5 Things You Didn't Know About Yoga
By Tova Payne B.Sc. E-RYT R.H.N.™
1. Yoga Has Nothing To Do With Being Flexible
I know–this comes to a shock to a lot of people. The truth is if you want to be flexible you should check out the training for Cirque du Soleil. Nobody is as flexible as a gymnast.
So what’s the point of yoga?
Yoga is not about attaining a goal of flexibility. Rather it’s about releasing the tension in your body so that you feel better everyday.
Big Bonus: It will help your game, sport and everyday activities.
For example if you love to run, yoga will help release tension from your hamstrings and hips so that you can keep running. If you love playing squash, yoga will help release tension from your shoulder and quads. Love hockey? Yoga will open your hips (Something every goalie needs to make the save!) Whatever sport you play or activity you enjoy–Yoga will help release the tension that accumulates from everyday wear and tear–helping you enjoy your favorite activities longer and with better performance.
2. Yoga is Not About Achieving a Perfect Pose
Our culture is obsessed with results. Yoga is not immune to western culture’s obsession with achievement.
The paradigm shift: Yoga is about learning to accept reality as it presents itself:
Sometimes we have a vision and a goal and we don’t achieve it. Acceptance helps us pivot and renegotiate where to shift our focus next. If you’re so obsessed with achieving an end-result you might miss the joy and miraculous solutions presenting themselves along the way.
Approach your yoga practice as an opportunity to practice acceptance:
Go to class with the mindset of: I’m here to be with the moment as it comes. I’m here to be with my body as it is. And I am here to thank my body for all it does for me instead of forcing and pushing it to do something it’s not meant to do.
When you think about it–there’s likely nothing we’re harder on than our own bodies. And if we treated somebody else the way we often treated our body (ignoring, forcing, scrutinizing, and judging) that relationship would not last long.
When practiced mindfully, Yoga is an opportunity to build a better relationship with ourselves.
3. Your Teacher is Not the Expert. You are.
Nobody on earth knows what’s best for your body–than your body. Your body is your true teacher. Your body has it’s own intelligence. Yoga will help you start listening to the wisdom of your body.
It’s common to become removed from our body’s intelligence. After all, we often spend most of our day ignoring our bodies. If you’ve ever sat at your desk too long or ignored your body’s desire to eat or go to the washroom because you had a deadline to hit–you’re all too familiar with ignoring your body.
Over time, ignoring your body leads to a disconnection. Then we look to an “expert” to tell us where to put our hands and feet and what to do.
Sure–there are certain safety measures a teacher can point out to you, but ultimately learning to listen to your body and respond to your body’s cues is the gift of yoga. An instructor might tell you to touch your toes but if your hamstrings are screaming “stop” by the time you reach your knees: listen to your knees.
Your body is always giving you feedback. The only question is: are you listening?
Learning to listen to your body makes you the expert, and that’s what yoga is really here to do. Your instructor is merely giving you suggestions and showing you possibilities of movements that may be helpful to support your body’s ability to release tension and strengthen the areas that will benefit from being strengthened.
4. You Don’t Need Special Pants
Sure–you want to be comfortable for class, but anything you wear for any other workout will work for yoga. Come as you are. I’m not saying you can’t wear “yoga pants” but please don’t think you need to buy “yoga pants” to come to class. Anything will do!
5. Not all Yoga is created equal
Yoga is meant to be a mindful method of self-care. Ultimately–all fitness should be about self-care, but at the core, Yoga is meant to bring together our body, mind and spirit.
What does this mean? If you’ve had a tough day at work or are going through a challenging personal experience, Yoga is a method that takes care of your physical body while relieving emotional stress. This is partially due to the integration of mindful breathing that helps facilitate the process of stress relief and inner calm.
However, depending on the style of class you go to, you may feel stressed out. So if you’ve had a bad experience, it could be the style was not the right fit for you, or the instructor was not the right fit for you. Find the instructor and style of yoga that helps you feel better after class. That doesn’t mean you won’t be challenged by a position or your mind, but in the end you will feel a sense of calm. Sure–some days may feel better than others, but if you’ve had a bad experience in the past, give yoga another shot. Try a few styles until you find the right one for you.
Tova Payne teaches Tuesdays Mindful Hatha–an all-new class at the RC in the all-new Solstice Studio. Come check it out on your lunch hour for an opportunity to release tension and de-stress from your workday.