achieving an arm balance. The real success of yoga is the ability to sit in peace and harmony with yourself and not be uncomfortable. The reason why stillness is so hard for many people is they don’t enjoy their own company. I know for a fact I couldn’t stand to be around myself for the longest time. This also extends to the way that we live in world and the Yoga Sutras outline that as well in the 1st limb of yoga, which are the 5 yamas. They include ahimsa (non-violence, non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharaya (moderation of senses/energy) and aparigraha (non-greed). With all this being said, it is clear that yoga is much more than a workout it is a way of life in that it teaches you how to live with yourself and others and to begin to realize we are all part of a bigger whole.

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