Yoga Weekly Wonders - What Yoga is to Me (putting it mildly)

So, if you know me, you know I like yoga.  A LOT.  If you're on my website, you know I also teach it. 

For those that don't know, when I'm asked what I do for work and I respond with, "I'm a yoga teacher", the responses I get have been varied: Yoga?  What is it?  I've always wanted to try!  Don't you just lie around for an hour and stretch?  That doesn't sound too hard.  Do you like it?  Would I like it?  I can't practice yoga, it's too spiritual.  I'm not flexible enough.  I don't 'do' the studio thing.  I'm too intimidated.  I'm too scared.  There's no hope for me.  I'm all set with that hippie yogi thing.  I'm not wearing leggings.  I'd compare myself to everyone else in the room.  I don't know what I'm doing and everyone will laugh at me.  Even worse, if I know the teacher, she/he will laugh at me, too.  I used to practice, but … <insert trailing off of voice here>. 

Now, I could use those moments to clamber up onto my soapbox and get into all the wonderful things yoga has taught me.  I can take every reason why you think you shouldn't or won't practice and tell you that is the very reason why you SHOULD practice.  But I don't … and it's not that I don't want to … I'd LOVE to.  I get it.  Whether you call them excuses or not, *you* just might not be ready to take a class, and *I* am not going to force feed you yoga if you aren't ready to digest it.  On top of that, there's a really good chance someone might just be making small talk, and the last thing I want to do is come across as pushy.  

BUT!!!!!  Since you're reading my blog, which IS my very own personal soapbox, then pardon me as I climb up here and talk about yoga.  

I know firsthand, both as a student AND a teacher, that stepping into a studio and taking your first yoga class can be intimidating. 

I say on the about page on my website that I put my fear aside when I stepped into a yoga studio, but if I was to really think about it, I was really nervous and kinda scared taking my first studio class.   

First of all, I was running late and couldn’t find the studio. 

When I did find it, I thought it was weird that the name was different, but saw a light on behind curtains and just walked in nonetheless … to people laying on the floor with blankets over their eyes and big oblong pillows under their backs.  Some had feet on the wall and others had those weird pillow things under their legs and they were in a circle.  The woman in charge quickly (and quietly) told me I was in the wrong place and directed me where to go. 

I can now tell you that I had interrupted Savasana (also known as corpse pose); that point at the end of every practice when you try to let go of all mental and physical tension in your body and just be.  And there I went, waltzing in, to the surprise of those nine people and teacher, thinking I was in the right place.  I just assumed the place I was going had their name wrong and I was right.  Lesson … learned. 

I almost gave up at that point.  I wanted to.  But I didn't.  I found the studio, I made my way in, and was greeted warmly by the owner, who assured me it was ok.  I set up my mat where I assume most people do when they start something new and aren't too sure of themselves, the back corner of the room.  People filing in smiled at me and we exchanged small talk.  I remember being surprised at how nice and welcoming everyone was.  We each introduced ourselves and talked about why we had decided to take a beginner class.  We stretched, and the teacher spoke of breathing and postures, explaining why both were important, as well as how and when to modify a pose.  While I don't remember savasana at the end of our hour together, I do remember feeling like I belonged … as if I had found something that I knew I wanted to come back to and learn more about. 

So what then, exactly, IS yoga?  This is a question that I personally feel eludes me … even as a teacher.  It's actually something I struggle with every time I walk into a studio to teach and worry that I'm not a 'true' yogini because I don't have the answers to the many questions surrounding yoga.  There are just so many different aspects, views, thoughts, and feelings surrounding yoga. You can ask ten different people and get ten different answers on what yoga means to them, which might leave you feeling kinda … well, lost. 

I do know that yoga comes from the sanskrit term 'yuj', which means to yoke or join - as in a union.  Some will say joining body to mind … some will say breath to posture.  Still others will tell you it's a method of discipline while the next person will shake their head and tell you it's just about the exercise.  The truth is, it's all of these - and more.  It's what you make of it.  If you like it, you come back to your mat.  And, maybe some of the words the teacher says start to land with you, and you find yourself a little more flexible or a little less stressed.  Maybe some of the readings or references made in class pique your curiosity and you find yourself asking about them, or at least committing them to memory to Google them later.

Then again, maybe not.  Maybe you don't like yoga, or what it has to offer.  Maybe you have a bad experience on your mat; you're assisted but weren't asked beforehand, you didn't like the reading at the end of class, you don't like how the people next to you were breathing, and what was with the laying still at the end of practice?  Can you say awkward?

Yoga is what you make of it.  It's a reflection of yourself, to yourself.  It'll bring up stuff you might not want to face, emotions your thought you had long since gotten rid of, and discomfort as you hold poses for what feels like forever and all the teacher tells you to do is breathe.  But it will also slow you down, calm you down, and open you up to feeling so much more in your life.  You'll also get the added benefit of smiling more, and who doesn't want that?

Sound like something you might be interested in?  Well, I'll be posting on it every week.  Sound like something you're all set with?  I get that, too, and feel free not to read about yoga... but then again, who knows…?  Maybe one day I'll see you on your mat! 

If you'd like to read more, I found a great article from Yoga Journal that answers some other questions and provides plenty of links for further reading.  You can find that here.

Love, happiness & coffee,

~ Heather ~

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