Yoga comes to you
There’s a saying that yoga comes to you, not the other way around. The idea that it bestows its ancient wisdom upon you because you are in need of it is quite magical to me and I fully believe it. I have heard this many times and for me it was most definitely true.
So, whatever has brought you to yoga, I am glad it found you. Not everyone dives right in and takes on a full practice, but that’s the beauty of it. It gives you whatever you need, when you need it.
If you are coming to yoga late in life you may find it hard. This is not necessarily because it is hard, but because of your perception of it. By this I mean anyone can practice yoga, regardless of age, gender, height, weight, physical conditions and so on, but because the perception is that you have to wrap yourself around your own body like a pretzel you aren’t capable of it. This is not true and a complete myth that needs to be dispelled right from the get go.
Bend like a pretzel
Yoga postures do take on pretzel form at some point but not always and not in everyone’s journey. The further we are from our child-like state the harder we will find the physical postures to practice, but that does not mean they aren’t attainable. We have to start where we are at, with what we have. Actually by trying to attain the postures themselves in their full expression at the beginning is where the first lessons of yoga lie. The first lesson is then one of patience. To practice yoga, you must practice patience, with yourself.
It is extremely difficult for most people to come to a yoga class and not gaze at the teacher or the person next to them and try to push harder in the. It is human nature and rather than working with our own body, warts and all, our egos get in the way. By pushing in this way you can injure yourself which just adds more time and yes you guessed it, more of a need to be patient. If I could give one piece of advice to a yoga newbie it would be that of patience – be patient with yourself, the postures will come. Be comfortable with where you are at, with all your physical limitations, conditions and anything else you perceive to be in your way. Just focus on practising patience (and breathing of course!)
Mind, Body, Soul
Yoga means different things to different people. The majority of people first come to yoga because of the physical benefits it can offer. They want to lose weight, tone up, feel healthier or perhaps help a medical condition or physical symptom. Yoga works on all physical conditions. There are others who are more attracted to the emotional and/or spiritual side, but in my experience people who are new to yoga are often drawn to it, they feel, because of the physical benefits. What’s interesting here is that we are connected on all three levels; mind, body and spirit, so actually when we have a physical condition whether that be something medical or simply just being overweight or unfit, it will always be linked to our emotions and ultimately, whether we choose to believe it or not (and there are many who do not) connected on a subtle, spiritual level too. You don’t have to acknowledge this fact to practice yoga, but it is worth knowing when you begin that you are actually working on all three levels of your being, not just the physical.
There was, a few years ago, a yoga introduced called NO OM. There are many new forms of yoga that evolve. They are always derived from the same physical (hatha) postures but are put together differently or modified in some way to make them seem different. NO OM literally meant practising yoga and gaining all the physical benefits but never chanting the word OM. The founder loved yoga but did not buy into the spiritual side of it and felt it put people off, so literally banished it to the black hole and making sure everyone who came to practice knew that it was OK because it was a NO OM zone. Whatever works, but banishing it doesn’t make it disappear. Just because you do not acknowledge something does not mean it does not exist.
Based on this information, I would encourage you to be open minded. Don’t be afraid of what you do not understand. Yoga does not change your mind (well not in a bad way) and by that I mean it does not brain wash you into believing in Hindu gods and goddesses or try to convert your religion. There are people out there who do believe that. Yoga is born out of ancient Vedic wisdom which is set out in the oldest recorded writings there are. The path of yoga is based on fundamental universal truths that have been taught since time began. It does not conflict because by nature it is harmonious. Indeed, yoga itself means union – to join or harmonise your being; to bring together your mind, body and spirit in union or in harmony. Ultimately, it’s goal is self-realisation which simply put means to better understand yourself – to leave you feeling a happier, healthier and more fulfilled person – and to that I say, bring it OM.