Updated: Jul 29, 2019
In the Western World we have a tendency to get wrapped up in labels. In this we lose site of the meaning of things or jump to conclusions without proper understanding. These labels then turn us on or off of certain topics and I fear the same outcome occurs with yoga.
For example, when you think of a yogi what comes to mind? Someone who bends like a pretzel? Someone who chants OM? A vegan? A modern day hippie..? Someone who can you touch their toes? Therefore, it seems like an unobtainable, somewhat impossible practice because you yourself can't (yet) touch your toes?
This is a common belief of whom a yogi is. To emphasize this, I asked my my teenage sisters what they thought of when I asked them what a yogi is. One said that a yogi is “a modern day hippie but slightly more spiritual, someone with a messy bun, or a beard, that has dirt on their feet…. A millennial… ” and the other said “someone who does yoga… a lot…”
While both their responses are characteristics of a yogi, let’s make it even more simple and break through stigma's and pre-conceived notions of what yoga is. A yogi is someone who is on the journey of knowing themselves. This journey encompasses a few dimensions of being; which include the body, the mind and the spirit. With that being said, this means literally every person could benefit from yoga as its the journey of self-realization. Meaning who are you and who do you wish to be?
Asana is a branch of yoga that focuses on the physical practice that tightens the connection between the body and the mind. This is accomplished through linking movement with breath: energy with matter. Asana is a practice fit for every single person in the world as it is adaptable to every single body. It’s a practice that teaches you about yourself including your strengths, weaknesses, limitations, achievements and truths. this physical practice allows you to explore your body while providing your body with strength.
When I tell people I practice yoga I often get a response of "Ohh I could never practice yoga, I am not flexible." While yoga certainly helps with flexibility and strength of the whole body, this practice is adaptable for every body type. Meaning if you are not flexible, a beginner's yoga class will help in reducing stiffness, promote circulation and respiration and learn breath work. Yoga helps to provide you balance within your life which is a concept forgotten or overshadowed in our Western culture.
Yoga is a lifestyle; it’s a way of living that allows you to do some deep introspection and begin to know yourself. Providing an understanding as to why you react the way you do to certain social situations; how to have more control over your thoughts, your behaviour, your actions; to have more control over your energy.
If you understand yourself, you can control yourself and in turn you can balance yourself. Life is all about juggling and attempting to maintain a state of balance. Our physical practice of asana is a means to accomplishing. By focusing on your physical practice, mental discipline and connecting awareness to breath; one is deepening their physical and mental connection therefore one is a yogi.
"We find animals doing things that we, in our arrogance, used to think was 'just human'." Jane Goddall.